CHARLOTTE, N.C. — As a student at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, where she majored in business administration and earned a bachelor’s degree, Susan Andersen paid for one-third of her tuition with a four-year scholarship from the Charlotte Association of Insurance Women.
“It was generosity I never forget,” says Andersen, now a Charlotte-based sales director for Mary Kay Inc. “They made a huge difference for me.”
So after her divorce in 2005 following 22 years of marriage, Andersen created a $200,000 endowment at Foundation for the Carolinas to provide scholarships for mothers who are raising school-age children.
Since fall 2006, the Answer Scholarship Endowment has provided 37 scholarships averaging just over $1,500 a year to 20 women.
Now, Andersen is trying to raise money to increase the endowment.
“We’re trying to reach out to the community so we can grow this endowment so we can give larger scholarships to more women,” she says.
In 2011, the endowment has received nearly $20,000, including $10,000 from the Leon Levine Foundation and the remainder from local churches, family foundations and individuals.
A native of Alabama who grew up in Delaware and has lived in Charlotte since 1974, graduating from Myers Park High School, Andersen found herself after her divorce as a single mother with two teenage children.
So as way of giving back for the scholarship she received that enabled her to pay for college, she created the endowment to support mothers wanting to get a college degree while they still had children in school.
Recipients must be age 25 or older and enrolled full-time at an accredited four-year college or university in Mecklenburg County or an adjacent county in North Carolina or South Carolina.
Applications must be submitted between Jan. 1 and March 1 to Foundation for the Carolinas, which selects recipients and provides financial oversight for the endowment.
Among the 20 women who have received scholarships, 10 have graduated from college, seven have gone on to pursue master’s degrees, and seven still are receiving scholarships.
And at least three of their children have started college.
“These women are hungry to continue their education,” Andersen says. “They’re not going to settle for just a bachelor’s degree. They want to be able to make a difference and provide for their families.”
Marie Dingle, who got married as a college student in Maryland in 1993, had children and dropped out, received an Answer scholarship in 2006 to attend UNC-Charlotte as a widow with children ages five and 10.
She graduated in 2009 with a bachelor’s degree in social work.
And Dingle, whose son is a high school junior, expects in December to graduate from UNC-Greensboro with a master’s degree in library science.
After working as an executive secretary in the U.S. Postal Service in Maryland, she now works as a media specialist at Whitewater Middle School in Charlotte.
The scholarship, she says, “gave me an opportunity to realize my dream and pursue a new career.”
Anderson says she hopes the scholarship program will continue a circle.
“We help a woman, she goes to college, and her children attend college,” she says.
And to complete that circle, she says, women who receive scholarships must agree to participate in a mentoring group, with former recipients typically serving as mentors.
The recipients meet once a month with mentors, who provide advice on topics such as finance, family, schoolwork and preparing for the job market.
Recipients must participate in the mentoring program to get their scholarships renewed each year.
“We want to become active in their life when they’re in the program,” Andersen says. “And we would like when they’re finished for them to come back and share their experiences with current recipients.”