Charitable Hearts for Children Savannah provides scholarships to students who have lost a parent or guardian and bereavement training to educators.
Finishing high school can be an uphill battle for students in ordinary situations. For students who are battling grief, completing their education can be close to impossible.
About five percent of children will suffer the loss of parent by the time they are 15 years old. Judy Blackston, a former high school teacher in Savannah, saw firsthand the grief her students faced when dealing with that loss. After teaching for 22 years, she switched to a job in life insurance. It was during this new phase of her career that she realized how the loss of a parent can keep a child from completing their education.
"I saw the big picture and realized we need to help children who suffer the loss of a parent," says Judy. "These kids had to drop out of school and get jobs. We saw that paying rent was more important than finishing high school."
Judy started the nonprofit Charitable Hearts for Children Savannah in February 2018. The charity provides grants to students to complete high school and attend postsecondary options such as college, technical school or vocational school. The charity awards about $10,000 a year to students and has given out 20 scholarships so far.
Charitable Hearts for Children Savannah also provides bereavement training and resources to educators. Ellen Bolch, President and CEO of THA Group, a hospice care facility, helped Judy create the 81-page bereavement manual now used by the Savannah-Chatham County public school system.
The scholarship has had a major impact on students and their families. As a junior in high school, one student's mother died, and then her stepfather left the family on their own. The student cleaned houses after school to help her 19-year-old brother with the rent. With the help of the scholarship from Charitable Hearts for Children Savannah, the student was able to complete school and graduated with a 4.0 GPA. She's now working as a dispatch officer and preparing for college.
"She's amazing. She's a testament to what our organization can do for kids and for our community," says Judy. "Her education was so important to her — she overcame obstacle after obstacle to achieve her goal of graduating at the top of her class. After her mother died, she never missed any school. She's an inspiration."
Learn more about Charitable Hearts for Children Savannah on its Facebook page.
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