The Power of Education

One of the cornerstones of Independence Center’s mission is to assist members in their pursuit of education; this often stems from a desire to move forward in the workforce. Education staff works closely with members to establish personalized education plans to transform these ambitions into reality. Furthermore, Independence Center offers assistance with the schooling application process, registration and course selection, as well as options regarding financial aid. Tutoring is available for active students, along with test preparation and guidance working with mentors and advisors at their given institution. With support from Independence Center, many members have committed to working toward an education that leads to the independent employment opportunities they desire.

The Sidney R. Baer, Jr. Foundation generously awarded Independence Center an educational grant spanning over the past three years. Last year, 127 members participated in the education program; 93 members received individualized coaching, including assistance determining financial aid resources available; and 23 members worked to develop literacy skills and enrolled in HiSET courses. More than one third of the members who participated in the program enrolled in trade school or community college in pursuit of their degree. Fourteen scholarships were allocated to ten members by a committee designed to review applications and determine those with the greatest need.

Independence Center member Terri Hodges is one of many members working on a post-secondary education and has received financial assistance through the Sidney R. Baer, Jr. Foundation. Terri has been a member for over ten years, and spends every week day (including many Saturdays) working in the Clubhouse Shop assisting customers with expert fashion advice and all-inclusive tours of the donated household goods showcased throughout the store. Terri truly cares about others and always goes the extra mile to make people feel comfortable and valued as customers, coworkers, and friends. She creates beautiful compositions with eclectic furniture, clothing, and jewelry, demonstrating that the Clubhouse Shop is a place she holds dear; something quite clear when you walk in the door.

One afternoon, a customer mentioned to Terri that her compassionate nature would make her a great social worker, and that she should consider going back to school. This planted a seed for Terri, and through some initial scholarship money she began taking a couple classes at St. Louis Community College. Eventually, temporary funds ran out and although Terri was about half way completed with her associate’s degree, she knew she would have no choice but to quit. This is when she learned about the Sidney R. Baer, Jr. Foundation scholarships being offered to members through the education program at Independence Center.

Terri became a grateful recipient of a scholarship that allowed her to continue her education; she began taking classes in 2011, and graduated this spring with her associate’s degree in social work. Education has become so important to Terri, and her initial fear of losing the opportunity to pursue that has since subsided. “The Baer scholarship was the life saver I needed when I felt like I was about to drown” Terri says. She proceeds to explain her plans for the upcoming fall at Fontbonne University, continuing on for a bachelor’s degree in social work.

Terri has completed an internship with Queen of Peace, a drug-addiction treatment center for women in St. Louis, and plans to continue working in the field as a drug counselor after she finishes school. “I want to give back to those in need what I have received so freely. What I have gained is my gift to give away.” Terri feels extremely supported by Independence Center and the Sidney R. Baer, Jr. Foundation; Her educational goals and accomplishments fuel her undoubtedly bright future as a social worker in the community.

Terri works in the Independence Center Clubhouse Store Monday through Friday, 10am to 2pm, and is here most Saturdays. She loves to share her stories, and extends an invitation to come see her at any time!