CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Pursuing higher education when you have children can be challenging. That is why a Charlotte nonprofit is helping moms earn their college degrees and get their caps and gowns.
Toni Moss is one of those moms. She put her dreams on hold to focus on motherhood.
"I had my son after I graduated high school and it was a very scary time for me," Moss said. "I didn’t know what to do. And I always thought that college was the right answer but it just was not attainable at the time."
MORE ON WCNC CHARLOTTE: Proposal would require personal finance class in South Carolina high school
However, she never set her sights off going to college. She received her associate's degree in hospitality management and is working her way toward getting her bachelor’s degree.
That is when she applied for the ANSWER Scholarship.
“I was so excited and I called everyone in my family to let them know that I had been chosen,” she said.
In 2021, she became a student at UNC Charlotte and is now studying communications.
“Getting the scholarship allowed me to really focus on school, to be full-time vs part-time so that I can finish on time,” she explained. “Not having the constant burden of worrying about paying for books and all of the costs of college all really did alleviate a lot of stress for me.”
Since ANSWER started in 2006, more than $630,000 have been awarded to over 100 moms in the Charlotte area.
Susan Andersen is the nonprofit's founder and executive director.
"For these moms that we are helping it gives them a different outlook on life, it improves their upward mobility, they provide for their families, and it gives their children opportunity," Andersen said.
WCNC Charlotte is always asking "where's the money?" If you need help, reach out to WCNC Charlotte by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
She said she knows firsthand the financial hardships that come with higher education.
MORE ON WCNC CHARLOTTE: Seeking to increase diversity and improve access to STEM education, Honeywell announces STEM Scholars Academy
"When I was a senior in high school, I knew there was no money to go to college but I knew I was going to go," Andersen said. "I just needed to figure out how to pay for it and a local organization came alongside me and provided me a partial four-year scholarship to UNC Charlotte."
Andersen said she was thankful for the opportunity and vowed to pay it forward.
"We provide more than scholarships," she said. "We provide mentoring, professional development, and full wrap-around services."
She decided to focus on giving a step up to mothers.
"Moms oftentimes set the tone for education in the family and their children’s expectations for education," Andersen said. "So, when you help educate moms, you help educate her children."
Moss is now a student leader and mentor at UNC Charlotte.
"Having my degree to me means setting the right example for my children," Moss said. "I want them to know that despite any obstacles, they can achieve higher education as well."
Balancing home, work and school life, Moss hopes to graduate in December of 2023 and one day start an event management company.
The next round of applications for ANSWER opens on Dec. 1.
Contact Jesse Pierre at email@example.com or follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.