July is here, so you know what that means. In what seems like the blink of an eye, summer will be over just as quickly as it melted onto the scene. As the latter part of the summer months tend to get us all in “back-to-school” mode, I want to spread the word about a special initiative that targets a specific group of mamas in the Chattanooga area. The MOMentum Network is a nonprofit seeking to assist “connected, empowered, educated moms as they transform their families and communities.” This organization is making remarkable strides in our community and changing the trajectory of families along the way.
Founded in 2014 by former single-mom Cara Hicks, its primary focus is to “build the village that propels two generations to shatter statistics with single moms in college & their children.” Cara’s story is one of navigating motherhood while pursuing higher education, so she knows first-hand the struggles single moms might face. She shares, “single motherhood did not define me, but it did refine me — my courage, tenacity, and my network were developed as I overcame obstacles. Now I’m equipped to make a difference for generations to come.” Today, the married mom of four is using this platform to do exactly that as she and her team are touching the lives of families around our city. Her faith in God and her heart to change the sometimes negative narrative associated with single motherhood, drive her daily.
Some of the programs offered by The MOMentum Network include a residential program called Scholar Village, which allows mothers and their children to participate in a living and learning community with other single moms. Scholar Village is near both the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and Chattanooga State, and is available at a cost lower than market value. Other services include assistance with the college admissions and financial aid processes, study areas for moms to utilize, on-site childcare, monthly group sessions highlighting hot topics of motherhood, the MPower course to enhance life skills, and a mentorship program for mothers to gain support and advocacy.
To participate, moms must:
- Be enrolled or admitted to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga or Chattanooga State Community College with at least one year left before graduation. Some other four-year schools also qualify, but for-profit institutions do not at this time.
- Be at least 18 years of age, one month before the scheduled move-in date.
- Be a single parent with primary custody of your child/children or pregnant and planning to parent.
- Be seriously motivated to graduate college and obtain a living-wage career.
- Have child(ren) enrolled in a quality early learning center or educational institution OR be eligible and willing to enroll in Little Scholars at Scholar Village.
- Be willing to engage in coaching, workshops, and social opportunities.
I recently attended their Block Party to celebrate the recent mom graduates and was blown away by what I experienced. I had the opportunity to meet many of the moms, plus the fearless leader, Cara, and we toured the beautiful living spaces of Scholar Village and its childcare spaces. Most MOMentum events are child-friendly, so I also got to play with many of their precious little ones. As someone who works full-time in higher education and takes classes myself, I deeply respect any mama attending school. The road is not easy, but it is doable, especially with support. If you do not identify as a single mom or one who wants to attend college, you can still help. Mentors, coaches, and volunteers are always welcomed. Then, of course, financial support is greatly appreciated, too.
In the throes of life, it is essential to remember that single motherhood can present itself in many forms. Unplanned pregnancy, divorce, widowhood, and more can happen to anyone. Regardless, no mom should have to choose between pursuing her academic dreams to better provide for her children or being present and active with them. The Momentum Network gifts single moms both opportunities by allowing them to be an example to their children as they actively work to get a degree and provides a safe space and community for them while doing so. As moms, we know we can do it all, but you do not have to do it all alone.