By Jerod Young, For the Mirror
On paper, Morgan Withrow was living the dream — her own American Dream.
The Federal Way resident had it all. Despite being a single mom, Withrow had a nice home, two healthy, growing boys, and a fairly lucrative job at Seattle Children’s Hospital. But she was still missing the one thing she had been chasing for years: the final semester that would award her a bachelor’s degree.
Withrow simply could not afford it. She had previously maxed out her student loans, and she did not have a nest egg either. She had to help with her parent’s funeral expenses after her father passed away from cancer and her mother committed suicide, not to mention raising two kids and a mortgage.
So Withrow sought help. And, through Federal Way’s Philanthropic Educational Organization chapter, she found it. After interviewing with the Chapter President Becky Stirling and her board members, Withrow was awarded the grant’s full amount of $3,000 at a dinner this summer in front of her sister and two sons.
The grant will help her complete her degree in business management from Washington State University. The grant gave her the funds to complete her goal, but it also gave her a renewed sense of family.
“It’s funny,” she said. “I have everything I need. I have ‘the American Dream,’ but I don’t qualify for financial aid. Trying to find a scholarship has been extremely difficult. But these ladies were here for me and showed nothing but support, and that makes them family.”
Withrow was just one semester away from gaining her bachelor’s degree, but life just got in the way.
She had to remain focused. She had to make sure both of her boys, ages 16 and 9, were taken care of and growing up in the most stable environment possible. She was also fortunate enough to already have a job. Since her loans were maxed out, there was not much Washington State could do to help her get the money she needed to finish her degree. It did provide a minor scholarship, but it was far from what she needed.
Withrow found a flyer for the PEO and the grant opportunity, and she discovered that Federal Way, her hometown, had two offices. So, she connected with Stirling.
Withrow did not want sympathy, but she wanted someone to hear how her institution financially turned its back on her when she needed them.
“We were just so excited to be able to give her that much money,” Stirling said. “For someone who’s been through so much and can be so honest and willing to talk about it amazing to us.”
Stirling and the board immediately felt they could provide support and the grant for Withrow. Stirling was there every step of the way during the application process, offering as much support as she could.
Withrow plans to take full advantage of the opportunity Stirling and the others have provided her. With the completion of her degree, Withrow will have the opportunity to become a part of Seattle Children’s leadership team.
“Life has been very hard,” Withrow said. “No question, but I have found it so beneficial for me and my kids. They get to see just what you have to do to be successful. How hard you have to work.”