In 2012, Jade found herself a single mom, in an RV living situation, and “scraping dimes together” to support herself and her two-year-old son. Nichole has devoted her life to raising and home-schooling her son with autism, as well as helping other families of children with disabilities. Tracey, whose daughter at age eight was diagnosed with a chronic autoimmune disorder requiring frequent hospitalizations, was desperate after her husband lost his job and medical insurance. Celeste has raised two sons with severe disabilities, and has a third son in high school.
These women have two things in common, other than a hard luck story and dedication to their children. They all chose education as a means to a better life. And they all are recipients of the Helen Wolfe Scholarship offered by The Sedona Women organization. Unlike many scholarships that are geared to the recent high school graduate, this one specifically targets women who have had their education interrupted. It also doesn’t disqualify women who already have a degree, allowing Tracy, another recipient, to pursue a nursing career when she realized that her original degree would not take her where she wanted to go. Of 40 scholarship applications, only The Sedona Women scholarship came through for her.
The Helen Wolfe Scholarship is named for the founder of The Sedona Women organization, a nonprofit formed in 2000. The 200+ member group holds fundraising events throughout the year to support the scholarship program, including the Arts and Fine Crafts Fair to be held at the Sedona Elks Lodge on November 8th. Artists donate a portion of their profits to the scholarship program.
Unlike most scholarship programs, this one comes with a personal investment by members of the organization in the success of the recipients, and it makes a difference. Celeste, who plans to be an advocate for families with special needs kids, will graduate from NAU in May with a 4.0 GPA. She says, “At my age, and with the stress that comes from having a special needs kid at home, I’ve had my doubts. The thing that has kept me going, when I’m writing papers at 2 a.m., is looking in the mirror and saying, ‘Celeste, you can do this, because look at all the Sedona Women who believe in you, who have supported you, and who know you can do this.’”
Likewise Jade, who remembers that time living in the RV park when “my self- worth was almost non-existent,” says, “I’m a completely different person today. The first step that helped me and kept me going was The Sedona Women. I didn’t feel like I was alone in the world anymore, scraping to get by. It’s priceless, the support, the encouragement, and the empowerment that you have when you know there are people who genuinely care about someone else’s future.”
The first in her family to go to college, Jade had never considered going beyond her associate’s degree, but in her last semester at Yavapai College, she was nominated for the All Arizona Team Scholarship, providing a tuition waiver at any Arizona University. Now in her senior year at NAU, she’s thinking a master’s may be possible, and plans to go into public service. “I really want to do something. The Sedona Women invested in me, I invested in my education, and I want my education to be invested in the community.”
Tracey, who learned of the scholarship from a poster on the back of the bathroom door at Yavapai College, will graduate in May as an RN. She’ll go on to NAU for a year to get her bachelor’s in nursing. “Health insurance is a driving force. I flew through as fast as possible. I would sit down at my desk at 8 p.m. and watch the sun come up. I’m so excited to graduate and get a job!”
And Nichole, whose son with autism is in public school at Mingus H.S., and now has “more ups than downs”, finishes at Yavapai College this year, and will graduate from NAU with a teaching degree the same year as her son finishes high school. “The only word we have in our language is love,” she says, “and that doesn’t even do justice to what I feel toward kids and their families. I honestly do feel that the only way to have good community is to have strong families, and a community is only as strong as its weakest family.”