Effort Over Perfection – Meet A Recipient Featuring Mandy Thomas
Meet 7-time scholarship recipient Mandy Thomas, and her family, Taryn, Connor, and Jellybean. Mandy is currently working on her Social Work degree at the University of Arkansas.
We asked Mandy to tell us more about herself and her journey to receive her education.
What made you decide to go back to school?
After 12 years of marriage, my husband and I divorced. Many of those years were spent as a stay-at-home mother to Connor, my youngest child, who is on the Autism spectrum. Previous to his birth, I had worked, primarily, in office settings. It wasn’t long until I needed to earn a little pocket money, so I got a job as a server. However, serving wasn’t something I wanted to do for the rest of my life, and it didn’t provide the financial security I would need to support myself and my children. It was at this point that I decided going back to college to get a degree would be my best option.
What has changed since making that decision?
I love my children immensely and wouldn’t trade them for the world, but going back to school gave me an identity outside of being a mother, and interestingly, it helped me become a better parent. Additionally, research shows that if parents have a degree, their children are more likely to attend college themselves. I’m proud to report that my oldest child will be attending the University of Arkansas this fall. I couldn’t be prouder of her!
How did you choose your major?
I’ve always felt like I have a knack for connecting with others. It wasn’t until I began trying to access resources for Connor that I began considering social work as a way to put that knack to good use. A good social worker made the difference between sitting down on my couch and crying in frustration or being encouraged to make just one more call that day. After those experiences, I began seriously considering a career in social work, and I felt that I had found my calling.
On the practical side of things, according to the Department of Labor Bureau’s 2015-2025 job growth report, the outlook for the Social Work field is expected to be around 12% higher than the average overall job growth. This means I will have a job waiting for me after graduation.
Why do you value your education?
Education is something you can never take from anyone. Receiving my BSW and eventually my MSW will put me in a better position to do the work I feel is integral to building strong communities and helping others.
How did you hear about SPSF NWA?
I first heard about SPSF NWA through a friend who was a recipient of the scholarship. Sarah Wolf Lechner heard I was going back to school. She reached out and encouraged me to apply for the scholarship. She told me all about what SPSF NWA was able to provide for their recipients – from monetary support to all the wonderful, caring staff members, and most importantly to the amazing support system I would gain. I’m so thankful she made the effort to reach out, and she was right – I have gained a great support system.
What is one of your favorite parenting moments?
My favorite parenting moment has to be when the kids were still small – Connor was around two and his sister around 8. They were playing quietly in his room when he came out covered in marker. He had circles around his eyes, lovely marker bracelets and necklaces, and various spots and stripes. He walked into the living room excited to show me their handiwork, his sister following close behind, hands in the air, and loudly declaring that “he did it all himself!” Right after she said that, he turned around to show me the “pieces de resistance” – a flower, smack dab in the middle of his diaper! She knew she was busted! I laughed and laughed. It is still one of my favorite memories.
I wish someone had told me ________ before I had kids.
I wish someone had told me that effort is worth so much more than perfection. Perfection as a parent is non-existent; it’s the effort and care that you put towards raising your children the best way you know how is what matters most.
Words to live by/favorite quote.
My favorite quote is by George Eliot. “What do we live for, if not to make life less difficult for each other.” I find it simple yet so profound.
What do your children want to be when they grow up?
Connor wants to be a marine biologist. He loves science and has a knack for facts. Taryn is still not sure. She’s in her first year of college this fall and plans on taking a wide assortment of classes to help her narrow down her choices for a career. I try to remind her that she has time to figure out what she wants to do and that it’s okay to not have mapped out her life when she’s only 18.
I find inspiration in…
I find inspiration in knowing that when I have my degree I will be contributing to a community I love. I get overwhelmed at times, but knowing that when all is said and done, I will have not just a career, but the opportunity to do meaningful work keeps me going.
What would you do with 1 free hour of time?
I have recently been introduced to the “amazingness” of hammocks. So, I would find a shady spot, settle into a hammock, and read something that is NOT an assigned journal article.
One word to sum you up:
What would you like to say to SPSF NWA supporters?
I would like to tell all the SPSF NWA donors that they are not only generously supporting single parents in obtaining their degrees; they are creating a legacy. With your help, you are giving us the chance to better our lives, the lives of our children, and our communities. The role you play in this is integral to our success and is far reaching.
Your donation allows us to have financial breathing room. But more than that, you are showing us that you care and that we matter, that you believe in us and want to see us succeed. Having that kind of support behind us means so much. The financial support creates an immediate impact, and for that I am very thankful. But the long term impact of knowing you have an entire community behind you means so much, and for that I’m also thankful. So, to the benefactors of SPSF NWA, I wish to extend my deepest, sincerest thank you for believing in us. I hope that one day, I can give back and help other single parents the way you have helped us.
Posted by Christina Meeks on Friday, September 1st, 2017 @ 5:05AM
Categories: Inspiring, Latest News, Meet a Recipient
Tags: #BetterBrighterNWA, #ScholarshipsSupportSuccess, Meet a Recipient, Scholarships for single moms, Single Parent Scholarship Fund of Northwest Arkansas, SPSF NWA, University of Arkansas