Ever since she was a little girl, Jeanne Sarmiento wanted to be a lawyer. As she grew older, however, her life took some unexpected turns. After what she calls “a series of poor choices" as a young adult, this mother changed her life and became inspired by her children to go to school. Even as a single parent of an infant, Sarmiento was determined to get her degree, and she added credits slowly but surely over the years. Eventually, she graduated with an associate's degree. She is now going back to school for an additional degree and cannot wait to hear her kids yell, “You did it Mom! You did it!"
"I can't wait to hear my children screaming my name from the stands, " said Jeanne Sarmiento as she imagines graduating with a bachelor's degree. “They are my inspiration. They are holding my hands as I realize my dream. I will do it. I will do it. "
Sarmiento is one of the over 8 million single working moms in the United States that find themselves undereducated, and in turn underemployed. According to the U. S. Census, of the 10 million single moms in the United States, only 16 percent have a college degree. As a result, only 22 percent of single working moms earn more than $30,000 per year.
"This is a crisis in America that needs to be addressed, " said Terrence Thomas, Chief Marketing Officer of , who recently launched a campaign, Project Working Mom: Putting Education to Work, to raise awareness and funds to support this underrepresented population. “Single working moms suffer from a lack of federal financial support because of their part time student status, which is compounded by their lack of time and confidence to return to school. "
To help other moms in the same situation as Sarmiento, in collaboration with online schools, American Intercontinental University, DeVry University and Walden University, will grant at least $2 million in full-ride scholarships to working mothers across the country as part of the Project Working Mom campaign. Additionally, has launched a comprehensive website, http://www.projectworkingmom.com, designed to empower working women to enhance their career by going back to school. The site includes self-assessment quizzes to determine readiness for online education, an online community wherein potential students can talk with other moms in similar situations, a database with $15 billion in financial aid opportunities and numerous articles filled with advice and insight. The funds and the website are designed to help moms overcome the barriers of time with access to online education opportunities; money with the provision of scholarship; and confidence through a website full of resources and a community.
"Working is a full-time job and being a mom is also a full-time job, so really you're working 24 hours a day, seven days a week, " said Sarmiento. “I would work all day and then go to school at night, plus have homework. Not only was it really hard for me, it was hard for my son. "
Unlike a traditional campus education, the convenience of online education allows for school to be scheduled around the life of a busy mother. Most online courses have flexible schedules, which allow a working mother to study late at night or on weekends. The need to arrange for childcare, find parking or courses that are delivered during a certain period are eliminated with online education. According to Eduventures, two million students are expected to enroll in fully online degree programs this year.
Most full time working mothers need financial aid to go to school part-time, however, financial aid eligibility and awards are modeled after a traditional campus based student going to school full time for 10 months. According to the Institute for Higher Education Policy, in 2003-04 only 54 percent of students attending part time and classified as “working poor" received financial aid grants. “Our goal for Project Working Mom is to raise awareness of the fact that federal financial aid is not fulfilling its obligation to the adult working student, particularly the single working mom, " continued Thomas. “It's a public policy issue that must be addressed. "
For most working mothers, the decision to return to school is filled with hope, uncertainty and anxiety. It is with that in mind that “Project Working Mom" provides working mothers with the resources, support and confidence they need to become a successful online student through a community of other moms and content such as:
-8 Steps To Going Back To School
-How To Pay For College
-How To Handle The Stress of School, Work and Motherhood
-Time Management Tips
-How To Succeed As An Online Student
-Testimonials from Inspirational Women
-Database of $15 Billion in Financial Aid
"Project Working Mom is the long awaited answer for many women struggling to make ends meet without a college degree, " continued Thomas. “The scholarships, resources and community that has pulled together will give women the extra boost they need to finally take greater control of their life. "
To other moms Samiento suggests, “Don't give up. Going back to school as an adult is a whole different ballgame. I thought I would never get my AA degree. It took me 17 years to get that degree, but with the advent of e-learning, a whole new world has opened up for people like me, " said Sarmiento. “The feeling of finishing something you've started and finally having that diploma can only be matched by the pride in my children's voices. "
To apply for a Project Working Mom scholarship, join an online community or get advice and financial aid information on going back to school online, visit http://www.projectworkingmom.com