Scholarship support makes it possible for mother of four to pursue new career, better life for family

Melissa Varner
July 07, 2022
Jennifer Winston with her four children
Jennifer with her four children.

Jennifer Winston started making her exit plan when her husband asked for a divorce on Mother’s Day 2021.

She picked up extra jobs. And she visited MUSC’s website, to explore what might be possible for her future. “I want to have some financial stability, and I still want to be able to help others,” Jennifer explained. “I found that health informatics program to be a wonderful fit for me as a working professional.”

Health informatics is a combination of computer science and health care. The online Master of Science in Health Informatics (MSHI) program at the MUSC College of Health Professions prepares students for careers as data analysts, implementation specialists and chief information officers.

Jennifer Winston
Jennifer Winston.

When Jennifer started the program in August 2021, she was working three jobs. During the day, she worked at North Charleston Elementary School as a Communities in Schools coordinator, teaching students how to set goals for their attendance, behavior and coursework or ABCs. At night, she worked in a warehouse in Summerville building drive shafts. “I had the steel-toed boots and everything,” she said.

On weekends, she worked from 4 to 9 a.m. at a FedEx warehouse in Ladson. “Then I would come home to study and meet my deadlines by midnight Sunday night,” she said.

She was elated when she was awarded the Warren Family Endowed Scholarship, started by two professors at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC). She says the scholarship allowed her to quit her two “extra” jobs, so she could focus on her studies and her youngest daughter Zoe. “It took that burden off where I could be home and still be present mentally and emotionally for my daughter, who’s an eighth grader.”

Having scholarship support also helped offset the need to take out additional loans. That was a huge relief for Jennifer, who has been helping her two sons, Nicholas and Dezmond, pursue their own college educations. Both graduated from Clemson University in May. Her oldest daughter, Destiny, a soldier in the U.S. Army, plans to pursue a Bachelor’s in Music Therapy in Spring 2023.

Jennifer with her sons Dezmond and Nicholas
Jennifer with her sons, Dezmond, left, and Nicholas, right. Both are recent graduates of Clemson University. Dezmond earned a business degree, while Nicholas majored in architecture.

“It’s been taxing on me being the only involved parent they could count on for emotional, physical and financial support while they learn to navigate life. It’s been a great deal of pressure to make sure that they have opportunities to reach their goals, too,” Jennifer said. “My faith and positive mindset that there is something greater than our temporary circumstances supersede the countless stressful times that I have to show up for them in whatever capacity they need me to fill.”

Jennifer is grateful to the Warrens for giving her the opportunity to set a new example for her children. “I would feel so guilty for so many years and put things off, thinking, ‘Oh, no, I don't need that right now.’ But you know, I'm the goal-setting person at the school I work with.

“If I'm doing all this goal setting with others, why haven't I started investing the energy and time into myself? That has really been a wake-up call.”

She also appreciates the time the Warrens have invested in her personally. “The Warrens were so willing to suggest people who could mentor me, including other females of color who are in the industry.”

Jennifer expects to graduate in December 2022. After that, her goal is to work remotely as a data scientist and eventually, to own her own home.

“I know that this career is going to change the trajectory of my family, financially, and really help us come out of this situational poverty cycle,” Jennifer said. “It's going to help our dreams and visions come to fruition even faster.”