As a single mother of six, Jennilyn Watson-Jessop would walk out to her car most mornings praying it would start.
But she need not worry any longer.
On May 16, the Utah Valley University automotive department presented Watson-Jessop with a refurbished, fully functional Dodge Caravan at the Utah Auto Expo at Thanksgiving Point, along with the car title and a full tank of gas. The giveaway was done as a scholarship to benefit single mothers and was given through the Women’s Success Center.
Watson-Jessop, a third-year student at UVU, said she loved her old 1998 Chevrolet Astro, but found herself in a bind when auto mechanics told her the van was living on borrowed time.
“It was kind of nerve-wracking, wondering if it’s going to start and get me to school, or get my kids to school, or get me to work,” she said. “We took it into a mechanic and he said with everything that’s wrong with it, it’s not worth enough to justify fixing everything.”
She then researched scholarships and student loans through the Women’s Success Center so she could finance a new vehicle to help with her 20-minute commute from Cedar Hills, where she and three of her children live in a basement apartment at her parents’ house.
After learning the automotive department was planning the giveaway, she filled out an application. She was alerted last month that she would be the recipient of the van.
Don Wilson, chairman of the UVU Automotive Department, said the school began donating cars to individuals in need in the 1990s. It was done on and off since, including a similar giveaway last year where a handicap-compatible van was donated to an individual through the Veterans Association.
This year’s car was donated to the school about a year ago. Students started working on it at the beginning of the calendar year. They fixed dents in the body, repainted everything and did, what Wilson said, was some really technical welding work to repair the bumper.
“It’s just a good thing that we learn how to be good stewards of what we’ve got, and to be giving,” said Wilson. “It’s not always supposed to be about just taking.”
Thanks to donations from local auto shops and other outside parties, as well as the lack of labor costs, Wilson said the cost of the refurbishment was under $1,000.
Michael Savoie, Dean of the College of Technology and Computing at UVU, was also present to congratulate Watson-Jessop on the car.
“We’re very proud of the university to be able to participate in this and we’re excited to be able to award this van,” he said during the small ceremony. “We hope it’ll be something that will be beneficial to [Watson-Jessop] for a long time.”
Watson-Jessop was quick to thank those who contributed to the fixing up of the car and said this will make her life as a single mother much easier.
“This is going to be just awesome. It’ll be so nice to have something reliable to get to school and work and to run the kids around,” said Watson-Jessop.
Female students at UVU can learn more about potential scholarships by contacting the Women’s Success Center at (801) 863-3010 or by visiting their office located in the Losee Center. They are open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.