CHARLOTTE, N.C. — This time of year is filled with high school and college graduations and for several Charlotte-area women, it is a milestone they were not sure they would ever reach.
That is until a Charlotte non-profit aimed at helping women graduate from college stepped in with much-needed financial help and mentoring.
The ANSWER scholarship helps moms with school-age kids in Mecklenburg and the surrounding counties - giving them financial aid and pairing them with mentors.
Susan Andersen, of Charlotte, started ANSWER scholarship back in 2006 and has since helped more than 100 women go to college.
Kaye Lee Harrison is one of 12 women graduating this year thanks to the ANSWER scholarship. Harrison spent her life wondering if she’d ever wear a cap and gown.
"All my life really. I did try to go to college but they'd send me a notice saying I needed to pay a bill," Harrison said. "I had t make a choice: rent, car, or pay for college. You're only thinking about survival."
With no support from her family, Harrison started college and had to stop repeatedly. She finally crossed the stage as a graduate at the age of 45.
"It's always been about not having enough money – not having support," Harrison said.
She and fellow Johnson C. Smith graduate Jacoya McDowell found that support in the ANSWER scholarship.
"When I started college I was determined to finish," McDowell said. "I did get pregnant with my son [and it] put me back a lot in trying to pursue my education."
Until she heard about the ANSWER scholarship
"It's been such a blessing," McDowell said. "The financial support is amazing. The mentorship program great as well. I had writer's block one time and I reached out to my mentor and we were able to talk it out."
The scholarship handpicks moms with kids in school who need a hand. Many of the recipients are single mothers who otherwise could not afford college. The financial aid gives them the money they need to complete school.
"I've not had to worry about that bill coming and not being able to pay it," McDowell said. "They have given me relief, accountability, sisterhood. It's been a miracle actually."
The answer to their prayers.
"It feels wonderful, amazing it feels like a life accomplishment. I’ve been trying my entire adult life," Harrison said." Finally getting here is astounding."
In total, the ANSWER Scholarship has provided women more than $500,000.
If you know someone who might be eligible, you can apply here at answerscholarship.org. Applications open each year in December.