The Sunshine Ladies Scholarship for Survivors of Domestic Violence

The Sunshine Ladies Scholarship for Survivors of Domestic Violence

A Solo Mom’s experience with the Women’s Independence Scholarship Program

When my domestic violence advocate suggested “The Sunshine Ladies Scholarship,” I pictured a bunch of old Southern biddies signing scholarship checks with shaky hands. She printed out the thick application. I had an 11-month-old, and we lived in transitional housing. School seemed a little off my radar.

The Women’s Independence Scholarship Program, or WISP, Inc., is set up specifically for survivors of domestic violence. But applicants must be a year out of their relationship and work closely with a domestic violence advocate as a sponsor. When I first looked through the packet, I couldn’t imagine not being with my abuser anymore. I still thought we could work things out. Maybe after he finished his anger management classes, or the domestic violence counseling, or when he finally saw what a good mother I was to his daughter. I couldn’t give up the hope that raising my daughter alone wasn’t my fate. I still didn’t think I could.

We lived in a studio apartment when I applied two years later. I worked full-time as a house cleaner and took classes online, staying up late at night to finish assignments. I paid for school with the Pell Grant, but after two semesters, I couldn’t keep it up anymore. I decided to take out loans and applied for the scholarship.

Their website states, “The primary intent is to help single mothers with young children who have the greatest financial challenges (child-care costs, etc.) to gain work skills so they can support their families. Our funds target women who are in desperate financial situations and absolutely must have both an education and our funds to assist them.” When I told my ex about applying, he said, “Oh, you’re still playing the victim card, huh? Everything should come to you because you cried abuse. You’ll never get anywhere because you’re so stuck in the past.” But I applied anyway.

WISP doesn’t just accept your application and send you a check; they take you under their wing and make sure you’re staying on your path of gaining knowledge and independence. Their letters of acceptance are packed with sunshine confetti. They send you cards and emails of inspirational quotes. You must reapply every semester (with a much shorter application, thankfully), but that keeps you from wavering. When I sat down to write out those reapplication essay answers and reflected on the last 10 weeks, it felt incredible to have an organization that had my back and supported me. By the time I finished my bachelor’s degree, WISP had funded $12,000 of my living and emergency expenses. I used the money to purchase a computer, fix my car, pay rent, pay child care, move, pay bills, buy books, and sometimes pay tuition. They’d stuck with me and believed in me. I didn’t have a supportive family, and my abuser chastised me for going to school instead of working, but those Sunshine Ladies saw me through.

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Stephanie Land, has a bachelor’s degree in English and creative writing from the University of Montana. She and her two daughters live in Missoula, Montana. Read more of her story at You can follow her on Twitter at @stepville.

Please feel free to contact us with any comments or questions.

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