Success Story

Brenda Cleveland

A single mother raising her two daughters on her own has paid her way through an undergraduate degree with a combination of student loans and scholarships. She wanted to apply for graduate school for a master’s in social work, but she needed one more class to be able to apply.

Brenda, 35, who lives in St. Louis Park, Minnesota has worked for White Castle since she was a teenager. They provide her with the flexible hours to spend quality time with her children and the location is close to home. She has worked in retail accounting for SuperValu Stores and as an AmeriCorps volunteer for the non-profit organization, Project for Pride in Living. Her AmeriCorps year of service gave her the on-the-job experience working for a non-profit organization providing direct service to individuals and families who are striving towards self-sufficiency. It also earned her an educational award to help pay for past school loans and the experience formulated her decision to return to school to get a master’s degree in social work, where she would research poverty and the ideology of self-sufficiency.

At one point, Brenda weighed 320 pounds. Now she is at 155 pounds, a 165-pound weight loss. She was driven to lose weight and she accomplished her goal by eating well and exercising. She would someday like to write a book about losing weight and the emotional side of losing weight.

Brenda wants to make sure her children understand the importance of a college education and that their dreams can be fulfilled if they provide some effort and hard work. Brenda received a $1,000 MicroGrant in 2006 to help pay for a statistics class she needed before she could apply for graduate school at the University of Minnesota. She currently is working toward her master’s degree in social work.