Be the Change Scholarship
An endowed scholarship was started at Grand Valley State University for students that have been affected by a parent who has served time in jail. The "Be the Change" scholarship was created to let students know that their community supports and encourages them to acquire their degrees and make a difference in our communities.
The United States is one of the top incarcerators of women in the world. A report from the Sentencing Project shows that between 1980 and 2016, the number of women incarcerated in American jails and prisons increased by more than 700 percent, from 26,378 in 1980 to 213,722 in 2016.
According to the ACLU, women are the fastest growing segment of the incarcerated population increasing at nearly double the rate of men since 1985. Approximately 62% of these women are mothers of children under 18.
Over the past five years, Jennifer (Jenn) Deamud (GVSU Alumni 95’, 10’ and 15’) has been mentoring women getting ready to be released from jail. The women she mentors need support for themselves to change the projection of their lives. The women desire to have opportunities for their children so they can have a successful future. The mentoring program Jenn is engaged with is offered through the Women's Resource Center. The program, New Beginnings, strives to reduce recidivism through access to a comprehensive program three months prior to their release.
Jenn’s observations of the challenges faced by incarcerated mothers and their children were reinforced by the Annie E. May Casey Foundation’s report – “A SHARED SENTENCE the devastating toll of parental incarceration on kids, families, and communities.” The report indicates Michigan has the third highest percentage nationally of children with a parent who has been incarcerated, 1 in 10 kids impacted.
This number was alarming to Jenn and her husband David. Together they established the “Be the Change” endowed scholarship to create awareness and help support these students who have been negatively affected by a parent serving time.
Make a Difference
“Be the Change” endowed fund distributed the first scholarship to a GVSU student in the fall of 2018. The fund continues to give a one scholarship per year.
The young lady who received the first scholarship (2018) is a first-generation college student who has had both parents either serve time in jail or prison. The scholarship is helping her stay in college to acquire a degree in anthropology.
The young lady who received the second scholarship (2019) is a first-generation student and has had her father in and out of her life due to additions and serving time. She is encouraged to stay in college knowing that others support her.
Jenn and Dave continue to engage with the community to create awareness of the need to support “returning citizens” and their children. Through the continued efforts of fundraising and creating awareness, the endowment increases on average $10,000 per year. One way they raise funds is through an Annual Rummage Sale Fundraiser.
Please consider supporting first generation students who have financial need and have experienced having a parent serve time in jail or prison. Any contributions will help students!