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Mom Panhandles for Son's Tuition

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Shelle Curley can't afford to send her son to the prestigious high school to which he was accepted. So she took matters into her own hands.

Mom Panhandles for Son's Tuition

A single mom in Bellevue, Washington, has been panhandling to help pay for her son's senior year at Idyllwild Performing Arts School. Her son D.J. was awarded a $45,000 scholarship, but Curley (who's unemployed) still fell short of the $53,000 per year tuition. That's when she hit the streets.

Shelle talked to momlogic about her out-of-the-box fund-raising methods.

ML: What made you decide to panhandle for money?

Shelle: Well, we were in a time crunch, and had to raise a certain amount of money by a certain time. I left my commission-only sales job of eight years back in April, and haven't been able to find a job since. In July, my son found out he was accepted to this school and was awarded this scholarship. I knew this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I couldn't let slip away.

First, I tried Craigslist postings, candy sales, car washes -- anything I could think of to raise money. I tried applying for loans -- but since this is high school tuition, not college, there's not much available. I had ten days left to raise the initial $1,433 deposit, and my daughter said, "Why don't you go beg, Mom?" She was only kidding, but I thought it was a great idea.

ML: How did it feel out there panhandling the first day?

Shelle: At first, I tried to hide my face. I was embarrassed. But then I thought of the sacrifice he has made in dance -- the iced feet, the chiropractic visits, the ibuprofen, and I just held my head up high. He has worked so hard to get that scholarship. This is his senior year. This door is open now, but it might never be open again. They only take 15 new dancers a year. I have to do whatever I can do in my power to pay for this. I'm getting him there!

Other homeless people approached me and told me to get off the corner. I wouldn't budge though for ten days.

After a news story appeared about me on the ninth day, people were very abusive. They would roll down their windows, throw things at me, and call me "pathetic" and "lazy." It was really hurtful. But I knew I was doing this for my son, and that pulled me through.

ML: Has your son been into dancing his whole life?

Shelle: He has only been dancing a little over a year. He's always been involved in choir, drama, and cheerleading, but a year and a half ago, he took a hip-hop class. The teacher pulled me aside and said my son has an incredible gift, and he needed to be in every class the school offered. I was like, "Yeah, right." At my commission-only sales job, I had been routinely getting checks for $0.00, and I knew there was no way I could afford it. She said she was full-scholarship-ping him right there. She became his mentor. Soon, the performing arts school he's been accepted to found us. It's the best of its kind in the country. This is his shot at a college education and a scholarship. I am just so proud of my son and what he's accomplished.

ML: What is the financial situation now?

Shelle: We raised the first deposit of $1,433, and I raised $511 for gas and lodging to get up to the school for parent's weekend.

The next payments are due November 1, January 1, February 1, and March 1 -- $1,433 each. We have set up a website asking for donations. I am trying to find a great job, am still looking for grants and loans, and will continue to do fund-raising. I am also trying to sell my artwork on the side.

If we raise more than we need, my son would like to set up a scholarship for the Boys and Girls Club, for kids to study dance. He teaches a dance class there and loves the organization.

ML: What do you say to your critics?

Shelle: They don't know the full story. I'm not lazy or a freeloader, and neither is my son. We have just hit hard times and are doing whatever we can to raise the money so he can follow his dream. I will never give up on that.

next: Parents Sue Dunkin' Over Son's Hash Brown Burn
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