Fittingly, the fundraiser is in someone’s home.
The Single Parent Scholarship Fund of Pulaski County aims to give deserving students the means to earn a degree in order to provide a quality life for themselves and their children.
Since 1991 the fund, an affiliate of the Arkansas Single Parent Scholarship Fund (ASPSF), has awarded more than $1 million in scholarships to deserving students raising children alone in the Pulaski County area. Recipients have gone on to earn doctorates, law degrees and to embark on other worthwhile careers that might not have been possible if they’d had to go it alone.
Not only that, single parents are also given the means to prove to their children that good things can happen if you try.
“I could see how if you are helping a single parent you are creating a new generation of educated people,” says Sue Frueauff, a former board member and one of three who will be honored at this year’s “Night of Hope,” the fund’s annual benefit.
The event, which is the scholarship fund’s primary fundraiser, will be held Oct. 15 at the Little Rock home of Walter and Terry Quinn.
To help single-parent families build a solid foundation, there has traditionally been no better way than to open up someone’s house.
“The movers and shakers in Little Rock open their homes every fall for this event and furnish everything; it’s our main moneymaker,” Frueauff says.
This year’s honorees are Frueauff, a longtime fund benefactor, board member and CAO of the charitable Frueauff Foundation; former board member Bonnie Nickol, who helped originate the Pulaski County fund through the ASPSF; and original executive director Ellen Ingram.
“It’s an unbelievable organization because it works,” Nickol says. “I’ve done a couple of things in my life but it’s one of the best things I’ve done.”
Scholarship recipient Courtnei Williams — mother of two, UALR graduate and kindergarten teacher — agrees.
“I do not believe I would have been able to make it without their scholarship,” says Williams, who just began a teaching position at Chicot Elementary. “I would have been pulling teeth or hair trying to make it happen without it.”
A Hand Up
Current executive director Karin Bara, who replaced Ingram two years ago, is a former scholarship fund volunteer who comes from a financial aid background as a former private scholarship coordinator at UALR.
“We’re very much a hand up, not a hand out,” Bara says. “Our students work. We’re not just handing them the money. They are doing their part.”
Since its first year, when it gave out 20 scholarships of $500 each and had no support services, the Single Parent Scholarship Fund of Pulaski County has since awarded $1.265 million to over 1,800 single parents.
The current amount is $900 a semester (for fall, spring and summer semesters) or $2,700 a year, plus support services. To be eligible, a student must live in Pulaski County and be enrolled in one of 11 partner schools in the area, be a single parent with sole custody and responsibility for a child under 18, maintain a minimum 2.5 GPA, be a full-time student working toward an undergraduate degree or certificate and be eligible for a federal Pell Grant.
“We have a very deliberate selection process,” Bara says. “So our applicants go through several layers of screenings and a personal interview, so we’re really looking for people who are committed to finishing their education.”
A recipient can spend the money on school-related items like books or fees or tuition, but can also pay for any approved necessities that will ease a financial burden — groceries, utilities or fixing a car, for example — that will enable them to focus on school with an untroubled mind.
“The scholarship was very beneficial because it is a life scholarship,” Williams says. “It benefits you outside the classroom. With this scholarship I was able to get reimbursed for gas or food. There was a point where I needed food and I had the funds to do that.”
The Single Parent Scholarship Fund of Pulaski County is an affiliate of the Arkansas Single Parent Scholarship Fund, a private, nonprofit fund established in 1990.
Nickol, born in Birmingham, Ala., had done some volunteer work in her life but begged off when approached by Ralph Nesson and Marjorie Wolfe, of the statewide scholarship fund, who wanted her help jump-starting the Pulaski County fund.
“I said ‘I’ll come but I’m not going to do anything, maybe write you a little check,’” Nickol recalls.
But it wasn’t long before Nickol was rounding up members of her long-running book club to contribute. Nickol, former board member and president, also hired Ingram and helped to organize the first fundraiser with the aid of book club member Marge Schueck at Pleasant Valley Country Club.
Frueauff, whose family founded the Charles F. Frueauff Foundation devoted to education, human services and health-related causes, came on board early and her family’s foundation supplies the scholarship fund’s reduced rent office space at Third St. and River Market Ave., plus furnishings and equipment.
“Bonnie is terrific and Karin is so dedicated,” Frueauff says. “Ellen was very, very good. She was here 10 years and she did an excellent job.”
Ingram now does nonprofit work in Oklahoma.
Frueauff, a retired elementary school teacher — and single parent — who had relocated to Little Rock, immediately realized the long-term benefits not just for the scholarship recipients, but also for their children.
“They see their parents working hard at school and it affects their home life.”
Returning The Favor
Among fund recipients there is a 92 percent retention/graduation rate, with many former scholarship winners returning as volunteers after earning their degrees and joining the workforce.
With volunteer help when needed, students have conducted nutrition classes (with donated crock pots for participants) and dental clinics for other scholarship recipients and their children. School supplies for kids have been donated and everyone is welcome at the Christmas parties and graduations and awards and honors ceremonies.
“I feel so privileged to be part of this group, and I was awed by how supportive and caring all of you were,” says recipient Terra Kennedy in an email to program administrator Brittany Richards following an orientation session. “It really did feel like a family and I can’t wait to help this group grow and bud and be part of the blooming process.”
Frueauff recalled a student who received dental care from the clinic along with Nickol’s husband, a retired dentist who wanted to help.
“I got my smile back,” the woman told Bonnie Nickol.
It is probably safe to say she wasn’t the only one. Nickol likes to recall the reactions of the small sons and daughters on hand to see their mom, or dad, receive their diploma.
“I’ve never seen eyes bigger or a smile bigger and the clapping and they are just so proud,” she beams. “You know that kid is going to go to college, too.”
That’s certainly one of the lessons Williams, with her early childhood development degree in hand, wants her children to learn. And thanks to the fund she stands as an example that such a thing is possible.
“Many people believe as a teenage mother you’re not going to make it,” Williams says. “For me it was important for them to see that no matter what happened in life you can get a college education.”
A Night of Hope
Benefit for Single Parent Scholarship Fund of Pulaski County
When: 6-9 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 15
Where: Home of Terry and Walter Quinn, 5 River View Pointe
Tickets: $100 per person
Info: 301-7773, SPSFPulaski.org