American Association of University Women Empowers Low-Income Mothers Pursuing Education

The Housatonic Community College Foundation (HCCF) recently received $5,000 of grant funding from the American Association of University Women (AAUW) to support low-income female Housatonic Community College (HCC) students who are also mothers. This grant marks a first of its kind for AAUW, which until this time only supported students directly.

The grant helps students participating in HCC’s Family Economic Security Program (FESP). The FESP program, which was launched in partnership with Fairfield County’s Community Foundation’s Fund for Women & Girls, empowers students to better manage real-life challenges while pursuing a degree or certificate.

This fall marks the beginning of FESP 2.0, which aims to help low-income, female students who are mothers. The program’s financial literacy learning opportunities and wrap-around supports will help these women with dependents to juggle their multiple priorities, including holding one or more jobs, while pursuing their education at HCC.

With a mission of advancing equity for women and girls through advocacy, education and research, supporting female students enrolled in the FESP program was a natural fit, explains Felicia Keeton, AAUW Bridgeport Branch President.

“The goals of FESP align perfectly with our mission. We try to focus our dollars on lower income students, while supporting perseverance and continuing that lifelong journey of learning. We’re looking to take a more wholistic approach, and with FESP’s focus on persistence and wraparound services, it’s a great fit,” said Keeton.

The grant marks a new partnership between AAUW and the Foundation. By supporting FESP, AAUW is expanding its reach beyond supporting 4-year degree students.

“What’s nice about FESP is that by being pooled with other dollars, we can do more, and that has broadened our horizons. We’re broadening by going to community colleges, we’re broadening by focusing on mothers, and by making it a grant, we can be more efficient. There’s a lot of synergies here that just make sense,” said Keeton.

The FESP program was adapted from a national model developed by The Annie E. Casey Foundation. Since it began at HCC in 2015, the program has helped 413 students to dramatically improve their overall performance. Through FESP, students build stronger grade point averages, complete courses at a higher rate and graduate at a higher frequency. FESP 2.0 focuses on research findings that low-income mothers’ real-life challenges are significant barriers to achieving success in higher education.

“We are excited to forge this new partnership with AAUW,” said Kristy Jelenik, Executive Director of HCCF. “With economic security and education being two of the organization’s focus areas, their support of FESP is a perfect match, and will help struggling mothers to reach their educational dreams.”

Through private donations, Housatonic Community College Foundation scholarships provide access to a quality education for students who do not have the financial resources to pay for college, and contributes to the region’s economy by developing a better-trained workforce. During the 2020-21 fiscal year, the foundation awarded over $600,000 in scholarships and students assistance to more than 1,000 students. To learn more about the foundation and how you can support financially struggling scholars, visit www.housatonic.edu or call 203-332-5078.