How Samantha Successfully Advocated for Her Family

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IN THEIR OWN WORDS

Samantha Watson is a student at the University of Southern Maine, mom to an almost 2 year old daughter, and a participant in the Parents as Scholars program. Samantha talked with Maine Equal Justice Partners recently about the value of Parents as Scholars; the challenges she faced getting started with the program; and her advice to others with similar goals.


MEJP: I understand you’re in school. What are you studying?

I have always wanted to work in the medical field and will be studying nursing.  There are many different things you can do with nursing so I know it’s a great career path that will ensure I am able to support my daughter and me.  It is my goal to eventually become a nurse anesthetist.

MEJP: How did you learn about Parents as Scholars?

I first learned about it from my mom who works at a health center, so I contacted the state and asked about the process.

MEJP: Tell me about enrolling in Parents as Scholars.  How did that go?

It was slightly challenging.  When I first applied to receive benefits from the state of Maine DHHS, it took a long time to get my initial interview with TANF to determine whether or not I qualified for assistance.  Then, when I asked about Parents as Scholars, my worker discouraged me from participating because “the program is too hard.”  It seems that since the program isn't used frequently it was difficult to find someone who was able to answer my questions.  I really feel I had to work hard to figure out what steps I needed to complete in order to enroll in the PAS program.  It would have been very beneficial to have one person at DHHS that was knowledgeable about the program to help guide me along the way, but I’m thankful I'm finally in the program now.  That’s what matters.

MEJP: What made you reach out to Maine Equal Justice Partners?

When I went to DHHS, it felt like nobody really understood Parents as Scholars.  There was confusion about the rules and requirements.  I did a lot of research on my own, and I called Maine Equal Justice Partners to get more information.  Someone else telling me that my research was accurate made me more confident, and it helped me feel as if I could go back to the caseworker at DHHS and continue to ask questions about the program until I received answers.

MEJP: What advice would you give others interested in Parents as Scholars or other programs like it?

Be persistent about what you want. Do research on your own if you have to. Most importantly, don’t give up.  These programs have been set up to help people and maybe if there was more awareness, if more people asked about it, then more caseworkers would learn about it.  I want other people to be able to take advantage of this amazing opportunity, too.

MEJP: How is school going?

It’s going very well.  At first it was difficult balancing taking care of a toddler and finding time to do homework, but now we have a routine that works great for us and I’m able to enjoy attending all of my classes while my daughter is excited about going to daycare to play with her friends.

MEJP: What will this degree mean for you and your family?

It will mean the world – independence, financial security, and the ability to provide for my daughter.  That’s the ultimate goal – being able to provide for my daughter.


Maine Equal Justice Partners congratulates Samantha on her effective advocacy and ambitious vision for her family.  Samantha gives great advice, and MEJP is happy to help others who have questions about Parents as Scholars and other programs.  If you would like to learn more about the Parents as Scholars program, please click here.

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