“What a Difference An Education Can Make for Women”
by Lynn Wenzel
It is proven, over and over again, what a difference education can make. We see in countries where women are kept from education, or murdered for trying to obtain one, terrorism, violence, ignorance, disease and unremitting poverty. Conversely, we see in cultures where women are educated, a greatly elevated standard of living, less violence and healthier children. Ask yourself this question: What if a woman has managed to escape from an abusive relationship but has no college or professional training and kids to support? What kind of scholarships are there for her? This is the hard fact of many women’s lives.
According to the 2014 Shriver Report, more than 42 million women and 28 million children have incomes below 200 percent of the federal poverty level. More than one in three women lives in poverty or on the brink of it, and just over four out of every ten children living in poverty are in families headed by women. When aspirations are put on hold, when EDUCATION is put on hold, often because of the need to confront moment-to-moment crises, human potential is wasted.
Another challenge? Nearly one million community college students don’t have access to federal student loans. Many public two-year colleges choose not to participate in the federal loan program for fear the students will default and the schools will be cut out of student aid completely, including the federal Pell grants that cover so many needy students’ expenses. Access to loans can be the difference between students’ dropping out and completing their degree and pursuing continued education. More than 60 percent of community college students are enrolled part time says Hadley Malcolm in USA Today, largely because they have to work to make ends meet. Students in rural areas and small towns are at a further disadvantage as they are more than twice as likely to lack access to federal loans than students in urban areas.
So this is where our Dolores “Dee” Eldridge Scholarship Award comes in. Seventeen years ago, members of BPW observed there were many scholarships available for young women graduating from high school but very few, if any, for more mature women who needed further education in order to improve their lives. And so the scholarship program was born. Approximately $45,000.00 in scholarships later, we are still here; helping women look to the future and provide for themselves and, sometimes, their children. We are still here, giving that hand up both financially and as role models, helping to make the difference between success and failure. We are still here saying, “We believe in you!”
For those of you who are newer members of BPW, the Dolores “Dee” Eldridge Scholarship aids with tuition, books, childcare or any other needed services or supplies that support a return to school. Winning candidates have realistic goals, display ability and aptitude, ambition, motivation and financial need. Candidates must be 25 or older, include three letters of recommendation and transcripts from current enrollment. Each must write an essay on “A Woman’s Issue That Concerns Me Most.” If an application is accepted, the applicant is called for a personal interview.
This year’s scholarship awardees and those of years past are loaded with promise! They have overcome sometimes tremendous odds to go to school. They have clear goals and realistic visions as to how they will negotiate the inevitable roadblocks along the way. They all manifest a resolute vision for their futures.
Why are we called the Dolores “Dee” Eldridge Scholarship? Dee, a member and officer of BPW for over 30 years, is founder of the BPW scholarship program and one of the original officers and participants in turning it into the 501c3 organization it is today. Originally called the Women Helping Women Scholarship, it was renamed in 2010 in honor of Dee on account of her many contributions to Business & Professional Women in Nevada County and in California and to the women in this community. Without her early vision and commitment, this scholarship program might never have existed.
We thank every member and awardee for staying in touch and sharing their journeys with us. As always, we congratulate them on their achievements, both academic and personal. They are an inspiration not only to their friends and family, but to all of us who are members of BPWNC. We know they will pay it forward.