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Arkansas Single Parent Scholarship Fund Scholarship recipient Toccara Pearson (back) inspires her family to work hard for their goals.
Few parents can say they graduated at the same time as their children, but single mom Toccara Pearson has done it twice!
In May 2019, Toccara completed her associate degree from the University of Arkansas-Pulaski Technical College as her oldest daughter, To’Kira, graduated high school. In May 2022, Toccara received her bachelor’s degree in social work from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, as her son, To’Darius, completed his high school diploma.
“I’m going to try and work it out so that I can graduate with my youngest, To’Mira, who is 14 years old, with my master's because no mother can say she graduated with all three of her children!” Toccara said.
Toccara has been a recipient of the Arkansas Single Parent Scholarship Fund since spring 2019. She is grateful for the scholarship — which has helped her buy food for her family, pay electricity bills, purchase a computer for schoolwork, and afford a car repair after a baseball practice ended with a smashed window — and the community she’s gained through workshops, mentors, and other single parents.
Toccara Pearson (center) and her family participate in a Cooking Matters Workshop hosted by Arkansas Single Parent Scholarship Fund.
Toccara’s journey has not been an easy one. She was 8 years old when her mother died. Her father turned to alcohol to cope with the stress of being a single father, and over time this led to violence in the home. She went to live with her grandmother, and then during her senior year of high school, became pregnant.
“At the time, I thought that my life was ending, and I wasn’t going to graduate,” she said. “Fortunately, my high school counselor intervened. She let me know that my life wasn’t ending, it was just beginning, and she was going to be by my side.”
Toccara married after high school and had another child, but they divorced. She then remarried, had her third child, but that marriage, too, ended in divorce. Toccara found herself caring for three children on half the income.
“I was thinking about the future of my family and supporting them, so I decided to go back to school,” she said. “As a single mother, I decided to show my three children that no matter what age you decide to go back to school, it is never too late.”
This spring, Toccara Pearson graduated from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock with her bachelor's degree in social work.
Toccara is both excited and nervous about post-graduation life. She’s worked at the same office for 18 years, and it’s bittersweet to start a new career in social work. But Toccara says she’s ready for the challenge and hopes to open a shelter for women one day.
“There are so many resources out there, and so many people don’t know how to get those resources, and I want to be that person to do it,” she said. “I’ve always been good with managing my time and finding resources for my family, and I can further that by helping other people.”
Toccara said her three children motivate her to balance parenthood, full-time employment, an internship, and schoolwork. “We support each other where we need to support each other, and that’s what’s important,” she said.
To’Darius, who wants to earn his commercial driver’s license and then study engineering, said she inspires him every day to reach for more. And To’Mira, who wants to be a doctor, said she’s glad her mom is pursuing her dream of helping people.
Recognizing the role ASPSF has played in her life, Toccara said she appreciates the investment the donors and volunteers have made in her and so many other single parents, helping them complete their studies and earn higher wages for their families.
“Without their contribution, there wouldn’t be a program like this. There are so many women trying to further their careers, who are struggling and trying to find funding.” she said. “I’m going to miss being a part of ASPSF. This program has helped me out a lot throughout the years. Thank you for everything.”
Toccara Pearson picks up her Spring 2022 Arkansas Single Parent Scholarship Fund check and certificate.