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Scholarship, mentorship help mothers earn college degrees
Foundation guides scholars through academics
Published Wednesday, May 4, 2016 1:46 pm
by Herbert L. White

Johnson C. Smith University senior Kym Davidson (left) returned to school for her degree with help from the ANSWER Scholarship Endowment founded by Susan Andersen (right).

Kym Davidson has seen the lowest of lows.

The Johnson C. Smith University senior has beaten cancer and a broken marriage to achieve her goal of earning a degree. In addition to full-time studies, Davidson is a mother and domestic violence counselor, which means putting an emphasis on maintaining life and academic balance.

“It’s very hard,” said Davidson, who will graduate next week with a criminology degree. “Everyone will walk out with gray hair, including myself, but it is possible. I’m the living example.”

Davidson was helped by the non-profit ANSWER Scholarship Endowment, which provides adult mothers with up $4,000 for college. Recipients must be in the process of earning their first four-year degree in the field of their choice, or a two-year degree in nursing.  Applicants can be single or married, but must go to an accredited not-for-profit school full-time and have school-age children.

“It does help because it offsets that student loan you obtained to finish school,” Davidson said.

ANSWER, founded in 2006 by Charlotte native Susan Andersen, raises scholarship money from individuals and initiatives. Recipients must participate in Mentors for Mom, which provides a mentor to each recipient to offer guidance on how to handle the responsibilities of family, job, and school.

“It warms my heart when you see them come in and you see the end and the transformation that many of them have made in the few short years they’ve been with us,” Andersen said.

Teena Allen, a single mother with two children, will graduate Winthrop this week with a degree in social work. She’s also overcome hardship. In 2014, her grandmother died.  Two days after the funeral, Allen’s husband left – the same week as final exams. Through the uncertainty, she persevered.

“It was really hard for me to see the end,” Allen said. “I had to take it every minute, every second, every day at a time. I knew I would get there eventually but I definitely could not see the end five years ago.”

She pulled through with help from ANSWER and her mentor Sonya Muhammad, leader of the Mentors for Mom program. 

“Sonya asked me what was it I wanted,” Allen said. “At that time I didn’t know. All I knew was I wanted to go back to school and be a social worker, but after that, that’s all I had. As far as what Teena liked for Teena, I didn’t know that. At the very first luncheon, that was something Sonya told me I needed to discover. That was the thing that helped me get over the bumps in the road.”

Davidson and Allen are among 14 ANSWER scholars. Five are 2016 graduates.

“I want to be a role model for my daughters, and the violence I experienced has propelled me to complete my degree,” said Davidson, a Dean’s List scholar whose career goal is to be an investigator.

Five years ago, Davidson was undergoing cancer treatment when her husband tried to choke her in front of her daughters, Xavier, now 18 and Cameryn, 17. Davidson turned that experience into advocacy as a volunteer at the Battered Women’s Shelter and Carolinas Medical Center. She’s been accepted into master’s degree programs at East Carolina University, N.C. A&T State, and the University of Cincinnati. 

Xavier plans to enroll at JCSU. Cameryn has been accepted at N.C. A&T.

Allen, who works at an insurance agency in Rock Hill, made the President’s List last semester for her 4.0 grade point average, received the BSW Field Excellence Award, and was selected for NEW Leadership South Carolina, a residential program that give college women the skills to become leaders in politics, public policy and public service.

“It’s a wonderful process to see these women come into the program,” Andersen said. “Some of them may not be very confident, but by the time they graduate, the confidence is there and they are so excited to see they’ve achieved things. And they’re very proud, too, because their children have watched them and they’re urging them on. In turn, the children are wanting to go to college.”

Allen earned acceptance last week to Winthrop’s graduate school to pursue a Masters of Social Work degree.  Her 17-year-old daughter is looking at colleges now.
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