Many will agree that the gender gap in education has narrowed considerably in the last few generations. However, few would say that it’s completely obliterated. Caring for children, illnesses and other obstacles have kept many women from attending institutions of hiring learning or completing degrees once they’ve started.
Helping to fill that gap is the role of Emerge, a Georgia nonprofit organization founded in 2001 to provide scholarships to women whose education has been delayed or interrupted by life challenges.
The his academic year, Emerge awarded seven scholarships to women who had dreams of building better lives.
At 27 Laurie Hucks was diagnosed with cancer of the soft tissue. She was recently divorced and had kids to take care of.
“My chemotherapy lasted a year, but unfortunately I had to move back in with my parents,” said Hucks. “I had to drop out of school.”
Jasmine Lauderdale, a mother of four, suffered from mental and physical abuse at the hands of the children’s father. When she finally broke free, she had to go more than seven months with no electricity or running water.
“I felt there was more to life than sitting there taking it,” said Lauderdale. “I had to find some way to overcome.
LaKanya Jacobs was the child of drug addicts who never finished high school. When her mother was killed by a drunk driver, the pain of loss was so great, she just shut down.
“It was very emotional. It was very hard,” said Jacobs. “I didn’t want to be a victim, I wanted to be victorious so I decided to go back to school.”
Through perseverance these woman overcame obstacles to get their lives on track and emerge was able to help.
“Emerge was started by a group of women who wanted to make a difference in their communities,” said Stacy L. Sollenberger, co-president and board member. “These scholarships were important to our community because there is a lack of scholarship opportunities for the “non-traditional” student in Georgia. Our scholars are those non-traditional students who have demonstrated a commitment to pursuing their educations but had to face hardships that interrupted thyeir pursuits. Our goal is to support them to achieve what they started.”
For more than a decade, Emerge has empowered 100 women through education by providing more than $500,000 in academic scholarships. One of the unique aspects of the award is it also seeks applicants who have given back to their communities.
The scholarship program has filled a void in the community, and is always seeking more volunteers to continue its mission.
“We seek volunteers in three key areas. First, to serve on a committee to spread the word and/or help select recipients. Second, to support our outreach efforts to raise funds and third, to support our selected scholars in their journey to achieve their educational goals,” said Sollenberger.
These educational experiences, combined with encouragement and support provided by Emerge volunteers give these women the opportunity to advance professionally and become self-sufficient for not only themselves, but also for their families and their communities.
They were all grateful for the opportunity and pledged to pay if forward.
“I want to help women,” said Jacobs. “Maybe one day I can be their bridge over troubled waters.”
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