• 2 grads2
  • 2grads1
  • benefit
  • board
  • mmw
  • History
  • Events
  • Corporate
  • Meet A Student
  • A Difference We Make
  • A Holistic Approach

 A History of Success

The Single Parent Scholarship Fund was founded in 1984 when two Northwest Arkansas visionaries, Marjorie Marugg-Wolfe and Ralph Nesson, envisioned a way of breaking the cycle of poverty for single parents through increased education and strategic support throughout the educational process.

Awarding just seven $150 scholarships in that first semester, the Single Parent Scholarship Fund of Benton County has grown tremendously over the years, paving the way for hope and opening doors to opportunity for thousands of single parents along the way. Since that inaugural semester, over 8,000 scholarships have been awarded, totaling just over $6 million.

The thirst for education and the need for assistance grew and, over the next 27 years, our program grew by over 433%. By 2011, we had expanded to include 203 students and 572 scholarships totaling $455,425. That same year, we celebrated the success of a record-breaking 30 students who earned degrees, 18 of whom went on to pursue higher degrees.  The graduates who entered the workforce have indeed broken that cycle of poverty as our founders envisioned. They have elevated themselves and their children out of poverty, and in doing so, have eliminated their need for public assistance, including food stamps, housing assistance, Medicaid, and other such programs. With the strength and confidence gained through our support services and completion of their post-secondary education, these students are now wage-earning, tax-paying citizens with average incomes over $39,445.

Single Parent Scholarship Fund Founders Ralph Nesson and Marjorie Marugg-Wolfe

Thank you to our 2014 Student Benefit Sponsors!






Keith, Miller, Butler, Schneider & Pawlik Law Firm

Regions Bank







Meet Rebecca Aleck    

“I spent about half of my first 12 years in a hospital bed. So many surgeries, so many doctors, I completely lost count!  My parents split up and I lost contact with my father. My mother had problems of her own. Eventually, I was placed in foster care and just bounced from home to home until I aged out.

    I made it to college but soon my boyfriend got so heavy into drugs that his behavior changed.  Fearing for our safety, I packed up my 2 kids and fled the state in the middle of the night – and received F’s in all my classes. I thought my dream of becoming a doctor was over. 

    Eight years later, I was working in business and wondering, “What happened to my dream?” I could sense it was time to go back to school, but I knew I had those F’s to overcome. I’ve worked very hard and my overall GPA rose to 3.61.

    Today, I'm more mature and have the dedication and commitment to complete the journey and the confidence needed to be successful.  My dream was not gone – just postponed!  This journey has made me a better person, a person who can be a fantastic doctor, because my dedication will be carried over to my patients.

    This past June I finally completed my residency at St. Barnabas in the Bronx where I was Chief Resident during my final year in Internal Medicine.  I am now back in Northwest Arkansas and have accepted my first position as the FIRST female Primary Care Physician at Freeman Health Systems in Neosho, MO.  I'll always remember where I came from and the people who helped me succeed. 

    Thanks to SPSF/BC for believing in my dream!”


Scholarship recipient, Cindy Vetor

At her initial interview (below) and at the time of her graduation (right).

“A picture’s worth a thousand words”, but not even these dramatic pictures can capture the incredible transformation that our scholarship recipients go through during their educational journey. With academic success comes pride in their accomplishments, increased confidence, and a heightened sense of self-worth. Students are treated with dignity and respect and respond by learning to respect themselves. Enrichment programs and family activities support efforts in learning professional dress and interview skills, money management, parenting skills, healthy relationships, health and safety, and more.

Still, as much as they grow personally, the greatest difference we make for our students and their families is economic. On average students come into our program at or below the poverty level, many working more than one job or receiving multiple forms of public assistance to just support their families. Nearly half the children receive free or reduced lunches at schools. Food stamps, Medicaid, and housing and day care assistance are required for the family just to get by.  However, by the time they leave our program, with certificates and degrees in hand, they have come off public assistance and become wage-earning, tax-paying citizens, contributing to the economic base of our community and able to spend more time with their children. What a role model the parent has become for their children!




Our Holistic Approach 

By focusing on the whole student and the needs of their family, we provide an empowering and nurturing growth environment … one able to help a single parent attend school, while also addressing issues which, if not addressed, could undermine academic success or cause early withdrawal. We do this through a variety of supportive programs, including:

Professional and Personal Counseling

… to help students process life events and increase their self-confidence and sense of worth.

Academic and Career Guidance

… to assist students in identifying and efficiently pursuing an appropriate course of study leading to employment.

Life Skills Workshops                                                         

… on adjusting to the college environment and developing their critical thinking, communication, research and time-management skills.


… for students who need a little extra academic help along the way. 


… to help students build the confidence they need to change a negative self-image.

And, we connect our students to the members of the Alumni Council, people who have walked the path before them and completed their degrees.

An Empowering Way To Serve

Simply put, Single Parent Scholarship Fund of Benton County exists to enrich the lives of single parents through education. We do this by providing scholarships to economically disadvantaged single parents, allowing them to pursue a certificate, diploma, or degree, and by supporting them with appropriate services that help them stay in school and focus on their studies. This combination of scholarships along with student programs helps eliminate barriers and assists single parents to complete their education. As a result, they are prepared for pre-professional and professional employment, and able to bring themselves and their children out of poverty and into financial independence. 

Without the benefit of an education, many single parents are trapped in low-wage jobs, unable to provide for their families without working full-time, perhaps working more than one job, and still depending on food stamps, housing assistance, and other social services. But by giving a parent the gift of an education, you allow them to fully support their family, eliminate their dependence on social services, spend more time with their children and even role-model for their children the importance of completing their education. When you educate a person, you change the lives of generations to come. That is truly an empowering way to serve!


Serving the Whole Student

The Single Parent Scholarship Fund of Benton County is unique in its approach to serving the whole student. Beyond providing money for tuition, books, and fees, we choose to look at the total student – at the barriers that have prevented them from being in school or staying in school thus far, the needs of their family, and their path in life before they came to us. For example, we find on average that …  

  • 59% of our students have been victims of domestic violence.
  • 77% are receiving at least one form of government assistance.
  • 52% receive no child support and most of the others receive it irregularly.
  • 21% have previously filed bankruptcy.
  • 44% of their children receive free or reduced lunch at school.
  • 60% of their children have learning or medical disabilities.
  • 56% are the first in their family to ever attend college.

Obviously, each of these situations has a significant effect on an individual’s ability to learn. Whether you are working through the haze of physical or emotional pain, lowered self-esteem, or the lack of confidence that comes from experiencing abuse, your mind is understandably clogged with simple survival, making new learning difficult at best. Combine that with the constant worry for your children and working to keep a roof over your heads and food on the table, and you can see why providing more than scholarships is critical to our students’ academic success.


Need For Support

The Growing Need

With its strong economic base and lower than average unemployment rate, Benton County enjoys many advantages over the rest of the state. Yet, these advantages are not evenly distributed and more than one-quarter of all Benton County children live in single parent homes and thousands of families struggle below the poverty level. The number of families receiving Medicaid, food stamps, free or reduced school lunches continues to climb each year and the number of adults receiving temporary assistance for needy families (TANF) more than doubled in the past year. Help is needed if these parents are to raise themselves and their children out of poverty, and that help comes in the form of education.

Our Commitment 

We expect a lot from our students. We also take very seriously the commitment we make to each and every individual accepted into our program. With each student selected, we make a commitment – not just to be here, but to actively support them – financially, emotionally, and academically – through to completion of their course of study and into employment. We make a promise to walk the journey with each student … and we need your support to make that a reality.

Our Goal

The goal of the Light the Future Campaign is to raise $1,000,000 for program support, providing adequate reserves to meet an on-average six year commitment to our students. The recent recession emphasizes the need for strong financial reserves – reserves adequate not just for current award levels, but for projected increases of 7% per year. By securing the financial support of our program, we allow our students to secure a better future for their families.

How Your Gift Makes a Difference

As you see on the following pledge form, gifts to the Light the Future Campaign are measured in the actual amount of support you can provide to a student enrolled in a certificate or degree program. We have asked for three year pledges, but are happy to work with you to customize your giving. Gifts can be made all at once or in any way or form convenient to you.