Anderson Scholar House is a unique program that provides a helping hand to single mothers who wish to earn a college degree but need extra support and stable housing. Located in Anderson, Indiana, the program is aimed at providing a stable home environment for scholars and junior scholars, while also teaching life skills and providing guidance to help them succeed in college and beyond.
It is not just about providing housing but creating a support system that stops life pressures from derailing college careers. This support system helps scholars manage their day-to-day lives and focus on their education while also preparing them for the transition to independent living. Participants are free to attend any college, as long as a majority of their classes are in-person and they have reliable transportation to campus.
The scholar house provides stable housing for the women and their children while also teaching life skills and providing guidance. The aim is for scholars to leave as college graduates who no longer need housing vouchers, food stamps, or other government assistance they previously relied on. Scholars receive help with academics, finances, mental health, and more.
Rosemary Baker, the family advocate who helps the scholars navigate day-to-day challenges, said it’s the first program she has seen that “did not put a Band-Aid” on people’s problems, leaving them no better off once it ends. Instead, she said, once it ends, “you’re a new person.”
The program uses housing vouchers, so the scholars pay a reduced rent, and many also use other assistance programs such as food stamps. They have scholarships and grants for their education. The program staff and providers help with applications and navigating paperwork, while scholars are urged to earn college degrees in fields that are in demand and offer high wages.
Lowery was one of the first to move into the scholar house last fall, which is actually a pair of apartment buildings. Renovations are wrapping up on four more, and there are several more to be renovated in the future. Lowery lives in a two-bedroom apartment with her two-year-old daughter, Aaliyah. It’s a space they’ve made their own, from the jungle-themed bedroom for Aaliyah to the “perfect” two-seat kitchen table Lowery gushes about.
In the mornings, they get ready for school together before Lowery heads to classes and Aaliyah goes to day care. “I’m like, ‘OK baby, mommy’s got to go to school and you got to go to school, we got to get ready, we got to put clean clothes on, brush our teeth, we’re gonna have a good day, learn new things,’” Lowery said.
In the evenings, they make and eat dinner together before Lowery does homework. Challenges still happen: Aaliyah gets sick and needs to stay home, or Lowery’s car needs repairs. She balances school with working at Cracker Barrel. She still has bills to pay.
Lowery said Baker — who works out of the scholar house — is her first point of contact when she wants to talk through a challenge and doesn’t know what to do. “She can either tell me what I need to do, how to do it, or make a phone call to think it out,” Lowery said.
Baker is quick to say that she doesn’t make decisions for the scholars, and she respects their privacy. But what she won’t do is let them ignore their problems and hope they disappear. “Sometimes, the decisions [the women] make are not good, but we have to allow them to make that [decision] and fall,” Baker said. “But we won’t allow you to lay there, we’re going to get back up.”
She added that each scholar needs support with different things, and the path isn’t always easy. Despite the challenges, the Anderson Scholar House has seen success stories from its participants. According to the program's website, since its inception in 2015, 75% of the scholars who have completed the program have graduated with a college degree or certification, and 100% of those graduates have obtained employment or continued their education. This program has not only changed the lives of the single mothers who participate but also has a ripple effect on their families and communities.
The Anderson Scholar House aligns with the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), specifically goal number 4, which aims to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. The program provides single mothers with access to education, which can lead to better job opportunities and financial stability, breaking the cycle of poverty for themselves and their families. The program also aligns with SDG number 5, which aims to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. By providing a supportive environment for single mothers, the Anderson Scholar House empowers them to pursue their education and reach their full potential.
It is a valuable program that provides much-needed support to single mothers who want to pursue a college degree. Through stable housing, life skills training, and academic support, the program empowers these women to break the cycle of poverty and create a better future for themselves and their families. The program aligns with the vision of a global society where education is accessible to all, and gender equality is a reality. It is a model that other communities can replicate to make a positive impact on the lives of single mothers and their families.