Amanda Baker never dreamed her second chance at life would be just this good.
Now the proud owner of a college degree and gainfully employed, Baker had gone through a trying time after health problems forced her to drop out of Del Tech at the age of 20. She says her lack of a diploma held her back from good-paying jobs and success she could only imagine.
Until a friend of hers mentioned the Fresh Start Scholarship Foundation back in 2014, Baker didn’t realize that adults could return to school with the financial and emotional support of other women who’ve been in her shoes.
The proud mother of children aged 18 and 21, Baker had her turn in the spotlight at last week’s Rising Stars celebration at the DuPont Country Club. The November 6th event showcased the achievements of 16 recent scholar graduates while raising money for college scholarships for the next cohort of forty scholars who will earn their college degrees.
“I knew I could do the work necessary to obtain my degree and that I had the motivation, but I didn’t know how I could afford school at that time. So, I put it off for 10 long years. It was truly amazing to learn that college scholarships and mentoring were available to working moms like me,” she said.
Calling her experience “a pivotal event in my life,” Baker was able to return to Wilmington University to earn a degree in Behavioral Sciences. “This gave me self-confidence and opened my world to new opportunities. It allowed me the ability to be more financially stable. And afforded me the ability to work in a rewarding job that helps me give back to the community,” she said.
She now works as a transition counselor with the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation.
Two hundred people turned out to cheer on the new graduates at an event that featured a Hollywood red carpet theme, a dazzling stage display, and stirring remarks from supporters and scholars themselves.
Noting that there are very few scholarships focused on adult women, foundation president Michele Wentzel remarked, “Fresh Start is really something special because we are helping women earn something that can never be taken away – and that’s an education. We also provide a mentor to each one of our scholars, to help them on their journey. And it is a journey. Our scholars have families, jobs, and they are engaged in the community.”
Whetzel also announced that the organization has provided 555 scholarships, totaling more than 1.1 million dollars in scholarships awarded since it was founded in 1996.
Past President Rita Wilkins added, “A fresh start is about women breaking barriers for themselves. Our mentors are proud to be with them on their journey.”
Photos by Matt Gadzinski