Helping single mothers advance their career
while helping young children learn

The cost of childcare in our service area is often more than $1,000 per month, per child. This massive expense can make it nearly impossible for single parents to maintain financial stability while furthering their education in pursuit of a reliable living-wage career.

In response to this need, United Way of Greater Richmond & Petersburg launched WomenRise, a scholarship program that provides financial assistance to help single moms cover the cost of childcare while they work toward a post-secondary degree or credential.

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Single mothers experience poverty at a higher rate than any other family structure, both here in the Greater Richmond and Petersburg region and across the country. In our service area, the poverty rate for single mother families is 29.7%, compared to 12.2% for single father families and 3.7% for married couple families*.

Education is one of the most effective pathways for a single mother to work her way out of poverty and provide more opportunities for herself and her family. However, the exorbitant cost of childcare can make it impossible for a working single mother to cover her family’s basic needs and pursue a post-secondary degree or credential.  

That’s where WomenRise comes in. A WomenRise scholarship fills a clear need in a single mother’s life by relieving the burden of childcare costs and empowering women to attain the education needed to provide more opportunities for their families.  

*If individuals are married but not living together, they are counted in either male or female householder families. Percentages do not indicate margin of error, which ranges from +/-0/5% to +/-7.3% based on population group.

WomenRise scholarships are available on an annual basis to local single mothers with an application process every summer. The scholarships cover the cost of direct care services per child during the time the mother is enrolled in classes or a training program. Scholarships are paid directly to the childcare provider.    

A WomenRise scholarship includes access to our Women United giving community members for support and encouragement as well as a set of partners and resources within the United Way network.    

We have concluded the 2022 application process and will reopen applications in spring 2023. If you have any questions about the process, contact Heather Farber (farberh@yourunitedway.org).


in WomenRise childcare scholarships provided in 2022

2022 WomenRise Scholarship Recipients

In 2022, we were able to provide 23 scholarships. Read some of their stories below. View past recipients here.

Since she was young, Michelle has wanted to be a lawyer to help people through tough situations. With a mom who immigrated to the US from Costa Rica, she’s particularly passionate about immigration law and wants to support families with that process. Helping others is very important to Michelle – she even started a nonprofit for families going through pregnancy loss after having her own experience losing her son.

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Mia Austin is a full-time student studying Human Resources Management at Bryant & Stratton. She also works as a mental health specialist at a local group home for individuals with intellectual disabilities. Her passion for helping people and her love for all things paperwork inspired her to work toward her dream of becoming an HR Manager when she graduates in 2023.

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Briana Bates is a deaf single mother of two young children, one of which has a hearing disability. Since day one of motherhood, she has been a strong advocate for both of her children, overcoming many barriers in the process. Briana is studying education at Reynolds Community College while the WomenRise program covers care for both of her children. Because of her experiences, she has a deep passion for making the educational system more deaf-friendly.

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Taryn became a mom in the midst of her academic career, which changed up her plans. She found the strength to move forward, complete her Bachelor’s degree, and is now working toward a better life for her and her infant child. She’s pursuing a social work Master’s degree to help others and pursue her passion to improve the criminal justice system.

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Kara Dixon – a graduate of Richmond Public Schools – is determined to finish her degree in accounting and land a stable job. She wants to show her three kids that anything is possible if you are persistent.

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Holly Duncan, a Chesterfield resident, is currently enrolled full-time in the Funeral Services program at Brightpoint Community College and works full time at Bliley’s Funeral Home as an intern. WomenRise is providing care for her two children while she finishes her degree so that she can achieve her dream of being a funeral director.

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Karen Gonzales is a pharmacy technician with a passion for serving the Spanish-speaking community and helping people get the services they need. To pursue her passion further, she is studying sociology at Virginia Commonwealth University with the goal of finishing her degree before her son starts preschool.

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Sheryl Harvey – a second year WomenRise recipient – has been working in the healthcare field since 11th grade. Recently, she has won Care Partner of the Year at VCU Health on her floor. As a mother of two young children, Harvey has been working to take the classes required to become a registered nurse at Reynolds Community College. She most recently passed her nursing entrance exam and has been accepted into the Fall 2022 RN Nursing program and is one step closer to her dream as a nurse.

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E’moni Johnson is a second year WonenRise recipient. She currently works at a daycare facility in Richmond and is pursuing her bachelor’s degree in Elementary and Kindergarten Education at Virginia Commonwealth University, with plans to graduate in 2023. She will use her WomenRise scholarship to support childcare for her three-year-old daughter while she completes her education.


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Tyiesha Johnson is studying Criminal Justice at Virginia Commonwealth University with aspirations of going to law school. She previously completed an internship with the Petersburg Police Department. She’s a member of the Richmond Paralegal Association and Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) International Honor Society. Tyiesha has accomplished all of this while caring for her young daughter.

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Fatmata “Haja” Njai Conteh has overcome many obstacles to pursue her passions and care for her son, who she has raised alone since he was 4 months old. She experienced homelessness for a time, then was able to get a job as a CNA. However, she recently had to take time off from work for hand surgery. Even with all of these challenges, Haja is determined to pursue her education to become a Registered Nurse and eventually a Geriatric Nurse Practitioner. She has a passion to serve her community and loves to volunteer at the food bank and with seniors.

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With help from the WomenRise program, Jasmine Phanelson recently graduated with her credential as a licensed practical nurse (LPN). As a second year WomenRise recipient, she is continuing her studies at Bryant & Stratton to become a Registered Nurse that works with underserved communities. In addition to her schooling, Jasmine works the night shift at an assisted living facility and cares for her 8-year-old son.

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Terika Stone is an Interdisciplinary Studies major with minors in Criminal Justice and Sociology at VCU. Based on some of her own experiences, Terika has a passion for working with the children of those who are incarcerated or with substance abuse challenges. Her goal is to bridge the gap between parents in jail and their kids – even planning to start her own nonprofit someday. She loves volunteering with her kids and passing on resources to others in her community. WomenRise will allow her kids to get the care they need so she can finish her studies and take the next step in her career.

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Kaytlin “Kaytie” Whyte is pursuing her nursing degree at Brightpoint Community College and is in her second year of the WomenRise program. Because of the support she received, she made the Honor Role for the 2021-2022 academic year. She was also hired as a nurse extern at Johnston-Willis’ IMCU, which will give her additional experience with patient care and the opportunity for full-time employment after she graduates in December of 2022.

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Nya Williams’ love for learning has inspired her to pursue a degree in education at Western Governor’s University. She wants to be a math teacher and eventually a professor. Raised by a single mom along with seven siblings, she is no stranger to responsibility. She now has two little ones of her own and wants to show them that they can accomplish anything they put their mind to.

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Kristen Williamson is pursuing two associates degrees at Brightpoint Community College – nursing and health sciences. She is in her second year of WomenRise and has juggled school, work and care for her two children – all while getting accepted to the Honor Society in fall 2021. After experiencing several setbacks and having to put some classes on pause with health challenges this year, she is on track to complete her education in 2023.

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WomenRise is run by members of our United Way’s local Women United giving community. Women United members lead this program by fundraising for scholarships, making scholarship decisions, planning events and providing encouragement and support to WomenRise scholarship recipients.    

Powered by United Way of Greater Richmond & Petersburg, WomenRise makes post-secondary education and training attainable for dedicated single mothers in our area.  

Do you want to join our group of local women supporting WomenRise? Learn more about our Women United giving community or contact Heather Farber to join.

Help More Moms: Give Today

Your support determines the number of WomenRise scholarship recipients and the amount of each scholarship. Make a gift to United Way of Greater Richmond & Petersburg to help us grow this important new program.   

There is no gift too small! Every act of generosity makes a difference. Gifts of $1,000 or more will qualify for enrollment in our Women United giving community, which serves as the backbone group of planners and leaders for WomenRise.

2022 WomenRise Sponsors

Mission Sponsors
Business Sponsors