I’m Shannon Hensley, and although it took nearly two decades, this December I’ll be a first-generation college graduate. My journey began in 2001, where I played softball at Seminole State College. By 2003, I transferred to Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. There, I met the father of my boys, and decided to ‘take a break’ my junior year in 2006.
By 2012, I found myself awake during sleep regressions with my first son, wishing I could return to school. I told myself that if I just had the chance to go back, I would do everything differently and I could finally close a chapter in my life that gave me feelings of shame and regret.
I struggled in my marriage, feeling inadequate because I struggled to find a job, only to find myself hitting a wall that blocked me from receiving useful income without a degree. I resented myself for not being financially sound like my husband, and after the birth of our twins which resulted in a stillbirth and a survivor, I insisted on returning to school. He agreed, but only if I completed my work on ‘my own free time.’
My first semester proved rough, I wore our newborn while I listened to lectures on headphones while cooking dinner and vacuuming. The spare time outside of caring for a five-year-old and newborn dwindled and my husband told me to choose between our family and school, so I chose everything but him. In 2018, a year after having my twins and suffering a child death, I decided to raise my boys as a single parent.
A close friend told me about the Single Parent Scholarship Fund, and I enrolled the following semester. The scholarship program wasn’t at all what I thought; I received well beyond monetary assistance. I received emotional support which in some cases exceeds monetary value. I suddenly had community of men and women just like me, wanting to do and be better for my children. I saw a therapist regularly and benefitted from the pantry and the additional scholarship offerings throughout the semester, last spring I received a Distinguished Scholar Award.
I’ve been a recipient nearly six semesters now, and I know I never could have reached graduation without the support and encouragement of the Single Parent Scholarship Fund. I’m so proud to say that with the help of everyone at SPSF, I’ll have my name on the Senior Walk at the University of Arkansas, and am finally in a place where I’m financially stable enough to work and care for my boys!