SPSFBC Alumni: Twyla Rownak’s Story- Learning to Survive

Like many young people, I began my adult life with big dreams. I never pictured myself as a single mother. I went straight from high school to college and got married soon after that. I finished two years at the University of Arkansas, but then I quit so I could be a stay-at-home wife and mom. Daniel and I had four children in seven years. We bought a house with a big yard, and I thought my life was almost perfect. Then my husband was murdered by strangers on his way home from work.

At 30, I found myself as a single mom with four children ages 9 and under, little education, and even less career history.

A friend was giving my husband a ride home after work when some young men in another vehicle pulled up to the passenger side of the car and began shooting. One of the bullets hit Daniel. He died instantly, but because of the heroic actions of the driver, his friend, the murderers were arrested within hours. None of that mattered to me when the police officer dropped me off at St. Mary’s hospital. Since my husband was an organ donor, I stayed there for the next day and a half until life support was finally turned off. Without God and trustworthy family and friends, my children and I never would have endured it. Learning to survive, creating a healing home for my children, and the pending murder trial, dominated my thoughts for the next two and a half years.

Learning to survive and trusting my friends brought me to a church’s grief support group. The facilitator of the group, Marjorie Marugg-Wolfe, became a friend and mentor. She not only guided me through grief, but she also encouraged me to return to school with the help of Single Parent Scholarship Fund of Benton County. At the time, I had no idea why she was so insistent except that she wanted to help me to improve my life.

Social security payments are enough to get by and exist on, but a college education would allow me to rise above all that and make a living. Marjorie wanted me to set goals for myself and to work to improve my future. Honestly, I did not pay much attention at first. But after over two years, when life sentences were handed down to the murderers and my children seemed to be somewhat normal and emotionally healthy, I was ready to begin planning for the future. Even though I still felt numb, confused, and inadequate, I finally followed my friend’s advice. I applied for the scholarship and enrolled in NWACC. I was then surprised to learn that she not only worked with SPSFBC, but she established it.

Being in the SPSFBC program was truly a blessing. Not only did the money and the people help me to return to school, they also helped me identify my strengths and choose a career path. Furthermore, they provided free mental health counseling for me when I finally allowed myself to seek help. In addition to helping finance my education, the scholarship fund provided for daily needs like gas money, new brakes for my car, and paying utility bills.

I earned an Organizational Management degree from John Brown University in 2011 and then began graduate school at JBU. I graduated in May 2015 with a M.S. in Marriage & Family Therapy and Community Counseling. I am currently employed at Kids for the Future, Rogers and 4Rivers Counseling Center. With my current positions and education, I provide specialized therapy for individuals and families suffering from trauma, loss, and other environmental or relational issues

Starting July 1, I will be SPSFBC’S first full-time, on-site licensed counselor! Performing readiness assessments for the new students each semester, while also providing counseling services for SPSFBC recipients as well as lend expertise to the other Single Parent Scholarship Fund affiliates across the state of Arkansas. I am so thankful for the guidance and support that SPSFBC has given me, and I look forward to passing on those same things to future single moms and dads in the SPSFBC program.