WomenRise Scholarship Recipients

WomenRise is a local United Way 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. The scholarships cover the cost of direct care services per child during the time the mother is enrolled in classes or a training program. Read more about each participant and their goals below. 

2022 Scholarships

After a successful pilot year of our WomenRise childcare scholarship program for single moms, we are excited to be expanding this year’s class to even more participants. This year, we have offered $185,000 in scholarships to support 23 single moms!  Our participants are from all over the region and are studying nursing, social work, accounting, human resources and more. Read about participants who have shared their stories below:

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. With support from the WomenRise program, Michelle is studying sociology at Virginia State University before moving into pre-law. Her son’s care is covered, allowing her to focus on her studies and take one step closer to her dream of becoming a lawyer.


“Trying to find care with the pandemic got kind of stressful. This is a good opportunity for my son, especially because he’s younger. If I’m not worried about care for my kids, then life becomes so much easier.”

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.

“I would like to provide my daughter with a good, positive life and let her see that I did it and so can she when she grows up. I want her to know that giving up is never an option.”

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.


“In the educational system, there’s not a lot of knowledge about what accommodations are needed. Deaf and Hard of Hearing people aren’t treated as equals, but they deserve the same education. I want to be able to break harmful cycles so that children can be successful in their future.”

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.


“I am so grateful for WomenRise giving me the opportunity to finally finish my MSW degree and the doors that will be opened for me. I am honored to now be connected with such an amazing organization and look forward to paying it forward in the future.”

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.
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.


“I have always wanted to pursue my dream in the funeral services field, and I am so happy that I decided to do it. I love serving families and my community. I’m proud that I can be part of helping families in their most difficult time of need.”

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.


“Being a single parent is working twice as hard at everything but it’s also so rewarding. My son has truly changed my life for the better. Now more than ever, I want to show him that anything is possible as long as you work hard and do your very best.”

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.


“I’m so proud of the accomplishments I’ve made so far, I’m ready to move forward with my nursing journey and walk in my true purpose.”

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.


“I am very persistent. Every time I fail or lack something I keep trying and trying until I get it right and thats why I always get what I go after because when I want something I get it no matter how long it takes.”

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.


“This scholarship will help me tremendously financially. It will give me an opportunity to work less hours and concentrate on being a great student and wonderful mother. ”

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 Practicioner. She has a passion to serve her community and loves to volunteer at the food bank and with seniors.


“I love taking care of older people because it gives me peace. Because of my volunteering, it feels like a part of me. I want to help the community as much as I can.”

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.


“I was able to accomplish my LPN goal this past year because of my WomenRise scholarship. This award has allowed me to focus on my goals and cut back on the hours I was working.”

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.


“The way I have survived in my life so far is through the resources I have been provided. I want to be a helping hand and a resource to those around me, especially families experiencing incarceration. That’s somewhere I want my career to go to. Not just helping kids, but bridging the gap between parents in jail and their kids.”

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.


“I would not have passed my second semester of nursing school without this scholarship. I feel like I have a deeper understanding of the content we were taught this past year because I was able to have dedicated time to studying, instead of having to entertain my daughter while attempting to learn.”

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.


“I truly want to be a great teacher who is really good at breaking things down for students who are constantly struggling with math. Eventually, I want to become a professor. I know that entails a lot of schooling, but I think that would be a great experience to be amongst other professors, amongst other learners. To be with people who love to learn so much, you can never stop learning something new.”

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.


“While it has been very upsetting that it will take a little longer to graduate, I have remained strong, confident, and determined to walk across the stage with both degrees for my children and me!”

One of our WomenRise participants grew up in the foster care system. She has overcome many obstacles, advocated for herself and her son and is on track to get a degree in Chemistry. WomenRise is allowing her to put her son in daycare so that she can focus on her studies and know he is taken care of.
One of our WomenRise participants is studying social science with a goal of working with kids in the mental health field. The scholarship will help her not have to pick up additional shifts to pay for childcare, giving her more time to study and be with her two children.
One of our WomenRise participants is an employee of Chesterfield County Public Schools who is pursing a social work degree. After seeing the hardships that families and children face, she is determined to provide support and resources to her community. As a mother to a young daughter, she is also proud to set an example for her daughter by pursuing her goals.

2021 Scholarships

During the WomenRise pilot in 2021, we awarded $64,000 in childcare scholarships to six single mothers to assist them in completing their education or train for a better job. 

Sheryl Harvey has been working as a Certified Nursing Assistant since 11th grade, recently winning Care Partner of the Year on her floor at VCU. As the mother of two young children ages 3 and 4, Sheryl has been working to take the classes required to become a registered nurse. She plans to use her WomenRise scholarship to cover the cost of child care while she completes the nursing program at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College.

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

“My elementary school teachers made me who I am today. Because of them, I have always had a passion to teach kids and help them just like my teachers did for me. I want to make a difference in the world for kids that don’t think they have anyone to look up to.”

Jasmine Phanelson is working to become a Licensed Practical Nurse, with a long-term goal of becoming a Registered Nurse that works in underserved communities. She will be attending Bryant and Stratton College in Richmond this fall as she works toward a credential in Licensed Practical Nursing. A single mother with a seven-year-old son, Jasmine is determined to succeed in her educational journey.

“When I lost my grandmother, I made up my mind that I wanted to pursue a career that would help people and provide financial stability for my family. As a single mother, I have to put my goals to the side to make sure my son has what he needs, but I believe I have what it takes to become a nurse. This scholarship will help me stay focused on school without stressing about how I will pay for childcare.”

Titilayo Sampson is a single mother looking for a second chance. She was pursuing a degree in hospitality and tourism management but dropped out during her junior year. After her son was born in 2020, Titilayo realized she needed to go back to school and complete her degree to provide a better future for her family. She plans to continue at Norfolk State University this fall with the goal of earning a Bachelor’s degree in 2022.

Kaytie Whyte is a mother of three kids ages 3-14. After working her way out of an abusive relationship, Kaytie found herself with limited career options, so she turned to her family for help and inspiration. Kaytie enrolled in a two-year nursing program at John Tyler Community College and is working toward her Associate’s degree in nursing.

“This scholarship will provide opportunities for me, but it will also offer relief and flexibility for my aging parents, who have both been sacrificing and working hard to provide care for me and my children.”

Kristen Williamson has been working to become a nurse for many years. Her father was a firefighter and her mother was a nurse, which instilled Kristen with a lifelong passion for helping people. She has completed various certifications and worked in multiple healthcare positions, but a series of setbacks has made it difficult to complete her educational journey. With two children to care for, Kristen is more committed than ever to completing the coursework necessary to earn her Associate’s degree in nursing at John Tyler Community College.

“When I was in a horrible car accident, I realized the importance of safe, quality health care. That appreciation deepened when I found myself caring for my mother after a kidney transplant. These life experiences have opened my eyes to where I want to go in life, which is why I am committed to finishing nursing school and becoming a registered nurse.”

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