There may be no more significant way to change the course of a life than by providing a quality education. Education impacts on the individual-level – the person receiving the education and that person’s family – and it changes society. With more educated people, generations to come are influenced. Poverty rates and child mortality rates decrease, health and reported happiness improves.
With education as its main mission, Women Initiating and Nurturing Growth through Scholarships (WINGS) has been serving the Charlotte area for 20 years. The members and volunteers, Women Executives (WE), are a diverse group of women who support and nurture each other’s personal and career growth. Even with demanding schedules and busy lives, they have built a foundation to provide scholarship and mentoring support for young women in need to attend UNCC, Queens University, CPCC, and Johnson C. Smith.
By the numbers:
75 – Graduation rate percentage for WINGS scholar compared to the below-10% grad rate for non-traditional scholars
100 – The hundredth WINGS scholar will graduate this year
20 – years that the program has been serving the greater Charlotte area
500,000 – number of dollars in college scholarships awarded
15,000 – number of hours of mentoring support donated by WINGS volunteers and mentors
Since 1995, WINGS has supported 20 non-traditional scholars every single year. The unique program follows and funds each scholar throughout her undergraduate career, giving not just money but providing time and love with one-on-one mentoring. Unlike other scholarships, the money awarded can be used for anything, even for childcare or a car repair so the scholar can get to class.
Pam Pearson, the Women Executives for Community Services’ president, officially joined the board in July 2015. She explains that the women selected as WINGS scholars are all dealing with some form of life challenge, but are unique in their determination to improve their own lives and the lives of their families through education.
“It takes so much bravery, I can’t even imagine doing what these women do,” Pearson says. “I’ll never forget the time one of the women on the board – someone you would never expect this out of – just burst into tears the first time trying to select amongst all the applicants who would get a scholarship, because every woman who applies is so deserving.”
Lisa Bell, the Chief Creative Officer at Tivoli Partners, also donates her time to WINGS, and agrees heartily with Pam about just how deserving every young woman she has met is when it comes to the opportunity to pursue a quality education.
The mentoring aspect is one of the most important components of the WINGS initiative – this was solidified for Pearson the day she met Mary Davis, an applicant whose strength and spirit Pam found herself so struck by that she immediately volunteered to take on the mentorship role for the young woman.
“I mentored her for years, all through her time at CPCC and then at UNC Charlotte,” Pam shares. “She successfully graduated in 2013 as the first person in her family to graduate from college ever.”
This year, as they reach their hundredth graduated scholar in May, Pam tells us that WINGS and the Women Executives intend to provide even higher dollar amounts of support. The need for education never stops, and the tangible effect of educating women in the community is one that can’t be ignored – it drives each of the mentors and members every single day to take a few moments out of their busy career lives to give selflessly of their time, energy, and dollars.