Amanda Lewis is a mother to three children and a hard-working non-traditional student projected to graduate in May 2023. She started at NKU in her mid-twenties, but it was a lot to juggle while raising her two children, and she decided to take a break from school. Amanda and her family were able to stay afloat for some time, but after learning that her third child was on the way, she realized she needed to earn more money to support her children. She shares, “My motivation for coming back to school was the desire to build a better life for my children.”
The decision to return to school as a single mother to three children was daunting, but Amanda credits the generous amount of support she has received along the way, “I certainly would not have been able to do this on my own. The support system I have is incredible, and I am beyond grateful.” Amanda lives in the Brighton Center’s Northern Kentucky Scholar House and is on their Community Advisory Board. She has also been a part of Ready to Work through the Gateway2NKU program and subsequently a part of Parents Attending College (PAC) and TRIO Student Support Services at NKU. “I struggled so much the first time around that when coming back, I knew I needed to line up all the available resources I could,” she says. “My kids have a safe daycare, and we have stable housing. I wouldn’t be able to do this otherwise.”
In addition to these resources, Amanda is one of many NKU students whose education is made possible through scholarships. She is a recipient of the Robert W. Mullen Scholarship, which helps make the cost of her tuition manageable. "Because of my extended time in higher education, I've run out of my available Pell Grant money, and I also want to avoid taking on more student loan debt," she says.
PAC and institutional research find that, on average, it takes NKU student parents nearly six and a half years to complete their bachelor’s degree. These additional years spent working toward their degree mean that the availability of federal student aid begins to wane. For example, the Federal Pell Grant can only be offered for 12 terms or the equivalent of roughly six years. Amanda shares, “Scholarships make a huge difference. They’re the reason I’m able to continue my education.”
After taking some career aptitude tests, Amanda decided to study Public Relations (PR). She says, “Instantly, I realized I wanted to work in PR for a non-profit. I’m so grateful for the Brighton Center and what they have done for me through the Scholar House program that I want to affect the same kind of change for others and give back.”
Amanda’s career plans became clearer when her two older children recently came out as LGBTQA+. After researching how to be an ally to her children, Amanda learned that many LGBTQA+ youths lack the resources and support they need. This discovery deepened her desire to work for a non-profit, now focusing on supporting LGBTQA+ youth.
In the fall 2021 semester, Amanda began working at NKU’s Office of LGBTQA+ Student Initiatives. She collaborated with other offices on campus through this position, such as the African American Student Initiatives and Latino Student Initiatives. Outside of NKU, Amanda has recently taken on a new role at the NKY Pride Center. While there, she has been able to spearhead PR campaigns and help get youth programming up and running. “My experience and the connections I’m making at the NKY Pride Center will be so valuable for my career moving forward,” she says.
When asked about the experience as a non-traditional student, Amanda is hopeful. “As overwhelming as it may seem, it is possible. There are supports in place to help, and the professors at NKU understand individuals’ circumstances and life outside of school,” she says.
Amanda urges NKU donors to remember that when giving to student-parent scholarships, “You’re not only enhancing the parent’s life, you’re enhancing the next generation as well,” she says. “You’re changing lives. You are influencing the region, now and in the future, by laying a foundation for our children.”