It's not easy being a single mom. Juggling school schedules, work, activities, meals, bills and more takes up a lot of the day. Now, add college. It's enough to deter any mom from pursuing a career. But not if Phoenix College (PC), Helping Hands for Single Moms (HHSM) and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona (BCBS) have anything to say about it.
In a unique partnership, BCBS has granted Helping Hands a $20k grant to be used solely at PC for single moms wanting a career in the healthcare field. That's support for ten single mom students in Phoenix College's renowned nursing program. But the assistance doesn't end there.
"Helping Hands for Single Moms is more than financial support for moms; we provide wrap-around support," said Layla Maroufkhani, HHSM Program Director. "We offer AAA benefits, provide holiday gifts, plan large family outings, mentorship and networking meetings and we stay in touch with each mom. We get close to the moms and stay engaged. We become a family, offering extra support."
The scholarship from BCBS for moms in healthcare shows a commitment to the future of healthcare. The healthcare insurance giant has been a key partner and funding source since HHSM started scholarships for nursing programs, so far giving more than $141k to moms pursuing a college education.
"Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona is honored to support Helping Hands for Single Moms and Phoenix College and the incredible work they are doing," said Kristina Chumpol, Sr. Manager of Community Programs. "We know that education has a strong connection to the overall health of individuals. At Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona, we are committed to making a difference for the health of Arizona and we look forward to seeing how this scholarship positively impacts the lives of these ten amazing nursing students!"
The support and scholarships go a long way. Most moms coming into the program have an annual income of about $9-10k. When they leave the program, usually finding work at the same location where they did internships, they are making more than $50k a year.
Helping Hands for Single Moms started in 2002. The organization assists low-income single mom families while the mother pursues a postsecondary education, financial independence and a positive family legacy. Since its inception, HHSM has given away 6 million in scholarships to hundreds of college students. In December 2020, they celebrated 171 moms graduating from Valley nursing programs (historically, HHSM has had 297 graduates covering many academic tracks). The HHSM program has a 91 percent graduation rate in the last five years.
Dr. Larry Johnson, Phoenix College President, sits on the board of HHSM. "Education changes circumstances and consequently lives," he said. "For over 100 years, Phoenix College has been proud to provide educational opportunities to our community. Thanks to Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona and Helping Hands for Single Moms, this new scholarship will help ten students overcome barriers to unlock their potential."
Fernanda Munoz is one such story of living the American Dream. She went through PC's nursing program, graduated and then went to Grand Canyon University for her bachelor's degree. Brought from Mexico at the age of nine, she came to the US with nothing but a hard work ethic and a drive to succeed. After having two children, she decided to become a nurse. When Munoz received her nursing pin from PC, support staff from HHSM cried, knowing how hard each mom works. Now, well into a lucrative career, Munoz closed on her first home this year. .
"I was blessed to have found Helping Hands For Single Moms at a time in my life when I needed financial help as a single mom to continue with my nursing degree," Munoz said. "HHSM helped me graduate from an amazing Nursing Program offered at Phoenix College. Surprisingly, not only did HHSM help me financially, but also I found the support that my kids and I needed; they became, and still are, my family. I do not know if I would have had completed my nursing degree without their help. I do know that they made things easier for my children and me. Now, I am working as a nurse, helping our community through the hard times of a pandemic, and loving every minute of it. With the help of HHSM, I hope many more single moms can achieve their goals, become financially independent and provide for their children like I have."
As Chris Coffman, CEO of Helping Hands for Single Moms, said, "We are honored to assist these hardworking single mom college students at Phoenix College. We provide supportive services, but they do the heavy lifting and are deserving of recognition for their success."
Even in the midst of a pandemic, anyone with the fire in their belly and drive can make their career dreams happen. Especially with support like PC and HHSM's offer, no mom need to worry about her financial future and the legacy she's leaving her kids.