Amanda Ray ’05 became pregnant at 14 years old and began working at 16. By the time she started classes at UTC, this single mother was raising a two-year-old son and juggling the challenges of single-parenthood, work, and school.
“On an average day, I would get up, get myself ready, get my son ready, pack his bag, pack my book bag, take him to daycare and then go to class. After classes, I would usually head straight to work,” said Ray. “When I arrived home it was usually dark. Getting in the house was always such a struggle. I usually had a sleepy child, his bag, my book bag, my purse, and maybe a lunch box in my arms. Once I tucked him in bed, I would start studying. At some point I would go to sleep, wake up and start it all over.”
Ray needed help. Encouragement came from Cynthia Wallace ’97, director of the Educational Opportunity Center, a program of the UTC Center for Community Career Education. Helping clients for more than 31 years, the center uses grant funding to provide career counseling to individuals and technical assistance to agencies.
Today Ray holds degrees from UTC and the University of Memphis Law School and was recently named an associate with Chambliss, Bahner & Stophel P.C.
“In this economy, there are many people who have graduated law school and are either unemployed or are not using their law degrees, “ she said. “I count my blessings each and every day for the opportunity that I have been given.”
Since its beginning, CCCE’s mission has been dedicated to educate, support and inspire individuals to achieve their potential. “Thousands have been provided with services that have enriched their lives and provided them with opportunities and skills to achieve their goals,” said Sandy Cole ’74, ’89, ’00, center director.
Wallace introduced Ray to the Executive Women International, sponsors of the Jean Bradford Memorial Scholarship to assist college students who are displaced homemakers or single mothers.
“The scholarship encouraged me greatly to know that there was a group of people that believed in me,” said Ray. “Up to that point, it seemed like society looked down on me because I was a single, teenage mother. Executive Women International, however, believed in me in spite