How scholarship led to mentorship, and then a life changed

The ANSWER Scholarship offers financial aid and encouragement to women age 25 and older who are working to earn a college degree while raising school-age children.

Where Are They Now? Last in a series of articles catching up with former students who received scholarships though Foundation For The Carolinas.

Sometimes a single event can change a life. Teena Allen of Columbia, South Carolina, knows this well.

In 2013 Allen was working as an administrative assistant at the YWCA Central Carolinas. She also was wife and a mother of two children, ages 14 and 7. Yet, she says, “I didn’t really have a clear vision on who Teena was.”

That uncertainty in her life began to gradually change after she went back to college to complete her education and became an ANSWER Scholarship recipient through Foundation For The Carolinas. The ANSWER Scholarship is one of more than 150 scholarships managed by the foundation.

Today Allen works as a data quality manager for Midlands Fatherhood Coalition, a nonprofit that offers free programs and services to men with children.

She describes her job as “macro social work.”

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“I believe that men are important, and I think in society sometimes men are overlooked, as if maybe they don’t need as much support,” she says. “When I saw an opportunity to work for an organization that actually supported men, it was just a perfect fit.”

Allen says hers career satisfaction might never have happened but for the ANSWER Scholarship.

A fondness for numbers

Born in Sumter and raised in Summerton, South Carolina, Allen grew up with a fondness for numbers, and when she went off to South Carolina State College in 2005, she majored in business education. But then quickly came marriage and children, so Allen put off completing her education to focus on family.

She moved to Charlotte and worked briefly at Duke Energy as a shareholder representative. She credits working alongside one of her co-workers there, who suffered from Bipolar disorder, for first getting her interested in human services.

Teena Allen

It was during her employment at the YWCA, however, that Allen decided to complete her schooling. She transferred her credits from South Carolina State to Winthrop University and majored in psychology.

Allen says she learned of the ANSWER Scholarship through a Winthrop professor, Dr. Gloria G. Jones.

A mentor emerges

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The ANSWER Scholarship was established to provide financial support and encouragement to women age 25 and older who are raising school-age children (grades Kindergarten – 12) and are seeking to earn a two-year nursing degree or a four-year undergraduate degree in the field of their choice.

In addition to financial assistance, the scholarship also provides moms with mentors to help them navigate the demands of school and family.

It was that mentoring aspect, Allen says, that helped her most.

“I was a mom, I was a wife, and I didn’t spend a whole lot of time with myself,” Allen recalls. “My mentor at the time was Sonya Muhammad. She really challenged me to find out, ‘What is it that Teena wanted to do?’ ”

Allen says Muhammad gave her “permission to be selfish.”

Years later, Muhammad was still offering guidance when Allen and her husband decided to divorce. She would call to remind Allen that she had everything she needed “in order to move forward.”

In 2016, Allen graduated from Winthrop with a Bachelor of Science degree with a concentration in social work – and she currently volunteers to help other recipients of the ANSWER Scholarship.

Allen’s daughter is now 20 and is going off to the military. Her son, now 13, has started middle school.

“I’m at peace right now,” Allen says. “I’m thankful that I’ve been able to build the relationships that I have. My hands are open, so I’m always open to new possibilities.”

Apply For a FFTC Scholarship: The application cycle starts December 2. Get more information at

This article was reported and written by Jonathan Limehouse.

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