Meet our Scholarship Recipients 2022-23
ANSWER has awarded scholarships to 24 mothers for the 2022-23 school year. ANSWER provides scholarships to mothers 25 years of age and older in Mecklenburg and surrounding counties pursuing a four-year college degree in any field or select two-year degrees.
Meet our scholars:
A junior at Belmont Abbey College working toward her B.S. in Psychology, Ashley Davis is a wife and mother of two daughters, ages 6 and 10. Davis always had a desire for higher education but didn’t know which field to pursue until now.
Her youngest daughter, on the verge of turning 2, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in 2017. After countless treatments, her daughter is now cancer-free.
This traumatic experience, along with a fond memory from her teenage years of helping to care for an older relative, ignited Davis’ passion for mental health. She decided to return to school to seek a career where she can assist, encourage, and love people.
Her oldest daughter finished the school year on the A/B honor roll. Her youngest has completed kindergarten and is reading above grade level. Davis is immensely proud of them both. The family lives in Mt. Holly.
Angela Edwards became a single mom at 17 and did what was needed to financially support herself and her child with support from her parents. Today, she’s married with one child at home and two adult children. Her husband of 16 years is one of her biggest supporters. She is studying for a B.S. in Psychology from Belmont Abbey College while home-schooling their daughter. She hopes to use her degree to help others.
While growing up, Edwards watched her father work hard to provide for the family. Her family moved several times, always bettering their situation. Her father passed away at age 56 after fighting colon cancer for eight years. The doctors had not expected him to make it more than a year. Edwards is strong like her father. She wants her children to know that no matter how hard you fall, you always get back up and keep moving forward. Edwards lives with her husband and children in Mt. Holly.
Emily Evans is studying for an Associate in Nursing degree at Gaston College with expected graduation in 2024. Though she attempted college at the traditional age, she couldn't make it work due to the limited support available to her.
Facing many obstacles in life, Evans was 16 when her mom passed away. Evans also gave birth to her daughter that same year. Not letting those major changes get in her way, she still managed to graduate from high school in the top 10 percent of her class. So far, she has made the Dean's or President's List each semester at Gaston College for her top grades.
Her next steps are to earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and gain experience as a labor and delivery nurse. Her ultimate goal is to become a nurse practitioner, focusing on women's health.
Evans lives with her three children in Gastonia. She says she has learned "life brings about many challenges, but only you can show your strength and push through to your next destination."
Sophia Ferreira is a sophomore at UNC Charlotte, with expected graduation in Fall 2023 with a B.S. in Biology. Ferreira works full-time at VisionWorks as a certified optician intern but will soon be a licensed optician. She wants to use her degree in biology to further her goal of becoming an optometrist.
Ferreira is passionate about this path for two reasons. She wants to provide eye-care in Spanish, her family’s native language. Latinos make up only 3.8% of the nation’s optometrists, according to a 2017 study. The second reason hits even closer to home. One of her sons has a congenital eye condition, nystagmus, which causes involuntary and uncontrollable eye movement.
Ferreira says making the decision to go back to school wasn’t easy. Life was already full of challenges, including her son’s condition and a divorce. Ultimately, “it was just another challenge that I had to take on,” she says. She wants to inspire in her children a growth mindset-- the simplest abilities can be improved with hard work and dedication. Ferreira and her two sons live in Pineville.
At 18, Raegan Ferro was a pre-med student, hoping to become a doctor. But she dropped out after two and a half years to work two jobs and help a loved one financially. She later opened a daycare center, married, and had four children, but her dreams of college kept getting pushed back. Being a college dropout made her feel incomplete.
When she lost father to complications from Covid-19 – and had to watch his funeral over Zoom – she knew she was ready for a transformation. It was time to become the medical professional she always wanted to be.
Now a single mom, Ferro is earning a B.S. in Nursing from Queens University of Charlotte. Ferro hopes to teach her children that it is never too late to start over, never too late to go back to school. Her family calls southeast Charlotte home.
Consuella Harge is seeking a B.A. in Mathematics with an actuarial science concentration at UNC Charlotte. She is a mother of two children.
Harge has faced many obstacles in her life, including lupus and long-term effects from post inflammatory fibrosis, which left her in a coma for nearly 20 days in 2014. She strives to teach her children the importance of having a positive attitude about the future ahead of them. She wants them to know that knowledge and education will help them to do anything in the world.
Harge plans to become an actuary upon graduation.
A single mom of an 11-year-old daughter, LaToya Hill is a junior at Johnson C. Smith University, seeking a degree in Sports Management.
Hill worked as a paralegal for several years but knew it was not the career for her so she pivoted. She received a diploma and license in massage therapy. Through her massage therapy business, she became aware of the field of sport management. Hill is determined to thrive in a business she has developed a real passion for. With her background and this degree, she wants to develop her own athletic management business, helping young athletes and their families prepare for the transition into professional sports.
"Education is the first step to success,” she says. “The rest is all about who you know. You meet some amazing people while you are obtaining your education." Hill has worked hard to create a secure life for her daughter, including purchasing their home in northwest Charlotte.
Erica Lanausse is working toward a B.S. in Nursing from Queens University. She says that after years of leading a "rebellious life," she turned her life around once she became a single mom at age 25. Her daughter gave her hope and inspired her to achieve more in her life.
Lanausse earned an associate degree from Central Piedmont Community College and works full- time at Atrium Urgent Care. Her goal is to earn a master’s degree and work as a physician assistant. Her life lessons taught her to be appreciative, caring, goal-oriented and empathetic.
She wants to leave these footprints in this world so her children can see there is no limit to what can be achieved. Lanausse wants her children to know that she did all she could to become resilient and a force to be reckoned with.
Erica Lanausse lives in the Northeast Charlotte with her husband Calvin and their four children, Mariyah, Nyemah, Carter and Sebastian.
A mother of two daughters who works part-time for a nonprofit as a resource development strategist, Kim Lewis is studying for her B.A. in Business Management at Johnson C. Smith University.
In her job, Lewis works with people facing mental health and substance abuse challenges. After several years of encouraging others to achieve what they thought impossible, she decided it was her time to follow that guidance and pursue her own dreams. As Lewis says, "If not now, when? If not me, then who?" She feels her faith has significantly contributed to helping her through many of life's challenges and brought her and her daughters many triumphs.
Lewis originally went the traditional college route at age 18 but moved back home in her senior year when she became a single mom. She has taught both daughters that education and knowledge are key for success, and wants to be a shining example of what is possible with grit and tenacity. Lewis hopes to open an actuarial firm with her degree and help her younger daughter grow her bakery business. The family lives in Dallas.
Karen McGirt worked as a cosmetologist earlier in her life, a career she used to successfully provide for her three children. Today, McGirt is married and shares six children, ages 10 to 27, with her husband, Redell.
McGirt is attending Johnson C. Smith University for a B.A. in Social Work. She recognizes the overwhelming need for social workers and feels called to help others. Along with her studies, she founded a nonprofit, Shifted Atmosphere Ministries, which strives to encourage and inspire adults and teens while providing life skills, coaching and spiritual counseling.
McGirt says she has experienced many setbacks throughout her life but always got back up, brushed off and kept the faith. Her goal was to do her best for her children and help them be successful. She can now focus on her own success as well and her desire to give back. She and her family live in Mint Hill.
Toni Moss lives with her two children, ages 15 and 6, in Ballantyne. Currently a junior at UNC Charlotte earning a B.S. in Communications, she was once a teenage mother. Early motherhood forced her to make many adult decisions. Those experiences, along with a pregnancy support group that introduced her to mentors, were the jump start she needed to begin her college journey. It took 12 years with some starts and stops. But Moss never forgot the look in her mentor’s eyes when her mentor told her, “I believe in you.”
Moss holds an associate degree in hospitality management. The pandemic forced her to think more broadly about her future. She now works full-time at Raytheon Technologies and part-time as an event planner for Elevated Living. Moss wants to be the catalyst for generational wealth and stability for her children. “I want my children to know it is worth every obstacle, every tear, and every late night to achieve this major life accomplishment,” she says. She hopes to one day own a restaurant and event management company.
Deborah Olmstead is studying for an Associate Degree in Nursing at Carolinas College of Health Science with expected graduation in 2022. College was once financially unattainable for Olmstead as a young single mom. However, ever since her niece was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, Olmstead was driven to enter the medical field and help those who need it most.
She hopes to set a good example for her preteen son, “showing him that he too can reach his goals through hard work and determination.” By returning to school she has been able to bond with her son and help cultivate his love of science.
Stephanie Patterson is a single mother of two teenage children, a 15-year -old daughter and an 18-year-old son who lives with a disability. Patterson is studying for her associate degree in human resource services, focused on developmental disabilities, at CPCC. She is certified as a family partner, helping families access resources and create plans for how to get to where they wish to be in life.
Patterson hopes to launch her own non-profit to help individuals and families cope with disabilities. She wants her children to understand the importance of acquiring an education, no matter what. "Even if it feels like there are stones in front of you,” she says, “use them to build stairs to reach your goal." The family lives in northwest Charlotte.
Kelly Ann Pearson
Kelly Ann Pearson is earning a B.A. in English at UNC Charlotte, with expected graduation in December 2023. She works part-time as a freelance writer and hopes to teach creative writing to high school students after graduation. She is a wife and mother of five, ages 13 to 29. Her husband is a disabled veteran.
A native of Barbados, Pearson is a Caribbean-American cook with a degree in culinary arts from CPCC. When the pandemic took a toll on the restaurant industry, Pearson decided to follow another one of her passions, writing.
Pearson's husband was injured during a deployment and needs daily help. Pearson has also faced health setbacks; she received corneal transplants to improve her vision. "I show my family that nothing can defeat them," she says. Pearson's daughter gets great joy in telling friends that Mom has a 3.5 GPA and is her inspiration. Pearson has a grandson that she has nicknamed 'the toddler overlord,' and she wants him to see nothing is impossible. The family lives in Mint Hill.
Shomika Phillips is a mother of three. She is attending Catawba College, pursuing a bachelor’s in education. Phillips works full-time at Providence Preparatory School. She became a teenage mother in her senior year of high school and says teachers at the school encouraged her to leave. Phillips attended night school, eventually obtaining her high school diploma.
She attended Southeastern College and in 2011 passed her exam to be a registered medical assistant. But she didn’t stop there; she also has a degree in human services and management. Phillips hopes to continue working with children and young people once she graduates. She wants to teach her children, young mothers, and others that it is never too late to learn, and that learning is never-ending. Phillips says, “It is never too late. You may have to change your approach, but never stop reaching for your goals and success.”
Linda Pineda became a mother at the end of her junior year of high school and still graduated the following year with honors. She pursued a career as a certified medical assistant, which gave her a way to follow her interests in medicine while caring for her daughter. But Pineda was also in a toxic relationship. She eventually made the difficult decision to leave her hometown, moving more than 600 miles to get a fresh start for herself and her daughter.
Pineda now lives in Ranlo, N.C., with her fiancée and their three children. She is a junior in the biology program at UNC Charlotte and hopes to become a physician assistant. She wants her children to “understand the importance of a good education, not for the sake of making their parents happy but to make themselves happy.”
Morgan Riddle is attending Carolinas College of Health Sciences as a junior in the Associate Degree Nursing program. Riddle was one of three children and planned to attend college but realized that she nor her parents were prepared for the cost of a college education. She wanted to be a nurse so when the traditional college route did not work, she began a career working with special needs children.
Riddle married but describes the relationship as toxic. After their son was born, Riddle realized that she had to leave this situation, both for her and her son. She decided to return to school as a single mom and become the nurse she always wanted to be. Riddle recently remarried and her son, now 5, watches her closely. He sees the long hours of studying and the hard work that it takes. She wants him to understand that the pursuit of dreams will have obstacles, and to get there you will need education.
Shereka Rowell says that without ANSWER Scholarship, she wouldn’t be in college today, studying for a B.S. in Nursing from Pfeiffer University. While attending college, she will also continue to assist her husband in the daily operations of his trucking business. The mother of two hopes to work in nursing management at a hospital one day.
Though Rowell attempted college at the traditional age, she faced obstacles that made her drop out. “My story is very complex,” she says. “The challenges I’ve faced as a woman, mother, and wife have been significantly difficult, but I'm still here and I'm still standing!”
She hopes that as her children witness their middle-age mom resume her education, they will learn that perseverance is key to achieving your dreams. Rowell lives with her family in Huntersville.
Elizabeth Smith first became a mother at 15 years old. She graduated from high school a year early and raised three children with help from their father until his death in 2014.
Her primary focus is making sure her children are happy and taken care of while she advances her education. She is now a sophomore at Central Piedmont Community College, seeking an Associate in Human Services degree with an expected graduation date of August 2024.
The Concord mom hopes to eventually earn a master's in clinical rehabilitation and mental health counseling. She wants her children to see the challenges she faced, make better choices, and strive for greatness no matter the obstacles.
Her goal is to become a National Alliance on Mental Illness ambassador for the African American community. She believes the African American community "tends to push mental health in a corner and tuck it away as if it is our deepest darkest secret. I want to make us aware of how our mental health can affect our physical health more than we realize."
Hope Smith lives with her 9-year-old daughter in Mooresville. A senior at UNC Charlotte, she plans to graduate in Fall 2023 with a B.S. in Psychology and minor in statistics. She tried to attend college after high school but the traditional route did not work for her.
Smith’s daughter was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder at age four and began more than 20 hours a week of therapy. Her daughter was later diagnosed with a mental health disorder.
The experiences have made Smith resolute. She wants to become a clinical evaluator, specializing in autism spectrum disorder and incorporating the seemingly separate worlds of autism and mental health. One of her goals is to open a non-profit autism treatment program for children so that no one must fight or pay for basic inclusivity. Another goal is for her daughter to live to her full potential: “I want her to endlessly search for knowledge, regardless of the methods she chooses.”
Lauren Surrat, a single mom who works full-time, is earning an Associate Degree in Nursing from Carolinas College of Health Science. She plans to graduate in 2022. Surrat was not able to attend college at the traditional age due to a lack of funding, but has embarked on a college education now to expand her career options.
Surrat finds inspiration in being a single mother of a four-year-old daughter. “Being a single mom is the hardest thing I have had to do while also trying to do what is best for my future. My daughter had been with me through every obstacle I have encountered, and I wouldn't have made it this far without looking into her brown eyes every day.” That’s all the motivation Surrat needs.
Mireille Tchikadeu is a senior at UNC Charlotte majoring in accounting with a minor in information management systems. Tchikadeu, her husband and three children relocated to the United States a decade ago from Cameroon. The relocation was done in the hopes that her son’s special needs could be better addressed. At three months old, he developed hydrocephalus, a chronic condition involving fluid build-up in the cavities of the brain.
Tchikadeu says her life is a balancing act between his care, caring for the rest of the family, work and going to school, but she is committed to succeeding. She wants to provide a better life for her family and know her children are proud of her, telling them “they can go beyond barriers that society may place on them.”
A senior at Queens University, Amanda Thompson will graduate in December 2022 with a B.S. in Nursing. She lives with her husband, Jake, and their three children in Gastonia. Thompson tried the traditional college route, but at 17 was not prepared for the level of work or the cost of college. Instead, she joined the U.S. Marine Corps, which she believes gave her a foundation and better motivation for future careers.
She was driven to resume her education after she almost died giving birth to her third child. The experience pushed her to finish the path she started earlier in her college career and study nursing. Her goal is to become a labor and delivery nurse midwife and a nurse educator. She wants to be the type of nurse that patients remember as “one of the good ones,” believing all patients deserve compassion and to be treated with respect and dignity.
Monkia Wells is a first-generation college student, the first in her immediate family to graduate from high school and attend college. A sophomore at Winthrop University working toward her B.A in Business, she is the mother of three children.
Wells grew up the youngest of four and always knew she wanted to make something of herself. She has faced many obstacles that kept her from finishing college but feels now, with her children a bit older, she can continue what she started in her 20s. Her career goals include either owning a business or rising to a high-level position within a company.
Wells wants to show her children that they can be whatever they want if they stay focused, keep their grades up, be respectful and work hard: “They can do it just like Mommy.” Wells lives with her children and partner in Rock Hill.