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SouthArk Graduate Shows her Sons to Never Give Up On Their Dreams
El Dorado, Ark. (June 7, 2022) — At her May graduation ceremony, Chelsea Phillips received two surprises.
The first was receiving the Florence Nightingale Award, which is South Arkansas Community College Betty Owen School of Practical Nursing’s highest honor, she said. It recognizes a nursing student who goes above and beyond in the program to advocate for patients and engage fully with the learning process.
The second was when her 12-year-old son, Tyler, pulled her aside and said he was proud of her. “It was so sweet. I was in tears.” Chelsea said. “I was like, ‘He’s been watching!’ Because at that age you just don’t know.”
Arkansas Single Parent Scholarship Fund’s June 2022 Student of The Month, Chelsea has worked hard to show her two sons, Tyler and four-year-old JaKayden, that they should never give up on their dreams. The 34-year-old knew she wanted to become a nurse since she was in high school, but a paycheck was more important.
Since high school graduation, Chelsea has worked at Walgreens as a pharmacy technician to provide for her family. Then, her husband was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer and died.
“That’s what really pushed me to say, ‘It’s my time,’” Chelsea said. “I watched the nurses take care of him, and it just really spoke to me because this is what I want to do.”
She started slow, taking prerequisite courses and saving money for a few years. In 2020, She applied and was accepted to an evening nursing program. But working full time, going to school, and taking care of her kids was too much: She didn’t pass the first semester.
Chelsea realized she had to make sacrifices to make her dream of becoming a nurse come true. For six months Chelsea worked as hard as she could to save money. She took a leave of absence from work with no pay so she could attend SouthArk’s full-time, one-year nursing program.
Thanks to the school’s Career Pathways Initiative, she learned of the Arkansas Single Parent Scholarship Fund. “It was definitely a blessing because not working for an entire year, making that sacrifice, [was hard],” she said, adding that she used her flexible scholarship check to pay for graduation expenses and household bills.
Chelsea also said she benefited from ASPSF’s workshops, especially one focusing on mental health. “I learned so much because like the instructor was saying, ‘If you don’t take care of you, you can’t take care of anyone else.’ That really stuck with me.”
For the remainder of 2022, Chelsea will work and take two classes so she can apply and enroll in a registered nursing program, which begins in January. “My long-term goal is to be where I’m needed,” Chelsea said. “With the field of nursing, you never stop learning and you’re always needed.”
She said that the advice she would give to other single parents who are going to school is to not give up and to use available resources, like the Arkansas Single Parent Scholarship Fund.
“A lot of people may be embarrassed or ashamed because they don’t feel like they should ask for help or feel like they can’t do it — but don’t be!” she said. “There is this scholarship and other resources that can help you.”
For more information about Arkansas Single Parent Scholarship Fund and Chelsea Phillips, contact ASPSF Program Manager Sandra Warren at (870) 330-7371 or (870) 330-7371. To read more of Chelsea’s story, go to www.aspsf.org/blog/posts/aspsf-recipient-shows-her-sons-to-never-give-up-their-dreams.
About Arkansas Single Parent Scholarship Fund: For 30 years, Arkansas Single Parent Scholarship Fund has worked to create stronger, more educated, and more self-sufficient families. Through scholarships and services, ASPSF opens doors for low-income single parents, helping them pursue education, secure employment, and transform the future for their families. With the help of volunteers and community support, ASPSF creates multigenerational change, transforming lives for both single parents and their children. For information about scholarships, volunteer opportunities, and ways to give, visit www.aspsf.org.