Bread Upon the Waters Program
- University of Pennsylvannia
Penn's Bread Upon the Waters program, named for the old Hebrew idiom about giving and the rewards that come from giving, is unique in its approach to serving mature women students by offering free tuition for selected part-time students as a way of helping them earn a bachelor's degree from the University of Pennsylvania. In 2009, the Newcombe Foundation began its partnership with Penn by providing partial funding for three of their twenty-five Bread scholarships. The Newcombe Foundation celebrates Penn's commitment to welcome and support nontraditional women students as they work to complete their degrees.
Among many other things, women returning to school need money. This is why Elin Danien started the Bread Upon the Waters Scholarship Program at Penn in 1986. Elin, who began her freshman year at the age of forty-six, would become very familiar with the challenges facing nontraditional students, especially older women, by the time she graduated seven years later. Today, she sees herself in many of the students who come through the program, which provides full scholarships to academically gifted women over the age of thirty who demonstrate financial need and want to complete an undergraduate degree through part-time study at Penn's College of Liberal and Professional Studies (LPS). Once admitted to LPS and accepted as Bread Scholars, the scholarship supports them until they graduate, in whatever course of study they choose, providing full tuition for up to six courses each year.
The seventy-eight women who have gone through the program and the twenty-five now taking classes come from many different backgrounds, but their stories all echo their thirst for learning. One recent graduate, who went from an unhappy childhood in a home without books to an unhappy marriage, said of the scholarship, "It heals broken hearts. It grants a top-notch education to deserving women who will use their knowledge to better society. Bread feeds us and the community at the same time." She is now a published, award-winning poet and teaches English, poetry, and the importance of setting goals to high school students in Philadelphia.
Several other graduates have gone into teaching, earning master's degrees and certificates after their Bread experience. One has even created a school that serves children in the inner city from preschool to the 4th grade. Another former student, a paralegal, got a Penn degree thanks to Bread and went on to become a lawyer.
Each year LPS hosts an annual reception with scholarship donors, graduates, and current scholars. Bread scholars are part of each other's lives; they meet regularly, share pizza, study together, and support one another through the wonderful and difficult times of pursuing a Penn degree. In addition to the formal Penn support systems, a wide range of mentoring opportunities are available to Bread scholars - from select advisory board members and former Bread scholars to LPS staff. A newsletter and Facebook page help Bread scholars support each other by creating a sense of family. As one of them said, "One word sums up for me the emotions felt when thinking of Breadbelonging. I belong to a group of women who support my endeavors, my dreams, and the road that got me here."
Since many Bread scholars are the first in their families to attend college while they work full time, support families and struggle to pay the bills, the program has evolved to provide them with a variety of academic, career planning, and counseling services. For example, each scholar is assigned an academic advisor and can seek additional help from LPS student services specialists, who provide assistance with course registration, student record/transcript and billing questions, and identify campus resources to support them. LPS offers a variety of evening and Saturday classes to accommodate scholars who work. Free and confidential counseling services are available through the university.
In August 2008, LPS also began to offer an intensive daylong "boot camp" that exposes scholars to a variety of services to support their success. Part of the orientation takes place in a library computer lab where they are guided through the online services that are available to them as Penn students. The goal is to provide fast-track exposure to information technology prior to the start of classesto alleviate what can potentially be a barrier to their academic achievement. Additionally, the program's student support coordinator works as a direct contact person to all students in helping them navigate the launching of their university systems access. Through these efforts, LPS creates a community of learners that function as a cohort in order to address many of the issues that often contribute to adult student attrition, such as little money, social isolation, and stress and time management.
Like the passage of scripture from which the scholarship program is named, Bread Upon the Waters' impact goes beyond the individual lives of the scholarship recipients. Elin Danien describes the impact of the program as "a never ending series of ripples, each touching the next, so that the cumulative effect becomes ever greater." Bread women serve as examples of what can be accomplished with perseverance and when offered the opportunity to achieve great things. And we are now delighted to partner with the Charlotte W. Newcombe Foundation to continue improving the lives of so many women, which we have been doing for nearly 25 years.
The Newcombe Scholars this year exemplify the women who become Bread scholars.For more information about Penn's Bread Upon the Waters Program, please visit their website.