Two Moms. One Scholarship. Two Lives Changed Forever.
Queens University nursing students prove it's never too late to start again
by Keith Pierce
Raegan Ferro '22
At 18, Raegan Ferro was a pre-med student hoping to become a doctor. But after two and a half years, she dropped out of college and took on two jobs when a loved one was in desperate need of financial help. She soon opened a daycare center, got married, and had four children. While some might jump to the conclusion that her college dreams were over, the Queens nursing student never stopped dreaming.
"It was devastating to withdraw from school when you're on the dean's list," Ferro said. "I had these goals and plans set for my life but had to put it all off and work two jobs to help a loved one through a really rough time in his life. But my dream to go back to school never left."
Years later, after losing her father to COVID complications and having to attend his funeral over Zoom, Ferro was determined to return to the medical field where she could help others.
In 2018, she learned of the Andersen Nontraditional Scholarship for Women's Education and Retraining (ANSWER). The fund supports working moms in need of support to return to or stay in school full-time while taking care of their families. The scholarship allowed Ferro to finish what she started.
ANSWER Scholarship, Inc. mentors and prepares mothers of school-age children to achieve a college education while inspiring them to be role models of academic, personal, and professional success for their children. Founded by Susan Andersen who, after receiving a college scholarship herself, was determined to give back.
"That scholarship impacted and changed my life," she Andersen, who serves as the executive director of ANSWER Scholarship, Inc. "When I graduated, I made a vow that I would pay it forward someday. In 2006, I was finally able to make good on my promise. That's when the ANSWER Scholarship began."
Since then, ANSWER has helped more than 114 women in Mecklenburg and surrounding counties with over $600,000 in scholarships. In addition to funding, ANSWER includes a Mentors for Mom program as well as several professional development workshops.
Ferro, who was a daycare provider for four years in New York and six years in Charlotte, learned of the ANSWER Scholarship from the financial aid office at Queens. Thanks to the scholarship, she closed her daycare center and enrolled in nursing at Queens to achieve her goal to complete her degree, though not as a pre-med student.
"I've always wanted to help people," Ferro said. "In my nursing clinicals, I was able to help people and the appreciation I received in return was so gratifying. That's when I knew nursing was for me."
Ferro earned a Bachelor of Science in nursing in December and wants to continue to make her children proud.
"I want to set an example for my kids that it doesn't matter how old you are or where you are in your life, you can go back and you can finish and make something of yourself," she said.
Ferro is returning to New York where she hopes to work as an ICU or emergency room nurse.
Amanda Thompson '22
After graduating a year early from high school, Amanda Thompson enrolled at East Carolina University. As a biology major, she aspired to be in the medical field but was unsure of what discipline. For financial reasons, she had to drop out of college. She joined the U.S. Marine Corps where she met her husband and later had three children. When Thompson nearly died while giving birth to her third child, the extraordinary care of a midwife renewed her dream to help others through nursing.
"It was my midwife who saved my life," she said. "She was the reason nursing was even on the table. The way she took care of me was amazing. When I knew things were severe and even knowing I could have died, she didn't let it phase her and she was right there. It was the extra push I needed to finish what I started."
As a result of that experience, Thompson is already reaping the benefits of the bachelor's degree in nursing she earned from Queens in December. She's working as a labor and delivery nurse and is also considering working as a nurse educator.
"I just wish I would have found ANSWER sooner," Thompson said. "The mentoring, the workshops and the programs are something that all moms should be a part of. The life lessons are invaluable – even to go home a teach your own kids. It helps them grow as well and that's what we want to do – we want to raise better citizens and that starts with parenting."
Though both Ferro and Thompson agree that going to school as older adults with school-age children is a challenge, they found the small classes and individual attention at Queens to be valuable. They also found that their younger classmates looked up to them.
"You come to school and see your friends going to parties while you're going to birthday parties with your kids," Thompson said with a chuckle, "It's two different spectrums but I feel like the other students looked up to us and even came to us for advice – including relationship advice!"
"It's challenging, especially when you're balancing the lives of your children," Ferro said. "ANSWER doesn't just give you financial support. They also give you support in life. The workshops were really helpful. Growing and evolving as a stronger, better woman, I feel like I've walked away with a lot."
To learn more about the ANSWER Scholarship, visit answerscholarship.org.