In 2000, the Alabama Affordable Housing Association (AAHA) created an education scholarship program for residents of member-owned apartment properties in Alabama. The scholarship funds are donated by the owners, contractors, architects, accountants, property management companies, investors, lenders, developers, and various vendors that make up AAHA’s membership as well as other non-member individuals. Since its inception, the AAHA resident scholarship fund has awarded more than $750,000 in college and vocational scholarships.
Twenty years passed between high school and starting college for mother of three Miranda Simmons. An unplanned pregnancy and an abusive marriage put her college dreams on hold. But she’s not letting lost time keep her from her goal of earning a college degree.
When Miranda and her children, now 18, 13 and 10, left with only the clothes on their backs, they were able to start over with help from family. “We left with nothing and started over,” she said. “I had to get whatever job I could find. A lot of times that didn’t cover the basic necessities.”
She found employment with the Fort Payne City Board of Education as a bus driver, a position she has now held for 10 years, and part time as a substitute in the school cafeteria. Miranda said, “[Those jobs were] enough with my Section 8 to afford to live in a decent place and not have to scrape together as bad.”
The Simmons family make their home in North Pointe Apartments, a 56-unit family development financed in part by HOME Investment Partnerships Program funds and Housing Credits administered by AHFA.
“It gives me peace of mind to know that I’m giving my children a nice place to live,” she said. “We’ve lived in some awful places because we had no other choice. It's life changing for someone who hasn’t had that before.”
With housing handled, Miranda focused on paying off her car loan. “Once I paid it off, my checks were enough that we had $100 left over a month, enough to afford gas to go back and forth to school," she said. "I don’t want to keep living paycheck to paycheck. I want a future. I want a career. I want to have money in my savings account. I want to be able to send my kids to whatever college they want to go to. I can do all that if I get a teaching degree.”
In May of 2018, Miranda began taking classes at Northeast Alabama Community College, where she maintains a 4.0 GPA and is a member of Phi Theta Kappa and Signa Kappa Delta. “I’ve had to scale back some on [my part-time employment] to keep my GPA up, but school comes first,” she said.
She plans to transfer to the University of Alabama to complete a bachelor’s degree in social sciences education and become a history teacher. The $1,500 AAHA resident scholarship will help ease the financial burdens that weigh on the dedicated working mother and student.
“It’s very hard for me to get scholarships because of my age,” said Miranda. “A lot of people think younger kids coming out of high school are a better investment. I’m 38 years old. Who’s going to want to invest in me? But I won this one. It takes the pressure off.”
For more information about the resident scholarship program, please contact Arrice Faught, AAHA’s executive director, at [email protected] or 205.758.1158.