Renae Brownfield is a single mother of four from Carthage. She graduated from Missouri Southern State University in May 2010 with a degree in Elementary Education. A scholarship recipient for four semesters, Renae earned merit bonuses in all four of those semesters with an outstanding GPA of 4.0. She currently works in special education with the Carthage R-9 school district.
She chose to go back to college and pursue a career-oriented education “because I wanted to exemplify to my children how important it was for them to finish college and I think the greatest lesson plan is an example.” She adds, “My biggest challenge was in my freshman and junior years, persisting through the deaths of my maternal grandparents who helped my amazing mother raise me. Taking advantage of campus advisors, organizations, programs, mentoring, and serving others helped me through the hardest of times. Routine helped me through the rest.”
Renae said the scholarship usually helped her stretch her student loans to pay the mortgage, utilities, car repairs, and sometimes clothes, school supplies, and groceries. The merit bonuses empowered her. She explains, “It made me feel like something that I earned instead of a loan. . .I told my kids it was my ‘good grade money’ because I earned it with my hard work. . .I appreciate its value–both then and now.”
The impact of the Aspire scholarship has been to show her children the importance of an education. “My oldest son was in college while I was receiving the scholarship and now my oldest daughter just finished her freshman year. I see evidence that they both value their education, and they are providing wonderful examples to their younger siblings.”
Renae offers advice to other single parents looking to return to school. “Do it now,” she says. “It only gets harder the older you get. Put your head down and take one semester, one course, or even one day, at a time. If you keep working, one day you will look up to see it went by so quickly and it was worth every minute of it!” She adds, “If I have learned anything from receiving this scholarship, it is from the dear people who mentored me along the way. Their service to our community inspires me to serve others in every way I am able.”
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