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Program helps single parents finish college

Program helps single parents finish college

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For single parents in college, it can be difficult to balance bills, a full-time job, classes and childcare all at once.

Catholic Social Services (CSS) has noticed this problem, and since 2014 has run a program known as “Uplifting Parents” which connects single parents who are within two years of graduating with a mentor, and a monthly stipend of $200 to help cover some of their expenses.

Becky Cornell-Marsich, program director for Uplifting Parents, said the program began with an anonymous donation from someone who wanted to fill a gap in the services at CSS.

“This idea of single parents in college kept coming up,” she said of the original idea about where funding should go. “Just giving funding to people doesn’t have the best results, but if you couple that with mentoring and having a relationship with someone that can be your go-to person and your cheerleader and connect you to resources… that has some good results.”

Whitney McBride, 26, is one single mother in the program. McBride is busy finishing her associates degree in applied health sciences from Black Hills State University, and hopes to get into the dental hygiene program at the University of South Dakota this fall. 

McBride said the program is helping her become the mother she wants to be for her 10-month-old son, Lucas.

“I want to be able to provide a good life for him as a single parent,” McBride said. “I’m on assistance right now, and I want to be able to not have that one day. I’m glad and I’m blessed to have that, but I just want to be able to give back, too.”

McBride said she’s grateful for the mentor she has through the program.

“You can definitely count on them to be there, and to cheer you on and be in your corner,” she said. “They’re not biased, they are just there for you.”

Megan Lockey is a single mother to two boys, age 13 and 8, and is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in nursing from SDSU at the nursing school in Rapid City. Lockey said she didn’t take her education seriously when she was younger, and is thankful to be in the Uplifting Parents program.

“I was just out of high school, and (college) was what you were expected to do,” Lockey said. “I failed because I didn’t take it seriously. I’m 40 now, so 10 to 15 years down the road, I am struggling as a single mom. You start having kids and thinking about your life… I want better for myself. Not only for myself, but for my kids.”

Lockey said she’s excited to become a nurse so she can fulfill her passion of helping other people, and so she can become a good role model for her children.

“I just want my kids to be able to look up to me, and know that they can succeed and be the best person you can be,” she said.

Both McBride and Lockey heard about the program from their university advisors. Cornell-Marsich said anyone who doesn’t hear about the program from an academic advisor should contact her, and she will make sure their advisor can help refer them into the program.

“We’re desperate for applications right now,” Cornell-Marsich said. “Any single parents that are within two years of graduating, we would love to get (you) connected to a referral person.”

Applications for the Uplifting Parents program are open until March 14. For more information, contact Becky Cornell-Marsich at becky.cornell-marsich@cssrapidcity.com or (605) 348-6086, or visit the CSS website.

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