Single mom’s inspirational story earns her scholarshipPublished 10:39am Thursday, December 31, 2009
By AARON MUELLER
Niles Daily Star
Teresa Lee always regretted not finishing her college degree. After she got married, she dropped out of school and began her life as a wife and mother.
But a rocky part of her life has gotten her back in the college classroom.
After overcoming an abusive relationship, she found herself in a domestic abuse shelter in Niles three years ago.
“They encouraged us to go for the college thing,” she said. “I had started a degree before I got married, and it always bothered me that I didn’t complete it. So when they told me at the shelter to go for it, I was just so encouraged. That made me feel as though it were possible.”
Lee is now living in a cozy apartment in Niles, balancing being a mother and a part-time graphic art student at Southwestern Michigan College in Dowagiac.
She also is the 2009 recipient of the second annual Mary J. Wilkinson Scholarship, which is awarded to a single parent who demonstrates financial need and is attending SMC each year.
Her essay on how she overcame an abusive relationship and is now raising two sons while pursuing her associate’s degree stood out to the Inspiration Scholarship Board of Directors.
Lee said the scholarship couldn’t have come at a better time for her family.
“It was amazing,” she said. “My car has been breaking down. It’s been needing repairs. I’ve needed a computer, so I’m looking at computers. It’s just really amazing going from week to week and then getting this very large sum of money.”
Lee said the responsibilities of being mom and student have not been overly stressful. She’s actually enjoyed it.
Her sons, Nash, 10, and Drake, 8, have enjoyed watching mom do homework too.
Nash is learning disabled and Drake is high-functioning autistic.
“The classes I’ve taken have shown my kids that it’s difficult for me to learn too,” she said. “My older son, who is learning disabled, was feeling like he just couldn’t do well in school. But when he saw me struggling through algebra and algebra II, he knew he could do it. It’s kind of inspired them to learn as much as they can and to enjoy it.”
Lee said pursuing her education has helped her as a mom.
“As a single mom, every once in a while you feel like you’re doing something wrong. You’re not quite measuring up,” she said. “At least with college you feel like you’ve done something positive. I feel like this will encourage them.”
Lee plans to work toward a bachelor’s degree after getting her associate’s degree from SMC and hopes to one day work as a commercial artist.