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.

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