BABY STEPS TO A BETTER LIFE
By Gail Cawley Showalter
Before I could see it, I knew the path was there.
I know you love your children. My guess is they are your life. I also know from personal experience as a divorced single mom for sixteen years you are probably exhausted if not physically, mentally and emotionally. As tough as life can be for you, allow me to suggest a turn in your path which will alter your destination. If you cannot take this leap of faith, perhaps you can take baby steps. Baby steps made a giant difference in my life.
In 2007 I established SMORE for Women, an alliance of compassionate women whose goal is Single Moms, Overjoyed, Rejuvenated, and Empowered. I noticed there is a common thread running through the lives of single moms who are having the most trouble. They need adequate education. They need the kind of education that provides a skill that turns into an income. Education for single mothers means freedom.
This journey may intimidate you. College seems like an impossible hurdle for many single parents. If you think this is the case for you, take another look at the possible destinations. If you take this leap you will have more income and you will have a better chance for advancement. If you cannot take this leap of faith, perhaps you can take baby steps. Baby steps made a giant difference in my life.
Perhaps you will have more income. Perhaps you will have a better chance for advancement. Perhaps you will simply have a life altering experience.
For me it was all three. When my children were 9, 7, and 6 years old, I made the decision to return to college. I was a teacher and the only avenue for higher income was to have a higher-level degree. It seemed like an adventure. Then I looked at the whole road map. The thought of moving three children to another city, locating daycare, and a place to live for three months in the summer, and paying for it all was an overwhelming leap of faith. So I just took one step at a time.
There were some potholes along the way. The first step was to take the Graduate Records Exam, commonly known as the GRE. I had not taken a standardized test in eighteen years. My scores were respectable, but needed to be a little higher to be accepted at The University of Texas in Austin, Texas. I could’ve quit then. The other option was to acquire letters of recommendation and meet with the Dean which I did and was accepted. First step complete.
I had to arrange for three open slots in daycare for the summer months in a city where the openings were few. Parents often held the places over the summer just to be sure they had them in the fall. At the time the University had an office for returning older students. They gave me a list of one hundred childcare centers in Austin. They included child daycares of all sorts from the very elite to the not nice enough for your dog. Since I didn’t know where I’d be living the process was even more complex. I’d been told that the nicer more desirable ones were unlikely to have opening for three children for the summer months. As a last resort I went by St. Martin’s Lutheran which was near downtown. I thought they couldn’t possibly have much of a playground due to their location. When I arrived I saw the award-winning playground built among the giant trees next to the church. The director graciously gave me a tour of the entire facility, even the spotless kitchen. As she concluded she said, “May I sign up you children?” I asked if she realized I had three children and she nodded. Another step closer-it just so happened.
Carliss, a dear childhood friend and Austin resident, took on the project of helping me locate a place to live. Time was running out. If I didn’t have all arrangements made I wouldn’t get my deposits back. A week before the deadline Carliss called. She found a two bedroom furnished apartment in a small complex in the Clarksville area. A young lady wanted to sublet it for the summer. Carliss explained that it was on the shuttle bus route. It just so happened. A final step in the journey.
All my plans and arrangements couldn’t have worked to create the seamless solution I saw unfold. The shuttle bus routes spread a network across the city. A bus stopped at the corner where St. Martin’s Lutheran Church is located. I could take one of two other shuttles that picked up at that same corner to take me directly to the education building for all my classes. This was truly amazing considering the size of The University of Texas in Austin.
The odds of me figuring all that out and making it happen all in my own power are slim. But one baby step at a time taken in faith blazed the trail and prepared the way for me. It just so happened.
It is about more than the education. It is about expanding your reach, exposure to new ideas, and experiencing self-awareness and building self-esteem. It is about the journey.
The decision is the first step.
Collect information as you would for a vacation. Learn about the college, look at maps, and determine the cost. Determine a budget. Envision the experience. Classes can be taken by correspondence, via Internet, and in distance learning programs.
If you cannot possibly go to college at this time, do not lose sight of the future possibility.
- Make sure you clearly understand the total cost of the program, including supplies, etc.
- Read the enrollment agreement and catalog carefully.
- Obtain as much written information as you can, including catalogs, from the various schools.
- If you want to know whether the school’s credits transfer to another institution, always check with the institution that will receive the credits.
- Only rely on what is in writing, not what is told to you orally.
- Search online for sites such as http://www.back2college.com/singleparentscholarships.htm
- Search online for “Student Financial Aid” and “Federal Pell Grants”