By Laurie Dunklee, January 13, 2017
REGIS — Women with a Cause and its primary partner, Regis University, are changing the lives of single women and their children for the better. The program helps single mothers and women veterans get on their feet and reach self-sufficiency through degree scholarships and mentoring.
Started in 2012, Women with a Cause has helped a dozen women get their degrees in nursing and other professions and find good-paying employment. Six more women are currently in school.
“It’s so satisfying to see what this means to them and their children,” said Tristen Amador, associate dean of Regis’ Rueckert-Hartman College for Health Professions and liaison with Women with a Cause. “It brings tears to my eyes to see them get good jobs after graduation. It transforms their lives and the lives of their children.”
Regis awards two scholarships each year in its nursing program for WE scholars in the Women with a Cause (WWAC) program. The WE Initiative aims to elevate, empower and educate women in need. “Students enrolled in our nursing program and the WE Initiative are eligible for school,” said Amador. “Often they have taken prerequisite courses at a community college but they took a break to have children. Enrollment counselors help them through the admissions process, while WWAC supports their transition.
“There are lots of requirements for them; it’s not a handout. Some of their schooling is funded with grants and loans, which is okay because they’ll have good-paying jobs to pay the money back. We want them to be invested in their future.”
WE scholars experience various difficult circumstances that lead to their needing help, Amador said. “A lot of times they are leaving a bad or abusive relationship and taking their children. They lose their source of support, and if they have no family they can end up homeless.
“It’s difficult for them to make a change without help. It’s hard to study when you are worried about where to live, or about food or childcare. Nursing school is not easy and if you are stressed it is even more demanding. WWAC volunteers help our scholars with access to housing, food and childcare to help them get back on their feet.”
Other support includes access to legal help for women needing child support; and help in reducing medical bills.
Mentoring is an important component of the program. “We’ve realized that mentors are critical because a mentor is in touch with their scholar and knows if there’s a problem right away,” Amador said. Regis faculty are among the volunteer mentors who help WE scholars.
Other WWAC partners include Community College of Aurora, Community College of Denver, University of Colorado College of Nursing, and Metropolitan State University School of Hospitality. Comfort Dental provides grants each year in dental hygiene studies for two qualified students. WE scholars can earn certificates at Emily Griffith Technical College in such areas as culinary arts, cosmetology and office administration.
Women with a Cause was started by Susan Kiely, a Denver volunteer powerhouse who also supports programs for homeless shelters, food banks and seniors. Kiely takes the WWAC program to India, Asia and Africa to help impoverished women.
Anna Suchkova graduated from Regis in nursing in 2016. A Russian immigrant, she had left an abusive relationship, taking her three small children. She tried to support her family as a certified nursing assistant, but working double shifts five days a week wasn’t sustainable. Now embarking on her nursing career, Suchkova says, “I’m inspired to take care of people, save lives, and be a good example to my children.”
According to the WWAC website, providing comprehensive help for one woman costs an average of $27,000 each academic year. Many scholars are the first person in their families to pursue education beyond high school.
Support for WWAC comes from “lots of fundraising,” says Amador, including calling on the personal networks of board members, including Kiely. “Our largest fundraiser is the holiday party. We get more grants each year as well.”
WWAC’s first fundraiser of 2017 will be at Bar Fausto, 3126 Larimer St., Jan. 22 from 4 p.m. to closing. Bar Fausto will donate a portion of the evening’s food and cocktail sales to WWAC. For more information see WWAC’s Facebook page.
To learn more about WWAC, or to donate, see womenwithacausefoundation.org