Woman aims to help ‘invisible population’ of single moms weather the pandemic

Lisa Sledge, a lawyer and a single mother of two, center, walks with her children Emmett and Bethany and dog Marshall in West Jordan on Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021. Sledge earned a law degree while raising her children on her own and wants to help others through her new nonprofit Freedom for Resilient Women.

Lisa Sledge, a lawyer and a single mother of two, center, walks with her children Emmett and Bethany and dog Marshall in West Jordan on Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021. Sledge earned a law degree while raising her children on her own and wants to help others through her new nonprofit Freedom for Resilient Women. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Freedom for Resilient Women created by Utah law school grad when COVID-19 surged last spring 

Lisa Sledge earned a law degree, in her telling, by the grace of God and a support network that spanned from kind professors to anonymous donors leaving cash in her mailbox.

Newly divorced and with two young children, the legal assistant woke up between 2 and 4 a.m. for a second job tutoring children online. She often toted her daughter, then 4, and son, 6, to her classes at the University of Utah’s law school. She sold her dining table to make rent.

When she passed the bar exam in 2019, Sledge wept with relief.

A year later, when schools shuttered in the pandemic, her mind turned to other single mothers, especially to those pursuing degrees to better support their children.

“They’re not going to make it without help,” she recalls thinking. “If they don’t have a community right now, they’re not going to make it. And it just kept me awake at night.”

Sledge didn’t want to waste any time. She incorporated a nonprofit in March 2020 and worked on crafting a business plan after tucking her children, Bethany and Emmett, into bed each night. Her organization, Freedom for Resilient Women, aims to help more single mothers across the country graduate and become financially independent.

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“I never wanted to be an entrepreneur,” said Sledge, 38, a contract analyst at a software company. “That was never anything that I have ever aspired to. It’s not something I think is fun. But I felt like, ‘I know what single moms need, and I know better than anyone else.’”

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
A drawing from Lisa Sledge’s daughter hangs on the refrigerator of their home in West Jordan on Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021. Sledge earned a law degree while raising two children on her own and wants to help others through her new nonprofit Freedom for Resilient Women.

The pandemic has raised the already significant hurdles for students like Sledge, which she calls “an invisible population.”

By September 2020, the share of single mothers at work dropped nearly 9 points from a year earlier — from 76.1% to 67.4% — according to the Pew Research Center. Unpartnered fathers saw a four-point dip; coupled parents five points.

Before the devastation of the coronavirus, Sledge notes that just 8% of single mothers graduated with a degree or certificate within six years of enrolling in college programs, according to a 2019 report from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research in Washington.

The data point is top of mind for Susan Madsen, …read more

Source:: Deseret News – Utah News

      

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