Hiram College

Lisa Roubic registered for her first Weekend College class in 2003. She began her first term as many other new adult students: with one class and one workshop. As is common for non-traditional students, her anxiety subsided and her confidence increased as she completed more courses. In 2007, she earned her bachelor’s degree and joined over 1,800 alumni of the Weekend College.

Roubic shared a trait common among non-traditional students: she is a single mother of three. And for this single mom, her journey to a college degree began just days after she separated from her husband.

“In my first year I didn’t have a day without tears,” Roubic said. She reflected upon staying up through the night to complete homework assignments so that she wouldn’t disrupt her kids’ daily routines.

She quickly realized that she needed support from others. Very often, that support comes from classmates who identify with the competing demands of life and learning.

For Roubic, the support came from Weekend College senior Laurie Metzko.

Laurie Metzko knows the stresses that come with attending college as a non-traditional student. Outside of class, she works at Bevan and Associates, a law firm in Northfield, in addition to running Teresa’s Pizza in Mantua with her husband.

Inspired by Lisa Roubic and the many others like her, Metzko became determined to ease the minds of single mothers who are contemplating going back to school. She knew how scary it was for a single mother to think about taking classes when the demands on their time are high and their self-esteem is low.

Her determination led her to S.M.I.L.E. – Single Mothers Improving Life through Education – an organization that will provide scholarships and support services to single mothers in college.

The genesis of S.M.I.L.E. came from a charity event sponsored by Auburn Twin Oaks Charities, LLC. In August, 2007, Metzko participated in Shadow Woodstock, an event they organized to raise money for Northeast Ohio charities. Very early in the morning of the day of the event, she decided to designate the proceeds from her booth to single moms in college. But she didn’t know of an organization that existed for that purpose.

So she started one.

“It just happened,” Metzko said. She created the acronym and began fundraising that day.

Coincidently, Metzko worked at a booth next to her friend and recent college graduate Lisa Roubic. When she pitched the idea, Roubic immediately got involved.

The two were a perfect pair to get the organization off the ground.

With her undergraduate degree behind her, Roubic knows that single mothers are capable of not only earning a college degree, but enjoying it at the same time. “I loved my third and fourth year,” she said about her change at Hiram. “I could go to school and be happy at the same time!”

Metzko saw the change first-hand. “It was an amazing transformation to watch,” she said.

Now the pair shares a vision for the future of S.M.I.L.E. They have already been awarded non-profit status from the IRS. They are fundraising to award their first scholarship of up to $1,000 later this year. Familiar with the endless obstacles that non-traditional students face, they want to offer workshops that will educate prospective college students about going to college, and support services to ease the burden upon those who are making the transition.

Response to S.M.I.L.E. has been incredible. Recently, about 35 potential volunteers expressed interest in serving on scholarship and fundraising committees.

The group is a regular presence in the Weekend College on Friday nights, serving rigatoni or Sloppy Joes to students rushing to class, no doubt a few of whom are single moms embarking upon the path to a college degree.