Linda Lael Miller Scholarships for Women – Final Year of Program
From 28 to 64 years of age, the 10 winners of Linda Lael Miller’s last Scholarships for Women competition have overcome drug addiction, domestic violence, sexual abuse, the ravages of Hurricane Katrina, the tragic loss of a child or husband, brain injury, child neglect and extreme family health issues to pursue their educational dreams and build better lives for themselves and their families.
The winners were chosen from more than 1,600 who applied from 48 states, Puerto Rico and 10 Canadian provinces. Only Delaware and Maryland were not represented in the pool of applicants this year. The 2014 competition closes out Linda’s long-running scholarship program, for which the author has awarded approximately $150,000 in grants over the years.
For January 22, 2015 Release
Linda Lael Miller Awards 2014 Scholarships
To Ten Deserving Women
Spokane, Wash.—From 28 to 64 years of age, the 10 winners of Linda Lael Miller’s 2014 Scholarships for Women program have overcome drug addiction, domestic violence, sexual abuse, the ravages of Hurricane Katrina, the tragic loss of a child or husband, brain injury, child neglect and extreme family health issues to pursue their educational dreams and build better lives for themselves and their families.
The 10 winners, chosen from more than 1,600 who applied from 48 states, Puerto Rico and 10 Canadian provinces. Only Delaware and Maryland were not represented in the pool of applicants this year. The 2014 competition closes out Linda’s long-running scholarship program, for which the author has awarded approximately $150,000 in grants over the years.
What has distinguished Linda’s scholarship program from most others is that the winners may use their grants not only for tuition and books but for anything that stands in the way of themselves and their educational goals—childcare, transportation costs, a broken windshield, and the need for a computer, for example.
“It has been rewarding giving all these amazing women a leg up to their dreams,” Linda said from her home outside Spokane, Wash, where the #1 New York Times bestselling author writes novels set in today’s and yesterday’s world of the West for Harlequin Enterprises. “You cannot imagine how difficult it has been to select the winners each year—there are so many deserving women out there who need help. I wish I could have helped all of them.”
Meet the winners of Linda’s 2014 scholarships, and note that the names of four are not being revealed due to the sensitive nature of the challenges they continue to face:
Katherine Gypsy Valeu defines the word “survivor.” After overcoming drug addiction in her early years and suffering from brutal domestic abuse at the hand of her first husband, she and her second spouse lost everything in Hurricane Katrina and relocated to Seattle for three years. Although they were homeless, living in their car, helping other homeless people in the Seattle area, she managed to marshal the resources to go to school. Now 64 and living back home in Mississippi, Katherine is disabled, motors around in a scooter chair and is pursuing her bachelor’s degree at Our Lady of Holy Cross College. Her goal is to become an addiction/crisis counselor.
“I have so many plans for using my education, and I can do a lot of volunteer work for disaster families and the homeless,” Katherine wrote in her essay. “This area lost so much from Katrina and floods, and then the oil spill cost more loss of jobs. It is still bad here for families in a lot of ways.”
She told Linda, “You have helped not only me but those I intend to continue to help.”
When Linda Lee Patton, now 49, lost her 17-year-old daughter, Kristen Norris, in a car crash, the stay-at-home mother of three was devastated. But Linda wanted her daughter’s life to make a difference, so she turned her grief in a positive direction, speaking to teens throughout Ohio to encourage them to make good decisions so they wouldn’t place their families on the path her family had to walk. When her marriage fractured under the burden of grief, Linda knew she would need an education to support herself and decided to pursue her lifelong dream of becoming a nurse.
A resident of Maineville, Ohio, Linda is using her scholarship funds for tuition at Galen College of Nursing. Her goal is to become a hospice nurse so she will be able to use her experience to guide other families facing loss. Check out the Kristen Norris video, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HSHzuSNWJR4
Having married straight out of high school, Pamela Jones saw her dreams of becoming a nurse succumb to the realities of raising three children and helping her husband run their small Rutledge, Georgia, crafts business out of a barn. Then one day her husband suffered severe burns in a home fire. Pamela’s experiences nursing him through his four surgeries and long recovery inspired her to finally seek that nursing degree.
It hasn’t been an easy road—Pamela’s husband suffered a stroke at the age of 48; medical bills mounted, their insurance was cancelled, and his health and the economy took a toll on his small hardware business.
Now enrolled in Athens Technical College, Pamela, 59, volunteers with the S E Firefighters Association, the group that cared for her and her daughter while her husband was being treated in the Burn Unit at Grady Hospital in Augusta. When she becomes an RN, she plans to help with their burn camps for children at Cam Twin Lakes and “to help as many people as possible in the same way I helped my husband recover from his burns.”
Theresa Curnow, of Grants Pass, Ore., also married young, at age eighteen, but as children she and her sisters had already experienced neglect, with one sister dying of starvation. She later discovered a history of ADHD and addiction in her family and underwent years of counseling to overcome that genetic heritage.
After the birth of one healthy son, Theresa and her husband lost a second son to what is commonly known as Brittle Bone Disorder. Their third son was diagnosed at age two with an audio-logical disorder, a mild form of autism and severe ADHD. Then in 1993 Theresa’s husband was killed at work—so much pain for one family. Fortunately, Theresa’s two sons grew into amazing young men, serving in the Army, and making their mom proud.
Theresa’s goal is to become a court-appointed advocate to help children at risk. She is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in psychology and using her scholarship for tuition at Rogue Community College in Grants Pass.
Looking at the strong, confident, smart and funny young woman Lindsey Ott is today, no one would imagine how much the 28-year-old resident of Erie, Penn., has had to overcome to be where she is today.
Born blind in one eye, Lindsay could not pursue the military career she dreamed of, but that was the least of her problems. After her parents were divorced when she was six years old, she was bounced from school to school, not knowing if she would be going to bed hungry or even have a place to call home. Then when she was 13, the unthinkable happened. She was sexually molested by her mother’s boyfriend, who had HIV, and her mother sided with her boyfriend during the trial. Abandoned by her mother, Lindsey was the only person who stood up for herself during the trial.
Lindsey says she knew when she was sitting in the courtroom, waiting for the verdict, that her destiny was to work in the criminal justice field and help others such as herself. She is using her scholarship stipend for tuition at Penn State World Campus, where she is earning a criminal justice degree. Lindsey has earned Dean’s List honors while holding down a full-time job.
Lauren M. Franciosi, 60, of Friday Harbor, Wash., advocates for a cause near and dear to Linda’s heart: horse rescue. Her journey began when a friend tipped her off about some horses suffering in deplorable conditions. Lauren’s rescue of those horses and others that followed has led to nine being removed from dire circumstances.
Lauren is now pursuing her goal of becoming certified in Equine Acupressure. She is using her scholarship for tuition for Tallgrass Animal Acupressure Institute online classes. She plans not only to minister to horses directly but also to help owners address their horses’ behavioral issues and pain through acupressure. Her motto: George Eliot’s “It is never too late to be what you might have been.”
Sue Brown (not her real name) is a 53-year-old woman who had a bright future before her, winning awards for her jewelry designs until she became afflicted with Major Depressive Disorder. Then medications to treat her disorder led to a brain injury, Serotonin Syndrome, leaving her in a general state of diminished health and bringing on seizures, migraines and muscle weakness. But Sue worked hard to maximize her health and, assessing her capabilities, realized she could pursue a career in textile/surface design. She has elected to use her scholarship to fund tuition at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, where she is pursuing a one-year AAS Degree.
Times were tough for Kim Jones (not her real name) growing up as one of four children to a struggling single parent. While their mother worked two jobs to pay the bills, Kim and her siblings were left alone to care for themselves, too young to know they were living in poverty. Later, as an adult, she fled an abusive husband, only to be bounced around from a women’s shelter to family homes.
Finally Kim found help at a Catholic domestic violence program in Nebraska, where she is learning to be the best parent she can be to her special needs daughter. Determined to break the cycle of poverty, she is the first in her family to attend college. She is working toward a bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene, maintaining a 4.0 GPA; volunteering to help low-income individuals who cannot afford dental care and working as a pharmacy technician. She is using her scholarship for tuition and books.
Linda Smith (not her real name) is also a survivor of domestic violence. In 2011, in a jealous rage, her husband of 15 years tried to light her on fire with their barbecue tank. Shortly afterward, he broke into their home while claiming to be taking time off and getting help. He robbed her of everything but her pets and her car. Three years later, struggling to survive financially and emotionally, she lost both pets to cancer, tragedies which inspired her to become a veterinary technician.
She told Linda: “I look forward, hopeful again of the future where I continue to be rewarded daily by the thousands of lives I will touch in healing others’ furry soul-mates, while in so doing I can honor the very pets that inspired me to keep going, for them, and for myself.”
She requested a computer and gas cards to cover transportation to classes at Sheridan College’s Veterinary Technician program in Ontario, Canada.
Linda’s final winner, Barbara Lee (not her real name), is determined to earn her master’s degree in nursing education so she can teach as a faculty member in the North Carolina community college where she obtained her two-year nursing degree. Currently she is pursuing her Bachelor of Science degree in nursing and will be the first in her family to graduate college.
As with Linda’s other winners, life has been especially challenging for Barbara. One night as she slept, an ex-husband attacked her with a baseball bat. More recently the 45-year-old single mom has taken custody of two young grandchildren, whose parents were deemed unfit to raise them. Additionally, Barbara assists with the care of her ailing parents, both of whom have serious health issues.
“My educational road has been long and slow, with many stops along the way,” Barbara wrote in her essay. “But I remain steadfast, and I’m determined to reach my goal before I’m fifty.”
“There they are: the 10 smart, dedicated, determined women, worthy winners of my final scholarships,” Linda said. “I have confidence that, in the tradition of previous years’ winners, these 10 will persevere and achieve their goals.”