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Jenny Steadman

A bachelor’s degree can double the earning potential of women in Greater Hartford. What if more women had access to higher education, and, even more importantly, to programs with supports designed to help them succeed? At the Aurora Women and Girls Foundation, we believe that this is a way to break the cycle of poverty across our region. 

Our decision-making is data-driven and research-based, and we found during the pandemic that for the first time in Connecticut’s history, women outpaced men in unemployment claims and 75% of females applying for unemployment did not have a college degree. 

Aurora-funded College Success grant programs through the years have helped to provide women, especially low-income, women of color, and first-generation students, the tools they need to navigate and pursue higher education. We have identified best practices for these programs, including one-on-one counseling and advising, mentoring and introducing women to role models, building self-advocacy skills, addressing basic needs such as childcare and transportation. 

Success can be seen in jobs that pay a living wage, career ladders climbed, buying first houses, starting college savings accounts for their children, and many additional milestones. Our vision, based on the work we have done, is to expand and deepen these programs. 

We have been truly inspired recently by a very special woman and family that shares that vision. The result is a dynamic partnership that builds educational and economic opportunity for women, and in turn, for their families and communities. The benefits will go even further, accruing to our entire region – to all of us.  

96-year-old Charlotte Goode, and the newly formed Charlotte and Hy Goode Family Fund Supporting Women’s Potential, have stepped forward in an extraordinarily meaningful way.  Their decision to provide Aurora with a $1 million grant over four years – the largest in Aurora’s history, nearly tripling our annual grant-making capacity – will do precisely what needs to be done, in a way that could become the model well beyond Hartford.

The new fund, at the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, will provide $250,000 per year to Aurora to support six students who will receive access to College Success programs with additional mentoring and educational opportunities, and wrap-around supports and funding for housing, childcare, technology, health (including mental health), transportation and tuition. 

With these substantial barriers removed, the goal is to enable students to focus on their studies and to have an effective support system to help navigate any additional barriers that arise. This represents a significant investment per student, which will have a positive impact on individual success and affect their families and our communities.

Charlotte Goode’s decades of work with struggling families as guardian ad litem convinced her that the key to economic security for women who grapple with poverty and trauma was access to and successful completion of higher education, but that they need very specific support to succeed. Aurora is proud to be the partner with the college success expertise, robust community relationships and fierce advocacy for women and girls to enact Charlotte’s vision, which mirrors ours.  

The initial grant recipients selected by Aurora for this groundbreaking initiative, YWCA Hartford Region’s Young Women Career Women (YWCW) program and the Women in Transition (WIT) program at Charter Oak State College, underscore the potential of Aurora’s Enhanced College Success Program.  In the inaugural year, four students are participating in YWCY, two students in WIT.

The Director of Charter Oak State College’s WIT Program, Wanda Warshauer, explains enthusiastically that “this Enhanced Scholarship is the exclamation point for our Women in Transition Program! The generosity of the scholarship provides the resources and services to complete their degree – and so much more! It inspires our women to continue, it provides shelter, and gives our students peace of mind, increased security, and even as day care is covered, the time needed to continue to do the amazing juggling act of Woman – Mom – Student – and Provider.” 

YWCA Hartford Region Chief Program Officer Donna Sodipo points out that the grant award “addresses the often-overlooked complexities women deal with daily as they balance family, work, school, well-being, and life.  This opportunity will have a lasting effect and change the lives of our participants and their families in the years to come.”

As one of the participating students movingly observed, “This opportunity will allow me to get out of debt, SAVE, and stop over-drafting my account and living paycheck to paycheck… I can see a brighter future ahead for my children and I…We will forever be grateful for this chance.”

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Jenny Steadman

Jennifer Steadman, Ph.D., is Executive Director of the Aurora Women and Girls Foundation, which serves as a catalyst for positive change in the lives of women and girls in Greater Hartford, with the intended effect of unlocking the potential of their families and surrounding communities. For more information and to donate in support of Aurora initiatives, visit

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