Recently I finished painting this special watercolor of a Marguerite Daisy. The Marguerite is the official flower of P.E.O. International (Philanthropic Education Organization). The official P.E.O. slogan is, “Women helping women reach for the stars.”
Three years ago, a Maryland chapter of P.E.O. awarded me a grant so I could pay for books during graduate school. Even though my employer was covering tuition, money was too tight for me to cover the remaining fees and overpriced college textbooks.
Although I felt embarrassed applying for a grant when I already had a full-tuition rebate, it was no time to be shy. I was still swimming in undergraduate debt plus the crippling general expenses of being a live human in her 20s. Because I worked in the education field at the time, a master’s degree appeared to be a life raft to higher income status. With dreams of someday being able to afford adulthood, I quit waffling and applied.
The P.E.O. members that I met were very kind and understanding. They saw a young woman making ends meet, but who still needed a boost. I was very clear to mention that I just needed some help with books and fees. The grant they gave me was enough to cover books and fees for the remainder of my schooling.
After I graduated with my M.S. in Marketing Management, I was invited to become a member of the local chapter that funded my grant. We meet regularly and work together to find ways that we can support other women. When we award a new grant or scholarship to a deserving woman, I feel like we are helping her reach the stratosphere!
At a luncheon later this month, we will raffle off my painting and the proceeds will fund our grants and scholarships for women. It feels good to give back in some kind of way, since P.E.O. generously offered me a hand when I was struggling financially. When you’re facing hard times with money and someone lifts that burden for you, the feeling is indescribable.
My dream is that someday, community colleges and public universities will be tuition-free to attend… or at least accurately price-adjusted based on merit and/or financial need (we all know the FAFSA is complete B.S.). I think there are a lot of hardworking people out there who are experiencing pushback when what they should be receiving is the support to complete their degree.
I hope we sell enough raffle tickets to give a generous scholarship to a fellow hardworking woman. I will feel so proud!