PEO seeks to uplift women through grants

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Philanthropic Educational Organization (PEO) is currently looking for candidates ready to receive the organization’s P.E.O. Program for Continuing Education (PCE) grant.
PEO is a private international group so where other scholarships give the money to universities and allow them to choose how to dispense it, PEO requires that candidates be brought to them for subsequent awarding.

According to PEO’s website, the heart of the organization is, “helping women reach for the stars.” It follows then that one of the very first criteria for a candidate to be eligible is that they must be a woman.
Payne has spoken to various deans, the Financial Aid Office, the Student Money Management center and has now expanded to Evolve, an Academic Support Program for female students at SHSU. Still, she’s had no luck.

“For this particular scholarship, it needs to be someone who has had a break in their education at some point since graduating from high school of two years or more,” Committee Chair for the PCE grant Grettle Payne said. “So, it can be somebody who went to work for a couple years and now wants to go back to school, or it could be somebody like me who went back when I was 45 to get my master’s degree. You just have to have two years of a break between high school and now.”

Interested candidates must also already be enrolled in school and within 18 months of their expected graduation date. Payne is able to award this scholarship up to four times a year. However, she has averaged only one candidate a year for the past four years. Payne says some issues are lack of information and lack of qualification.

“I guess it’s just finding someone who qualifies. I think there’s probably a need for more information for most people,” Payne explained. “I think that’s also an issue is getting the information to the appropriate candidates. Just finding someone who fits that qualification of returning to school and really needing it. They want the money to reside at Sam Houston and our group doesn’t work that way. We won’t give you our scholarship funds and have you make the award. It has to be someone who contacts us.”
Payne has no prospects yet. Due to Privacy of Information laws, many of the schools and offices Payne has reached out to are unable to simply give her a name. It is her hope that those who now know of the organization will make the move to refer students in her direction.

“I’ve tried. I’ve gone on campus with a big sign saying, ‘Free money’ and passed out fliers to students as they passed by the mall,” Payne said. “I have been down to the Woodlands campus, same thing, passing out fliers, and we just don’t seem to be connecting with the right people.”

The last grant Payne was able to give was in December 2021 to Elizabeth Edwards, an SHSU student Payne knew from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, right here in Huntsville. This was also the largest award Payne has ever given, coming in at $2600. The scholarship is international and can go to anyone. However, as Program Chair and a strong supporter of Sam Houston, Payne would like to see the money given closer to home.

“My husband was Vice President of Academic Affairs for 10 years,” Payne said. “Other scholarships that we have are for graduates and they apparently have much better luck at Texas A&M. But the Sam Houston connection for me, I’m like ‘I want this money to go to Sam kids.”

While the period for this term has passed to be awarded the scholarship, the application is currently open for the fall and spring semester for next year.

“In order to have an award for next fall I have to have the information ready to present to my club in the first part of May, so all the paperwork has to be done in April,” Payne said. “Then I present the name of the person to the club, they vote. I can forward the application information 10 weeks before the start of school so that puts it in June sometime. Then a scholarship can be ready by the start of school in August.”
Payne described the vote as “pro forma,” meaning, “as a formality.” So long as Payne is able to submit to her committee a genuine applicant, nearly nothing else stands in their way. Timelines for PEO are rigid but on paper, the application process is simple.

More opportunities with different criteria are available at and, though Payne does not work with those projects she is happy to pass the information along to those that do. Payne encourages interested and eligible students to contact her via email at

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