Tarrant County nonprofit launches new program to help single mothers go to college

dfwnewsa | March 4, 2024 | 0 | Fort Worth , Fort Worth News

Tarrant County nonprofit launches new program to help single mothers go to college

Makayla Ross-Tell is a single mother trying to obtain a nursing degree at The University of Texas at Arlington. Through The Gatehouse, a Christian nonprofit in Tarrant County, she is learning how to afford child care and how to raise a family while going to school. (Marissa Greene | Fort Worth Report)
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A typical day for Makayla Ross-Tell, 22, involves blue scrubs, clinical rotations and homework from her college classes. 

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Regardless of her busy schedule, she always makes time to sing “Let It Go” with her 2-year-old daughter, Kambri, who loves watching Disney’s “Frozen.” 

Ross-Tell, a first-generation college student, is in her final semester at The University of Texas at Arlington, completing her nursing degree. She is also a single mother trying to navigate raising a family and working toward a college degree.  

Ross-Tell is one of many single mothers in the U.S. who face challenges such as affording child care, housing and other costs of living while trying to further their education. About 28% of single mothers graduate with a degree or certificate within six years of enrollment, while 55% leave school before obtaining a degree, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. 

She receives housing assistance, financial coaching and mentorship through The Gatehouse, a Christian nonprofit organization in Grapevine. Ross-Tell is one of the first participants in the nonprofit’s new education track, which provides housing, day care and a monthly stipend while she completes her bachelor’s degree.  

“Moving to Grapevine was a big change,” said Ross-Tell, who previously drove to Arlington from Waxahachie. “But I felt like it needed to be made because I’m getting older, I have a daughter and I need to start stepping into the role of the sole provider.”

Since 2015, The Gatehouse has provided temporary assistance to women who are experiencing hardships such as unemployment, underemployment or abuse.

Residents like Ross-Tell can receive housing and other forms of assistance from the nonprofit for two and a half years while trying to obtain a degree or a job. 

The Gatehouse was started as a way to fill in the gaps between living at a shelter and becoming permanently self-sustaining, said Lisa Rose, founder of the nonprofit. 

“It was really a response to God’s call to love women in a practical way. Especially those overcoming hardships that could be underemployment, domestic violence or divorce, and to serve them in a way that knocks down the barriers that keep them from the dignity of taking care of themselves,” Rose said. 

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The Gatehouse’s new educational track is specially designed to help single mothers obtain a college education or certification, Rose said. 

“They were single student moms who could not handle the expense of the rising price of child care, household expenses, and (now) they just are never going to have to quit school,” Rose said. 

Women who are accepted into the program do not have to be Christian or a member of a particular faith, Rose said. Applicants must be students at the organization’s partner schools, such as UTA, Texas Woman’s University or Parker University. 

Ross-Tell expects to graduate in May and wants to become a labor and delivery nurse. She is currently taking classes and doing clinicals at Medical City Lewisville, where she is a lactation consultant. 

In addition to the help she receives while obtaining her degree, Ross-Tell meets with a mentor to learn how to budget for when she moves out. She also attends Bible studies organized by other women at The Gatehouse, which has given her a sense of community.  

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“It’s like a family to me. All the different support they have, whether it is financial, spiritual or relating to family,” Ross-Tell said. “I honestly don’t think I would be here now if it wasn’t for them”

Marissa Greene is a Report for America corps member, covering faith for the Fort Worth Report. You can contact her at marissa.greene@fortworthreport.org or @marissaygreene.

At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

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