Priscilla Griego

My name is Priscilla Griego and I am a single mother of 3 beautiful kids. I dropped out of High School when I was 15, due to being pregnant with my first child. 10 years later I went and obtained my GED. When I was younger I dreamed of going back to school, but with 3 elementary aged kids, it was impossible! Fast forward another 10 years, I found myself in a horrible financial situation and a family friend suggested returning to school. I laughed at the thought of it, but eventually I applied at Crowder College in Neosho. That was the best decision of my life. I now have an Associate of Applied Science for Computer and Network Support, and will begin a Bachelors in Network Operations and Security With WGU in April. The ASPIRE Scholarship has been a wonderful blessing for me and my kids. It has helped fix and tune up our vehicle, helped with the rent, utilities, groceries, and other needs of our home. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought I could obtain any kind of degree or profession, but with the help of scholarships and my kids pushing me to continue my education, I am moving forward with my education. My family and I truly appreciate all the sponsors and the support we get from ASPIRE. Thank you to all involved!

Andrea Harper

Andrea Harper is a single mother of two from Carl Junction. She is currently attending Pittsburg State University and majoring in Social Work with an intended graduation date of May 2012. A scholarship recipient for five semesters, Andrea has earned three semesters of merit bonuses by making a GPA of 3.0 or higher. 

She chose to attend college and get an education “because I knew continuing my education was the only way I would be able to adequately take care of my children and provide them with things they may want or need.” She adds, “My main challenges when it comes to being a full time mother and student are mostly financial. I overcome this by sacrificing things that aren’t a necessity and by working part time.” Andrea has used her scholarship money mainly to pay for books. She says, “What is left over, I save for gas or utilities. This makes a difference for my family because I am able to save the money I would have spent on books and buy the things my children need.”

Her vision of the future is a bright one. She says, “Since the [Joplin] tornado, I was presented with the opportunity to volunteer for Catholic Charities doing disaster case management. After volunteering for a month, Catholic Charities hired me on as a permanent employee. They have agreed to work around my schedule during my last semester of classes and I will be able to do my practicum semester with them also. I am so blessed, and the Aspire scholarship plays a big part in my success. Soon I will be able to buy a house and continue my professional career with Catholic Charities!” 

Andrea says the biggest lesson she has learned from this experience is “how to have confidence in myself again. Not only has this helped me have more confidence but it also has helped me grow as a person and achieve my goals.” She adds, “Thanks to every person working with Aspire for helping me and other single parents reach our goals!”

Renae Brownfield

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.”

Rachel Whitehead and Jenny Journeycake

For Rachel Whitehead and Jenny Journeycake, art and friendship go hand in hand. Rachel and Jenny first met at an event for the MSSU art department on Halloween. They said they became fast friends after learning they had a lot in common. “We found out we both had twins, we were the same age, and both of us had gone through a divorce. And, of course, we loved art,” Rachel explained. “We became instant friends!”

Rachel, a single mother of three from Seneca, pursued a college degree because she knew it would help her provide better for her family in the future. She wanted to be an example to her children and show “you’re never too old to achieve your dreams.” She received an Aspire scholarship in the Spring of 2014. At that time she was attending MSSU, considering an art major. She said, “I knew I always enjoyed the arts. I was in choir, band, and art club in high school. I wasn’t sure what to pursue at first. I just knew I wanted to teach.” After taking a few art classes, Rachel won a departmental scholarship. “I am a big believer that when you are on the right path God opens a door to show you the way,” she explained. “Winning that scholarship based on my artwork was my door.”

Jenny, a single mother of three from Afton, OK, started her college career to maintain her independence. She said, “I knew [going to school] would be hard, but it was something I wanted to accomplish for myself. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized how important my education is.” She became an Aspire scholarship recipient in the Spring 2015 after she moved from northeast Oklahoma to Joplin. Jenny said she’d always had a passion for art but never thought it could be a feasible career path until she came to MSSU. She said, “After my divorce, I decided I wanted to do something I love and I was determined to make it happen, despite the obstacles.” Jenny is the first in her family to earn a college degree.

Being a single parent college student is not without its challenges. “Being a single parent is really tough because you are always working—at school and at home,” Rachel explained. “My art was my oasis away from the demanding needs of raising children. In turn, when I got home, I’d snuggle up with [my boys] and that would make all the stress of the school day go away.” She said her boys kept her motivated. Jenny agreed that being a single parent in college made it hard to balance at times. She said, “There were a few times when I thought I couldn’t do it anymore because I felt like I was being selfish by going back to school. It was taking too much time away from my kids.” Fortunately, she said someone was always there telling her she was benefitting the children by being a good role model, and that it would work out in the end. She said, “I’m glad I didn’t let my guilt get to me.”

Rachel and Jenny also relied heavily on each other for support. They took most of the same classes until their last semester. Jenny explained, “This really helped because when one of us was out of class because of a sick child or another absence, the other one could take notes.” They said, “We have always been there for each other. We vent to each other about life’s obstacles as well as encourage each other in school.” 

The Aspire scholarship was of great help to both of them. Rachel said, “It was a huge blessing to me especially because it came before I received any other scholarships. . .The majority of the money went to transportation—car insurance, gas, and maintenance.” Jenny added, “It helped take the edge off of worrying about the expenses of going to college. . .It was nice to know that there were people out there who cared and were willing to help!”

Rachel and Jenny both received the Glenn D. Dolence Leadership Award for outstanding seniors this spring and graduated in May from MSSU with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Studio Art with an Art History minor. Their aspirations after college include furthering their undergraduate education.   Rachel was accepted into the Master’s of Arts in Teaching program at Pittsburg State University, and will start there in June. Jenny is planning to apply for a Master’s program in Studio Art/Art History for the January term.

Belinda Cotten

Jessica Beck

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Priscilla Griego

My name is Priscilla Griego and I am a single mother of 3 beautiful kids. I dropped out of High School when I was 15, due to...

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Andrea Harper

Andrea Harper is a single mother of two from Carl Junction. She is currently attending Pittsburg State University and majoring in Social Work with an...

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Renae Brownfield

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....

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Rachel Whitehead and Jenny Journeycake

For Rachel Whitehead and Jenny Journeycake, art and friendship go hand in hand. Rachel and Jenny first met at an event for the MSSU art...

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