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Make a Difference
MAILED: April 12, 2002
EAU CLAIRE — As single parents of dependent children, a small group of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire students face unusual challenges as they balance schedules, finances, children's needs and classroom demands in hopes of achieving a better life for the future. Their struggles are the reason the UW-Eau Claire Foundation supports single-parent scholarships, and the recipients agree they couldn't get by without the helping hands of others.
"Finances are on my mind every day," says Al Sopiarz, a 37-year-old organizational communications major and father of three. Sopiarz said his $1,000 Single Parent Scholarship from the UW-Eau Claire Foundation made it possible for him to meet some real family needs.
"My teen-ager's braces will finally be removed. I will be able to get eyeglasses, which I need and haven't been able to afford. These concerns may not seem like pressing concerns to some, but in our household they were concerns that seemed, at times, almost impossible," he wrote in a thank-you letter to the Foundation.
Sopiarz enrolled at UW-Eau Claire last fall after back surgery sidelined him from his job as a union carpenter. With five semesters of college credits from the 1980s, he hopes to graduate by the end of 2004. He wants to be a writer and continue raising his children.
"Even though my kids are supportive while I am attending UW-Eau Claire, they are still kids and I'm still a parent. I still have to provide for them. That is what the scholarship does for me, making me better able to provide for my kids while attending the university," he said.
Angela Neff, a single-parent scholarship recipient for the past two years, is a 32-year-old mother of three, who has been attending college on and off since she was 18. "Only recently have I found a bachelor's degree within my grasp. Every semester I am a little closer to actually graduating," said Neff, who hopes to graduate in December in English linguistics.
Neff, who has an associate degree in educational interpreting, works as a sign language interpreter for deaf students at Chippewa Valley Technical College. She routinely carries 18 credits and names a chronic lack of time along with her 15-year-old son's emotional disabilities as her biggest challenges.
Neff said the single-parent scholarship means she doesn't have to do as much free-lance interpreting and can eke out more time for her children and her studies. "It's almost like having a little angel, someone out there who is saying 'I believe in you.' Someday I hope to do the same for someone else," she said.
For the 2001-02 academic year, the UW-Eau Claire Foundation Inc. awarded more than $22,000 in scholarships to single parent students with dependent children, said Vicky Petermann, the Foundation's director of development research and donor relations. The awards are deposited to the recipient's business account at the university to pay for educational expenses or to reduce their loan debt.
Much of the credit for raising awareness about the need for aid to single parent students goes to a group called Women for Philanthropy, Petermann said. This year, current and emeriti members of the group's steering committee, chaired by Cathy Sultan, collectively supported four $1,000 awards and one $500 award, she said.
Many private individual and corporate donations contributed to this year's awards. New named scholarships include the Emily Blaskey Single Parent Scholarship. Leadership donors include Barbara and Dennis Clauson, Helen and John Drawbert, Ann Lapp, Betty Lasker, Joanne and Richard Linden, Medical X-Ray Consultants, Jean and Roy Wilcox, and Becky and David Wood.
Susan Bruce, a steering committee member, said the Foundation's support for single-parent students grew out of the need created by the implementation of the Wisconsin Works (W-2) program, which replaced Aid to Families with Dependent Children. W-2 eliminated traditional welfare assistance for college students who also were parents. Bruce said the result was that a lot of single parents couldn't go to college.
For information about supporting single-parent scholarships, contact Petermann by phone at (715) 836-2911 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
Updated: April 12, 2002