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Jasandra Gil, nursing student at University of Arkansas-Fort Smith, said her daughter, Roselle, is the "light of my life."
Now in her final semester of college at the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith, 23-year-old single mom Jasandra Gil feels like she is finally in a stable place in her life.
She and her 4-year-old daughter, Roselle, have survived an abusive relationship, lack of family support, financial hardship, Jasandra’s diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis, and the unavailability of childcare throughout the pandemic. Jasandra has used her Arkansas Single Parent Scholarship Fund checks to pay for bills, which has helped her find financial stability in her life to provide for her daughter.
"It’s been a huge weight off my shoulders to finally be able to say, ‘Oh, this semester I finally feel good enough to just focus on my school and focus on Roselle,'" Jasandra said. "And I was only able to do that because of the help I’m getting from ASPSF and because of loans from school.”
For the past few years, Jasandra has been studying to become a nurse and hopes to one day become a nursing instructor because she loves teaching her friends when they don’t understand class topics. She said Roselle, who loves to talk about trees and bees, enjoys learning alongside her.
“Roselle is the light of my life — she was something I didn’t even know I needed,” she said. “She’s so extroverted that she just brings out the life in me, and she’s brought in so much more joy into my life. We have endured some hard times in our journey through life, which has shown me that she is as strong as her momma.”
Jassandra has used her single-parent scholarship to pay her bills.
Jasandra said she is excited and “kind of speechless” when it comes to thinking about her May graduation.
“I didn’t think I was ever going to go back to school,” she said. “I just thought I was going to be a stay-at-home mom, but this is what God intended for me. I’m super happy that I get the opportunity to have help and support and just be in school.”
When Jasandra became pregnant in her second semester of college, she was majoring in neuroscience to prepare to become a doctor. Not wanting to miss the moments of motherhood, Jasandra changed her goals and has never looked back.
“I realize now, being in the hospital, doctors don’t get a lot of that patient care,” she said. “They just go in there, and they’re like, ‘Alright, this is what we’re doing. This is the procedure you’re going to have. These are the meds that you’re going to take.’ But nurses actually get that experience when they spend time with the patient, and they get to do stuff with them.”
In addition to the financial support ASPSF has provided her, Jasandra said she is also grateful for the workshops and community support she has received from Program Manager Sandy Nelson and Development Manager Abbie Taylor Cox.
“There are people that care, and they really want to help you,” she said. “I get an email from Sandy four times a month. She’s checking on me; she’s given me ideas on where to apply for other scholarships. She really cares about the people that receive this scholarship.”
With the help of ASPSF, Jasandra enrolled Roselle in Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, which mails two books a month. The first one she received was “The Little Engine That Could,” and it’s now Roselle’s favorite — Jasandra says they’ve read it at least 100 times.
“When I picked up that book, I felt overwhelmed with emotions because of all the hardships and mountains I have climbed with her safe on my hip,” Jasandra said. “I’m finally at a point where I’m like, ‘I’m successful. I’m getting this degree. This is proof of all the hard work that I was doing.’ And then Roselle gets this book. And I just love it because it says on the front page, ‘I can do anything,’ or something like that. And I think that’s really good, showing kids that they can do anything as long as they have the right mindset.”
Roselle loves reading the books from the Dolly Parton Imaginaion Library.