SVP Tucson and Single Mom Scholars team up to expand scholarship

  • Anne Thwaits
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More single mothers in Pima County will be able to earn a college degree as a pathway out of poverty, thanks to SVP Tucson’s new partnership with Single Mom Scholars (SMS).

On April 29th SVP welcomed Single Mom Scholars as our 2019 nonprofit partner at our Annual Meeting. SVP’s unique model of philanthropy leverages financial investment in high-potential nonprofits with the expertise and skill of its network of partners. SVP will work with Single Mom Scholars to improve their performance, and expand college scholarships to low-income single mothers and increase services to help their children.

SMS, which began four years ago as Helping Hands for Single Moms and is now part of Interfaith Community Services (ICS), provides a $3,600-a-year scholarship, as well as assistance ranging from auto repair to computer access, to qualified single mothers in Pima County to help them earn college degrees.  SMS also offers their children tutoring, mentoring and life-skills coaching.

To date, the program has graduated 28 single mothers, who have gone from making an average of $9,000 a year when they entered the program, to an average of $50,000 within a year of earning their degree.  Fully 90 percent of the single mothers who enter the program emerge with a degree.  Currently there are 25 single mothers and 50 children in the program.

Lia Pierse, Self-Sufficiency Director of Interfaith Community Services who runs Single Mom Scholars, says the group wanted to partner with SVP Tucson to provide scholarships to more single mothers.  She cited the sobering fact that one of four children in Pima County lives in poverty, and 79 percent of those children live in households headed by single mothers.

At the same time, Pierse said, Social Venture Partners can advise the best way to grow the program while maintaining its integrity and success.

“We have a very effective two-generation approach that helps both single moms and their children master education as a way out of poverty,” Pierse said.  “While we grow to include more single mothers and children, we want to preserve the individualized, hands-on approach that has allowed us to be so successful to date.”

“That’s where SVP Tucson can help our Single Mom Scholars,” said Tom McKinney, CEO of Interfaith Community Services.  “We want to tap into the group’s expertise in fields such as education, finance and business development to ensure Single Mom Scholars expands in a way that upholds the quality of service and the spirit of the mission.”

SVP Tucson CEO Ciara Garcia said the selection of Single Mom Scholars culminated a four-month long search for another local nonprofit that SVP can support with funding, expertise and professional volunteers.   SVP Tucson currently has similar partnerships with local nonprofits JobPath and Higher Ground.

“This year we wanted to invest in an organization that truly exemplifies the goal of increasing educational attainment as a pathway out of poverty,” Garcia said.  “We saw the success to date of Single Mom Scholars and the potential to grow the program to help more single mothers and their families as the perfect fit for our financial and professional resources.”