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Department of Communications/
News Bureau
22 Davis Hall, 10 Lippitt Road, Kingston, RI 0288
Phone: 401-874-2116 Fax: 401-874-7872

URI scholarship recipient wants to give children a head start

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- March 23, 2001 -- University of Rhode Island student Gail DeRobbio of Cranston wants to give all children a head start so she’s studying to become an elementary schoolteacher.

"Education is a priority, "says the 46-year-old mother of three who was named the 1997-98 "Parent of the Year" by both the Rhode Island Head Start Association and the New England Head Start Association.

As a single mom on public assistance, getting an education can be a struggle to say the least. But thanks to foresight and generosity of a woman, who never met DeRobbio, family finances got a reprieve this year.

DeRobbio is one of this year’s six recipients of the Eleanor M. and Oscar M. Carlson Endowed Scholarships for Single Mothers, which provide full tuition and a book allowance to women who are head of households with one or more dependent children.

By all accounts, the late Eleanor Carlson was a remarkable woman. "I have a deep interest in, and a great passion for matters which affect the status of women in our society," the former program director of URI’s Memorial Union wrote in her will, naming URI the beneficiary of a $1-million life insurance policy. She died in 1994.

"I wish every single woman left with young children could get this scholarship," says DeRobbio who attends classes at URI’s Alan Shawn Feinstein College of Continuing Education in Providence. "It means my freedom from worry."

In addition to taking four courses at URI, DeRobbio is president of the Parents and Teachers of Gladstone school, vice chair of the Cranston Educational Advisory Board, chair of her Neighborhood Crime Watch, a den leader for Cub Scouts, a member of the practitioner’s workgroup for the Department of Education, which is developing standards for early childhood, particularly four-year-olds.

She also conducts workshops for Head Start designed to empower parents. "I realized that there was more to life when I became heavily involved with Head Start," says DeRobbio. "Head Start involves parents in their children’s education. I always thought you left that up to the schools. I can see that kids can slide by or do poorly in school when parents aren’t paying attention," says the mother of 8-year-old twins Adam and Aaron and 6-year-old Albert. "That’s why I want to become a teacher. There is so much to be done."

DeRobbio once dreamed of becoming a top fashion model. Today she is

achieving her goal. Instead of a model of clothes, the URI sophomore is a model of determination and an inspiration to other single parents. No doubt, just the kind of woman Eleanor Carlson had in mind.

Applications are now being accepted at the Women’s Studies Program at the University of Rhode Island for the Eleanor M. and Oscar M. Carlson Endowed Scholarships for Single Mothers. The scholarships pay full in-state tuition scholarships for female heads of households with one or more children who will be attending the university this fall. Deadline is April 16. Call 874-5150 for an application.

For Information: Mary Ellen Reilly, 874-5150, Jan Sawyer, 874-2116

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