By Jeff Heebner
Taking college classes as a single parent of a young child isn’t easy. Just ask Jenny Reina, mother of 8-year-old Mateo. She’s an FIU Business finance major and a single mother who has had to ask for help from friends.
“Especially when my son was younger, when he was little, I always had to ask for help so I had time to study,” said Reina, who is from Colombia. “I moved to the U.S. by myself with my son. It was really hard in the beginning because I didn’t know anyone here.”
She had been relying on family members, who run a business in Bogota, for financial support. When the pandemic hit, the business had to close.
“Right now, it is tough,” said Reina. “My family and I have a business that we manage in Colombia, but since COVID, it’s not the same. It’s been really, really hard.”
As a result, Reina started looking for an FIU scholarship. She was surprised to find one for single parents. She applied and received a $3,000 scholarship through the Cristina and Arturo di Mauro Single Parent Support Fund for the spring 2023 semester.
Jenny Reina, with her 8-year-old son, Mateo
“Since I was looking for some relief, economic relief, I was looking for a scholarship,” says Reina. “I was lucky to get this one.”
The scholarship fund was established with a gift from Cristina di Mauro (BBA ’01) and her husband, Arturo, also an FIU alumnus. It was inspired by di Mauro’s mother, who raised her kids as a Miami single mom while working as a school teacher and earning a master’s degree.
“This scholarship helps me a lot to pay for my tuition this semester. As an international student, I pay more than people from here, so it helps me a lot, that money,” said Reina. “It was really helpful, and I would like to saythank you to the donors for their support.”
It's so important that someone is out there to support our single parents who are trying to finish their education, not only just for ourselves, but also our kids.
Another student to benefit from the singleparent scholarship fund was Yuehan Zhao, an FIU Business management major and a single mother to her daughter, Angelina, who is 4 years old. Zhao also received a scholarship totaling $3,000, hers for the fall 2022 and spring 2023 semesters.
“I went on the scholarship website for FIU,” said Zhao. “I was looking for a scholarship at the time, and to my surprise, there was a single parent one, and I couldn’t believe it – that there was somebody out there trying to support a single parent.”
Zhao is also an international student, from China, relying on her family back home for financial help.
“It was really crucial for me because my family, my parents, are the only ones who are supporting me,” said Zhao. “I was actually really thrilled when I saw the scholarship coming in.”
Yuehan Zhao with her 4-year-old daughter, Angelina
Without the scholarship, she said she would have faced financial difficulty as she pushed through to graduate in spring 2023.
She is very grateful to the donors who made the scholarship possible, noting that earning her degree will pave the path to a better future for her daughter.
“It’s so important that someone is out there to support our single parents who are trying to finish our education, not only just for ourselves, but also for our kids,” said Zhao.
By the end of 2022, Zhao already had two job offers. As for Reina, she expects to graduate in fall 2023 and is looking forward to becoming a financial analyst.
“My goal is to grow in that career,” she said.