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This is a guest post by AARP Vice President of Multicultural Markets, Edna Kane-Williams. Williams is responsible for the development and execution of strategy relating to growing the association’s African American/Black membership. She previously served as Vice President of Strategy and Communications within the AARP Foundation.

Black History month celebrates the perseverance of a determined people. Each year we’re reminded of how African Americans have survived, overcome and excelled despite major obstacles, challenges and injustices.

Edna Kane-Williams

Edna Kane-Williams

Black women have always figured prominently in African-American progress, from education to entrepreneurship to activism. As strong pillars of their families and communities, African-American mothers often sacrificed their own advancement to make sure their children got a good education for a chance at a better future.

Women take pride in caring for others – children, spouses, loved ones as they age – often at their own expense. They readily forgo time, money, health and career opportunities to secure the well-being of family and friends. And like Black women before them, they meet these challenges courageously, head on.

AARP recognizes and supports Black women and their commitment to family. The Association wants to raise awareness about its available resources to help women appreciate themselves more by improving their earning potential through education and planning for their future.

Research shows women are at greater risk of having insufficient financial resources in the second half of life due to lower earnings and work patterns that often differ dramatically from most men – like taking time off to raise children, caring for family members, working in part-time positions or in jobs without significant benefits.

Today, access to education has improved exponentially and young Black women are earning undergraduate and graduate degrees in numbers unimaginable half-a-century ago. However, hard-working older Black women with basic educations, limited incomes and benefits, also dream of achieving new levels of financial stability and success, but can’t afford advanced training or college education.

For these women, AARP Foundation’s Women’s Scholarship Program is creating opportunities to support their dreams. Last year, AARP Foundation awarded over $500 thousand dollars in scholarships, ranging from $500 to $5,000 each, to low income older women of all backgrounds; one fourth of the recipients were African American. This assistance helped them get into college and training programs that had been out of reach. Now, they’re adding value to the lifetime of skill and ability they’ve already developed.

The scholarship application period for the 2012-2013 academic year will be open until Friday, March 30, 2012 at 5:00P.M. CST.

But education is only part of the equation. Many women have cared for one or more older relatives, but haven’t considered their own needs for the future. That’s why AARP developed a campaign dedicated to helping women start planning for the future they envision for themselves – Decide. Create. Share.SM

Specifically, the campaign tools help women think about important long-term plans, such as how they’ll maintain their best health; what long-term care costs they’ll face down the line and how to cover them; how to make sure their long-term wishes will be honored through advance directives; and how and where they want to live as they get older. While at AARP’s site, African-American women, family and friends can also visit the Black Community page to interact online with other 50+ African Americans.

During February especially, African Americans work diligently to promote growth in the present to create an even greater legacy for future generations. AARP and the AARP Foundation are proud to be part of that growth.