Spreading hope — Her Way

Khadijah McFadden, teen editor-in-chief of the Durham VOICE. (Staff photo byi Carlton Koonce)

“Free for everyone.”

That’s how the President and Executive Director of Hope Her Way, Jillian Cross, describes her organization to me about young mothers looking to finish their unfinished college experiences.

The organization is an eight-week pre-college program helping low-income, single parents get the higher education they need such as when they have had to drop out because of pregnancy or raising a young child.

Cross said she founded the program based on her personal story.

“I was a single parent in college when I had my child and I wanted to be able to help others in my situation,” she said.     

Hope Her Way (HHW) provides resources that help single parents stay in college and get four-year degrees by making sure they can provide for their family the best that they can.

According to the National Student Clearinghouse, only just about half of the nearly 2 million students starting college in the fall will earn their diploma.

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), found about 20 million students will attend colleges and universities this fall. Of these more than 11 million are female students and 12.5 million are under the age of 25. 

As a junior in high school with no children, I can’t relate to a young mom whose life has changed in such a big way. It’s not just about her anymore now that she has someone else who occupies all of her time.

However, I can understand how when things do calm down after having a baby, how a mom would want to get her life back on track to provide a better life for her family.

HHW’s 2019 annual report states that the average participant in the program is a 29-year-old female with two children and earning an average income of just under $16,000 a year.

Hope Her Way collaborates with other services like non-profits, colleges, K-12 schools, churches and daycare facilities to create support systems that create positive educational outcomes for clients.

So where does the money come from to help fund these educations?

Cross said the organization is funded by small grants from Walmart and UNC but primarily from private donations from everyday people — about 90 percent.

Hope Her Way’s vision is, “everyone will successfully obtain their desired post-secondary degree” and in doing so change the trajectory of their lives and the lives of their children.

With this program parents get:

  •  free college tours
  • free GRE (which usually cost $205.00 per test)
  •  ACT (which usually costs $46.00 without writing and $62.50 with writing)
  •  SAT ($47.50 without writing and $64.50 with the essay) prep classes
  • materials and test fee assistance which could cost up to $600

The program also offers free assistance with developing resumes and personal statements as well as services that support character development and post-secondary opportunities.

All of the money that HHW is helping moms save can go towards different things like strollers, diapers, formula and baby clothes.

Robin Perry is just one of the women who has received help from HHW. She is an ex-military woman and moved to Durham about 3 years ago. She said HHW turned strangers into sisters.
            “I actually got more than I expected with the friendships and lots of information,” she said in a testimonial.

In order to receive help from HHW you must be an unmarried North Carolina resident, must have custody of one or more children under the age of 17 and must have or be within six months of receiving a college degree.

Cross told me a story about how one of her students who needed help getting her degree and making sure her child was successful. She made the sacrifice to drive two hours, twice a week for 8-weeks, to get help from HHW and to ensure that her and her child would have a successful life.

When asking Cross where she sees Hope Her Way in 10 years she said she wants to get more grant funding and serve more parents.

“We will have more money so we will not have to turn away people,” she said. “I want to grow in staffing and be able to give more and larger scholarships.”

Cross said, she is willing to invest as much as the client is investing. This goes to show that it is never too late.

And remember you don’t have to worry about the cost.