Here’s what one Southern Utah couple is doing to help single mothers finish college

CEDAR CITY — While neither Bruce Hughes nor Melody Hughes was ever enrolled at Southwest Technical College, they both place tremendous value on the training it provides and have gone to great lengths to help families reap the rewards of higher education.

The entrance to Southwest Technical College in Cedar City, Utah, Oct. 26, 2021 | Photo by Ammon Teare, St. George News / Cedar City News

The couple first got involved with Southwest Tech in November 2014 when Bruce Hughes was invited to join the newly-created foundation board. 

After years of helping the college raise money and organize a scholarship program, they established a fund within the broader program to help a group in particular need of support – single mothers trying to improve their situation.

“My (first) husband passed away when I was 29, and I had four little kids and lived in a very small town with few opportunities,” Melody Hughes said. “I was working four or five part-time jobs just trying to make ends meet. If I had any kind of an education where I could have made a decent living, it would have made a world of difference.”

Despite the challenges, she was able to support her children, but she hopes this scholarship program will remove some of the obstacles that single mothers face as they try to escape poverty with their families.

“Now instead of working for $8 an hour, they can potentially earn $40,000–50,000 a year,” she said. “Rather than just giving them money, we can help them develop skills where they can support themselves. That’s the whole goal of Southwest Tech.”

Two professional nurses in an office looking through some medical procedures. Stock image | Photo by dusanpetkovic/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

The single mother scholarship was first offered in 2017 and awarded to one recipient a year. Recently, this specific need-based award has been expanded to support two student-mothers annually.

Bruce Hughes said a good portion of the single mother beneficiaries used the opportunity to pursue education in the medical field. He said he was proud of the success of his wife’s scholarship program and very happy with the help that the foundation and local donors provide to all eligible students.

Whether they’re high school students transitioning into adulthood or just struggling to make ends meet, the relatively low cost of completing a potentially life-changing certificate program can still bar some from a better life. And it often doesn’t take a lot of money to fill the gap.

“These kids have tremendous success if they finish the program, and it’s an absolute crime if they’re not finishing because they can’t afford several hundred dollars in tuition,” Bruce Hughes said. “Over 60% of our graduates find a job in Iron County. Over 90% of our graduates find a job in the state of Utah, and they have greater opportunities for compensation and success.”

Stock image | Photo courtesy of Southwest Technical College, St. George News

Southwest Tech offers certificates and training in several fields, including nursing, computer science, manufacturing or culinary arts. Also, recent partnerships with Southern Utah University created a dual enrollment system where students at either institution can attend classes at both schools and participate in student activities.

For the Hugheses, the greatest reward for their efforts comes in the future success and happiness of those they served.

“Both of us come from very humble circumstances – my dad was a milkman, and I’m the only one of five children in my family who graduated from high school, let alone college,” Bruce Hughes said. “We both know what it’s like to live from paycheck to paycheck. So this is just our way of being able to give back and know that it’s going to affect the life of someone else.”

Southwest Tech offers a number of scholarships based on need, merit and leader/service. More information for students and prospective donors can be found on the scholarship webpage for Southwest Tech.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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