Be the Change

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 Why

Youth with parents who are incarcerated face numerous challenges, regardless of their age. A few of these challenges are summarized below:

  • Increased Risk of Emotional and Behavioral Issues: Youth with incarcerated parents are at a higher risk of experiencing emotional and behavioral problems such as anxiety, depression, aggression, and conduct disorders.
  • Educational Challenges: They often face disruptions in their education due to changes in living arrangements, financial instability, and the stigma associated with having a parent in prison.
  • Financial Hardship: The incarceration of a parent can result in economic strain for the family, leading to difficulties in meeting basic needs such as housing, food, and healthcare.
  • Stigmatization and Social Isolation: Youth may face social stigma and discrimination from peers, teachers, and other adults due to their parent's incarceration.
  • Emotional Trauma and Stress: The experience of having a parent in prison can cause significant emotional trauma and stress for youth.

It's important for communities to be aware of these challenges and to work towards providing support and resources to help mitigate the impact of parental incarceration on children.

Scholarship Background

For nearly a decade, Jennifer (Jenn) Deamud (GVSU Alumni 95’, 10’ and 15’) has been mentoring women who have been involved with the criminal justice system. 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.

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 annually distributes a scholarship to a GVSU student who has been impacted by a parent who has been involved with the criminal justice system.

Jenn and Dave engage with the community to create awareness of the need to support “returning citizens” and their children. Through the fundraising efforts, the endowment increases in value, which increases the scholarship amount.

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!


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Page last modified March 4, 2024