Faced with financial difficulties and family obligations, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire graduate student Heather Schmidt realized it was possible she wouldn't be able to graduate in May 2015 as she had planned. Schmidt, who is working on a master's degree in communication sciences and disorders, needed to take some classes that are offered only during the summer session, but she had exhausted her funding options. To stay on schedule, she had to find a way to pay for those summer session classes in 2014.
Schmidt was able to come up with the tuition money and stay on her graduation timetable thanks to funding provided by two local chapters of P.E.O. International, an organization that assists women students through scholarships, grants, awards, loans and stewardship.
P.E.O. (Philanthropic Educational Organization) chapters CH and AF have been supporting the educational needs of women studying at UW-Eau Claire for the past 25 years. Collectively, the two chapters have provided nearly $15,000 in funding for scholarships and emergency assistance through donations to the UW-Eau Claire Foundation. Chapter CH now supports the Blugold Emergency Fund, and Chapter AF supports a newly created scholarship fund.
The emergency fund helps students meet immediate, essential expenses related to such situations as accident, illness, death of a family member, fire damage or need for temporary housing.
"Chapter CH, along with all P.E.O. chapters, strives to assist women in education," said Eileen Immerman, Chapter CH president. "When unique circumstances arise that disrupt the ability of those women to continue, the Blugold Emergency Fund can assist students in successfully surmounting those obstacles."
The scholarship fund provides much-needed monetary support for students needing financial assistance.
"Following in the over 100-year P.E.O tradition, Chapter AF is passionate about continuing the mission of helping women on their educational path to follow their dreams and reach their goals," said Nancy Schuster, Chapter AF president.
Kimera Way, president of the UW-Eau Claire Foundation, said the local P.E.O. chapters' financial and emotional support of students is much appreciated.
"These local chapters have been tremendously generous in providing financial support to young women seeking to further themselves with a college education," Way said. "We are especially thankful that Chapter CH is committed to using its funds to support students and faculty/staff who encounter terrible situations beyond their control. Just knowing there is someone to help can mean all the world to people.
"Chapter AF's commitment to supporting a scholarship is so important as we are looking for more and more scholarship dollars as a vital tool in our student recruitment efforts."
Heather Schmidt's $300 award from the two P.E.O. chapters made the difference between delaying her graduation and completing her master's degree on time.
"I fully recognize that the P.E.O. award has made it possible for me to continue my education on schedule," said Schmidt, who received her bachelor's degree in communication sciences and disorders from UW-Eau Claire in 2013. "It is difficult to ask for help, and words cannot express how grateful I am for the generosity. I am passionate about helping children with speech and language disorders so that they may succeed in school, and because of the P.E.O. award, I will be able to do that soon."
P.E.O. is an international organization headquartered in Des Moines, Iowa. With five chapters in Eau Claire and 139 in Wisconsin, P.E.O. works to assist women worldwide.
For more information about the P.E.O. emergency and scholarship funds with the UW-Eau Claire Foundation, contact Christina Thill, the Foundation's scholarship administrator, at 715-836-4045 or firstname.lastname@example.org.