ERIE, Pa – Mercyhurst University is launching a new program, the first of it’s kind for any university in our region. The “Women with Children” program aims to remove some of the road blocks that single mothers may face, while trying to get a college education.
“The true path out of poverty is always education,” explains Mercyhurst University President, Michael Victor.
In the past decade, the number of single mothers in college has doubled, but research indicates most of these women won’t graduate. Mercyhurst University is aiming to help locally.
Sister Joanne Courneen, a Sister of Mercy, and advocate for the new program explains the need for “Women with Children”. “We’ve had students who have had to leave because they were not able to manage,” she says, “and we want to help them.”
“Women with Children” will launch at the University’s North East Campus this July. The program is created for women who are at or near the poverty level who have the desire to get an education, but not the means to do so.
President Victor says, “Mercyhurst North East, in particular, has always been more of an opportunity school. You know, we have many programs that would be likely appealing to younger mothers, such as nursing and medical therapies.”
The Unviersity will provide academic and financial support, family enrichment programming, career services, and on campus counseling to the mothers.
“The other part of it will be mentoring in classes for such things as parenting, budgeting, and other classes that will hep them develop their life skills a little bit better,” says Sister Courneen.
The University is dedicating five on-campus townhouses to the program, where the mothers will be living with their children.
President Victor says, “Behind them we plan on putting in a fenced playground area for the children.”
The University is also collaborating with nearby St. Gregory’s School and the North East School District to ensure daycare and schooling is available for the children.
The University is hoping for the generous support of the community through sponsors and alumni.
“People will really be excited about this because it’s really going to make an impact on people’s lives,” says President Victor.
Interested women must first apply to Mercyhurst University’s North East campus and be accepted. If they meet the qualifications of the program, they can apply. If accepted, the program will begin in mid-July to help the mothers establish themselves and their children in the new community before the start of the academic year.
The University will accept five women into the program this year, but there are hopes to expand it in the future.
Contributions in support of the “Women with Children” Program can be made through Ryan Palm, Associate Vice President for Advancement, Mercyhurst University, 501 E. 38th St., Erie, PA 16546.