Ellen Ingram

Single Parent Scholarship Fund of Pulaski County

City: Little Rock
Category: Nonprofit Executive of the Year
Year: 2003

Ellen Ingram finds her inspiration every May when the Single Parent Scholarship Fund of Pulaski County honor its students who have achieved their educational goals.

As executive director for a nonprofit organization that helps single parents pay for college or vocational school, Ingram sees the many challenges of the students and is awe struck.

"It's too much to ask, but they're doing this," she said of the mothers and fathers in the program.

SPSF-Pulaski County gave out its first round of scholarships in 1998. Fourteen students received a total of $7,000. In 2003, the total had grown to 113 scholarships worth more than $70,000.

Currently, 70 women and one man are in the program, which directly impacts 123 children as it helps their parents prepare for higher-paying jobs.

"Saying we're a scholarship program is a little misleading because we do so much more than that," Ingram said.

In addition to paying for the students' educations with money donated by individuals, foundations and corporations, the program also connects students with mentors who offer guidance and encouragement.

More than 89 percent of recipients since 1999 have earned a degree or certification or continue to work toward that goal, Ingram said. By contrast, 60 percent of undergraduates who enter Arkansas' colleges and universities will fail to earn a degree.

The greatest challenges for SPSF, like many other nonprofits, is boosting donations and visibility among potential donors.

To honor its graduating program participants, SPSF holds a celebration in May that brings together families, the public and the donors. Ingram said that event keeps her going.

"(The children) know this is important [for their parents]. They know education is important," she said. "We're affecting not just these families but these families for generations to come."

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