The Andersen Nontraditional Scholarship for Women’s Education and Retraining (ANSWER) is aiding local mothers in earning college degrees.
“Mothers typically set the tone in the family. Children can see what their mom is doing,” founder Susan Andersen told QCity Metro. “When you educate a mom, you educate her children too.”
There were three scholarship recipients when Andersen created the scholarship under the endowment of Foundations of the Carolinas in 2005.
Since then, the program has awarded scholarships to 126 mothers across Mecklenburg County and surrounding counties.
This year, ANSWER will support 25 mothers during the 2024- 2025 academic year with awards of up to $5,000 for applicants seeking four-year degrees, and up to $2,750 for two-year degrees, Andersen said.
Beyond financial support
Andersen said it’s often challenging for mothers to balance work, school and at-home life, resulting in burnout that leads many mothers to drop out of school.
To combat this, each recipient is paired with a volunteer mentor who provides emotional support and other resources, like professional development, to help support their educational journey.
“We take a vested interest in standing by our scholars,” she said.
Many participants have continued to pursue their master’s and doctoral degrees after earning their initial degree.
Some spouses and partners of ANSWER scholars have also been motivated to earn college degrees, Andersen said.
Toni Moss is currently a junior at UNC Charlotte, earning a bachelor’s degree in communications with help from the ANSWER Scholarship.
After she applied in 2021, the decision, she said, has benefited her both professionally and personally.
“[ANSWER is] walking with you through your whole journey – everything from the mentorship, professional development course and the sisterhood,” she said.
Moss has two daughters, a 17-year-old and a seven-year-old. She hopes to set the “standard” for them by completing her degree.
“Despite circumstances and unfortunate things that can happen, you can always rise above the occasion,” she said. “If you put in the work, you will see the fruits of your labor.”
Moss is set to graduate in the fall of 2024 and wants to work in a nonprofit.
Amber House, another recipient, gave birth to her first child during her freshman year of college. After taking a semester off, she completed an associate program in Connecticut before later moving to Charlotte and pursuing her bachelor’s degree.
She was later encouraged to apply for the ANSWER Scholarship.
House said she was “intimidated” to go back to school as an older student, but the program helped make her comfortable.
“Seeing other people trying to get their degree [is] encouraging,” she said.
She is currently working toward a degree in Computer Science and Engineering with a minor in Cybersecurity at Johnson C. Smith University and expects to graduate in May 2025.
She also encourages other mothers to apply for the scholarship.
“This program helps you focus on school and being a mother,” she said. “Just give it a shot.”
To be eligible, applicants must be a mother with a school-aged child — up to twelfth grade– and must live in Mecklenburg County or surrounding counties.
Both married and single applicants may apply.
Once the application is complete, applicants will interview with a selection committee before final approval.
Once approved, recipients can be enrolled in any degree program at a local college or university within Mecklenburg County or surrounding counties.
To get involved in other ways, ANSWER will host a fall festival, the program’s annual scholarship fundraiser event, on September 30.
Guests can enjoy games, activities for kids, live music, and food from Noble Smoke.
Applications open on November 1 for the 2024-25 academic year.