"Women with Children taught me what it means to be a lifelong learner. I gained so many insights – how a community can shape an individual, the influence of positive role models, and the depth of character, stamina, and resolve it takes to reconstruct your future. I know my college experience makes me a more caring, well-rounded teacher today."

- Denise Widner
  BA, Magna Cum Laude, 2004

Women with Children Program
- Misericordia University
  January 2009

In 2008, the Newcombe Foundation contributed to the establishment of a Charlotte W. Newcombe Endowed Fund for Women with Children at Misericordia University in Dallas, PA, in response to compelling evidence of the success of this program in "breaking the cycle of poverty among single mothers." We are excited about the mission, scope and effectiveness of this endeavor to meet the needs of single mothers as they pursue a college education. Single mothers and their children, according to the 2000 U.S. Census, are the "fastest growing segment of persons falling into poverty on an individual level." We applaud Misericordia for its recognition of and response to this need.

What follows is an overview of this program from Vicki L. Austin, Director of the Women with Children program.

No project underscores Misericordia University's mission of compassionate leadership in higher education more powerfully than the Women with Children program, which makes it possible for low-income single mothers to earn a degree. The women participating in Misericordia's program have the qualifications and the desire to pursue a college degree but lack the financial means. Most of them have juggled full-time jobs with college courses, the expenses of day care, and other responsibilities. However, the financial and logistical obstacles they encountered proved overwhelming. Women with Children, one of only eight residential college programs nationwide serving single mothers and funded through a variety of sources, removes many of the obstacles these women face in their pursuit of a better future for themselves and their children.

Sarah Martin

2007 Misericordia graduate
Bachelor of Science
Elementary and Special Education

Sarah and her daughter, Emma, now in first grade, participated in the Women with Children program while at Misericordia. She began her teaching career in York, PA in 2008. While at Misericordia, Sarah dedicated herself to academic excellence as well as a long list of volunteer efforts both on campus and in the community. Recipient of a large number of awards, Sarah has spoken at fundraising events about the impact of the Women with Children program on her life and that of her daughter.

All Women with Children participants are enrolled as full-time students in degree programs at Misericordia University, and all receive financial aid to help pay for their education. Unique program fundamentals include free housing for ten women and their children; six families live in Rosary Hall, a three-story, university-owned house three blocks from campus, and four families reside in a newly renovated facility nearby named Pauly House. In each location, women form an especially close-knit community that provides an enormous amount of social and emotional support. The program also provides child-care subsidies, allows children to eat free on campus, and offers the support of a program director who is available 24 hours a day. The women's days are filled with classes and studying, and during the evenings they help each other manage family responsibilities and academic demands.

Another Misericordia graduate, Heidi D'Amore, and her daughter, Alyssa, join Sarah and Emma in celebrating their graduation. Both families participated in the Women with Children program.

Misericordia University offers counselors to provide parenting advice, help with study skills, and assistance with career planning. The children spend four or five years growing up in a college community and watching their mothers pursue valuable goals, which, in turn, gives them greater appreciation for the value of education.

Since its inception in 2000, Women with Children has proven its effectiveness. Of the women who have participated in the program, all but a small fraction have stayed in it until graduation, and they are unanimous in their enthusiastic support for it. They have launched careers as teachers, medical imagists, social workers, physical therapists, and successful professionals in a range of other fields.

For further information, please visit Misericordia University's website.

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