(Utica Observer-Dispatch, March 16, 2007, by Rocco LaDuca)
Grandfather of slain child creates scholarship for single mothers Utica
After 2-year-old Daron Simpson was beaten to death in November 2004, the toddler's grandfather wanted to do something in memory of the child, so he started a scholarship for single mothers.
Shortly after Daron was born, Robert Lacell began setting aside money to help pay for his grandson's future education. By the time Daron was killed, Lacell had saved about $1,000.
With that $1,000, Lacell started the Daron Malik Jae Simpson Memorial Scholarship for Single Mothers at Mohawk Valley Community College.
"We couldn't just let his life slip away without having it count for something," said Lacell, MVCC's retired public information director. "So this is an effort to memorialize Daron and tell the world that Daron was here and he still is here in many ways."
Because Daron's mother, Elizabeth Lacell, 22, was a single, minority mother, Robert Lacell and his family wanted to help the mothers of children in similar situations....
The scholarship, administered by the MVCC Foundation, is aimed toward single minority mothers who live in Utica or other Oneida County communities. The award is $250 per semester, and will renew automatically for three additional semesters for a total of $1,000 as long as the recipient maintains a grade point average of 2.0 or higher, Lacell said.
"The first thing is to be a single mother with financial need, and we want to make sure that the person who receives the scholarship is sincerely committed to making a good life for their child through education, employment and family stability," Lacell said.
Applications must be received by the MVCC Office of Institutional advancement by April 1, and the scholarship would likely be awarded in May for the fall semester, Lacell said....
Single mothers who pursue higher education can find themselves overwhelmed at some point, said Denise Cavanaugh, executive director of the YWCA of the Mohawk Valley. After all, Cavanaugh said, such a scholarship doesn't make a single mother's problem disappear.
But the fact that such assistance is available to single mothers helps them realize that they are not alone and that they still have somebody rooting for them to go to school, Cavanaugh said.
"Just the idea of a scholarship, a lot of it is empowerment and self-esteem building to know there is somebody or a series of people who are interested in assisting them," Cavanaugh said. "A community is really looking to pay attention to these women who haven't had an opportunity.
And single mothers should have an opportunity for furthers schooling, said Sarah Beth Lardie, executive director of the MVCC Office of Institutional Advancement. It not only benefits the single mothers and their children, but it also benefits the college population as a whole, she said.
"Experience and perspective are part of what creates a diverse institution," Lardie said. "Everybody's unique life experiences enrich the college community, so I think that parenting experience is enriching to the campus."
The scholarship fund could always use more donations as well, so that larger scholarships may be offered one day, Lacell said.
"It really is about the children," Lacell said. "You can make judgments about single mothers if you want to, but at the end of the day, there's still a child and we want to do something for that child. And the way we feel we can do that best is to help the mother."
(This article is posted with permission of the Oberver-Dispatch)