Interfaith Community Services will host the in-person fundraiser of “Rise - A celebration of Empowered Women” at Sheraton Tucson Hotel and Suites, 5151 E Grant Road, on Saturday, June 25, to support the Single Mom Scholars program.
The Interfaith Community Services (ICS) breakfast fundraiser begins at 10 a.m. and features speaker Tiffany Nakatani, founder and creator of Love In A Cup Tea Blends and Boss Women Unite.
The Single Moms Scholars Program is a scholarship program that supports low-income single mothers and pledges to lift them out of poverty. The program is based on need and can be used towards furthering a single mother’s education.
Featured speaker Nakatani was raised by a single mother and became a single mother herself for a period. Nakatani formed Love In A Cup after going through health complications related to her thyroid condition.
“But I needed help because I had no idea of how to start a business,” Nakatani said. “It was kind of a challenge for me in the sense (that) there was just a lot of spaces where it seems a little bit cliquish, or it was hard to ask people for help.”
When Nakatani tried to lift her small business off the ground she hit barriers put up, surprisingly, by other small businesses. This experience led Nakatani to found Boss Women Unite, a business platform for women to network to support each other. There are no barriers in place to exclude women.
“What I found in my research is that women experience more closed doors, and they see a lot of obstacles when they're trying to start a business,” Nakatani said.
And although Nakatani had to step back from Boss Women Unite for the past year to focus on her family and her business, she still keeps the community open for conversation and connection through social media. Nakatani said she fell into a trap that most women, especially single moms, fall into. She was putting more effort into supporting other women than herself.
Single mothers often find themselves putting their children’s success and happiness over themselves.
“Although that's taking me far, it hasn't taken me far because when we adapt to that hustle mentality, I gotta do all the things, right?” Nakatani said.
The hustle mentality that single mothers develop can be a double-edged sword, as Nakatani puts it. It can help mothers stay focused on their children, but it can also come as a detriment.
“I know that especially as a single mom, we hold the guilt of ‘What am I not enough for my kids?’ because we're damned if we do, we’re damned if we don't,” Nakatani explained. “We want to spend all this time with our kids, but we can't because we have to get an education.”
Nakatani said the decision for moms to put themselves first results in a better life for their children. The ICS Single Moms Scholars program financially assists single moms in making this choice. They provide funding for single moms to obtain their bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Single Mom Scholar Courtney Whitney said it's difficult to find programs that offer to fund bachelor's and masters.
“It was like I won the lottery,” Whitney said.
Whitney will be graduating from the Single Moms Scholars program this year. She recently graduated from the University of Arizona Eller College of Management with a bachelor’s and master’s in finance. She said Single Moms Scholars financially assisted her for the last two and a half years.
Not only was the program there for her education finances but her family finances. Whitney said ICS supported her children in extracurricular activities, like sports. This was huge for her and she said she couldn’t have put them through sports without their help.
“So they filled the gap of education, like, ‘We'll support you through your bachelor's and your master's,’” Whitney said. “No other program does that, for others, you get it up to an associate's (degree) and they're like, ‘Oh, you need to go work now.’”
Whitney is already preparing for her new role as a research analyst for an investment firm. This is a complete lifestyle change from where she began. Before going back to school, Whitney suffered from meth addiction and survived domestic violence before deciding she needed to be financially independent for her three kids.
“CPS (Child Protective Services, now the Department of Child Safety) was like, ‘Well, it's not you and you need to get away,’” Whitney said. “So I'm in the DV shelter and I was angry. I could not support my kids with associate's degree right now so I went all the way.”
Whitney pushed through her degrees with success. She said she couldn’t have achieved everything without the help of Single Moms Scholars.
Purchase tickets to attend the RISE event and support Single Moms like Whitney at icstucson.org/RISE, tickets are $30.