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Edelweiss Fund Supports Non-Traditional Wyoming Students, Working Mothers

February 11, 2011
Woman using computer
University of Wyoming master's degree student Jessica Kimzey, of Laramie, studies in the Bioscience Laboratory. She received the UW Outreach School Edelweiss Fund Scholarship that supports non-traditional students who may not otherwise be able to continue their education.

Emily Williams and Jessica Kimzey got the help they needed to continue their education from a scholarship that supports non-traditional students.

The two University of Wyoming Outreach School students received the Edelweiss Fund Scholarship beginning this spring semester. Williams is a psychology major from Wilson, and Kimzey, from Laramie, is completing her master of public administration degree.

Established in 2009, the Edelweiss Fund award goes further than most scholarships. Rather than receiving financial aid for just one year, recipients may receive support for the duration of their degree programs -- up to six years.

The scholarship also can be used for living expenses, childcare, housing, vehicle maintenance and academic expenses. The amount of the award is based on each student's individual needs.

Both Williams and Kimzey attend UW through distance-education technology and both have the challenge of balancing school, work, caring for children and family members, and maintaining a home.

"I find the ability to attend school while working and without having to relocate a substantial opportunity that promises to increase the quality of my life by both enhancing my financial security and providing me with a larger set of job skills," Williams says.

Although Williams does not have children of her own, she has taken on the responsibility of caring for her cousin's young child as well as caring for her aunt, who is ill. This has brought additional financial burden to her as she continues to balance work, school and home life in a region with a high cost of living.

Williams' goal is to complete her undergraduate psychology degree and enter UW's speech pathology graduate program.  After graduation, she sees herself working in Wyoming as a speech therapist and volunteering for local organizations that could benefit from her skills.

Kimzey in 2008 began her work in the M.P.A. program through the UW Outreach School. She says the degree will enrich her experience in a management position and further her career in the public sector.

"Thankfully, the M.P.A. program is perfectly tailored to a working adult's lifestyle," Kimzey says.

In 2010, Kimzey experienced complications in her pregnancy with her first child. Her healthy daughter was born in March, but Kimzey incurred unexpected hospital and related debt associated with the complications. Being a new mother, she became overwhelmed with finding childcare, maintaining an income and meeting additional financial obligations while trying to continue her studies.

Kimzey says she began to doubt that she would be able to complete her studies, especially at the high academic level that she had previously achieved. She applied for financial assistance from the Edelweiss Fund to help her finally clear the last hurdle and reach her goal to graduate this spring. Without the support, she feared that graduation would not be a realistic goal.

Williams and Kimzey join Renae Ragsdale and Elizabeth Mendoza as a growing group of Edelweiss Fund recipients. Ragsdale, from Lander, is a 2010 recipient who continues to receive funding. She studies professional child development in the UW Department of Family and Consumer Sciences. Mendoza, of Torrington, in December graduated from the UW College of Business.

To be eligible for the Edelweiss Fund, applicants must be non-traditional, first-generation students who have long-term ties to Wyoming. Preference is given to working mothers who show academic promise in their degree field, giving them the opportunity to spend more time with their children and concentrate on their studies.

"This scholarship is incredibly helpful to me and my family," Kimzey says.

Williams says the scholarship will give her a greater opportunity to give back.

"I will be able to make a strong contribution to my community and state by utilizing the professional skills gained through my education," she adds.

For more information about this scholarship program, visit the website at


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