Michael Brandy, Deseret News
Dotti Durtschi speaks at Sugarhouse Park on Saturday. Durtschi is founder of Synergy, a soon-to-be-launched free magazine for single moms.

SUGAR HOUSE — After 17 years of marriage, Pam Denicke found herself divorced and supporting two children.

She had a high school diploma and no marketable skills.

"It was one of the most scary times of my life," said Denicke of Salt Lake City.

Sixteen years later, Denicke is in the MBA program at Westminster College.

She is also the education program manager for the Single Mom Foundation, which has developed a Web site, www.singlemomfoundation.org, offering single moms advice on choosing a career, selecting a school and paying for college.

"Education opens doors. It levels the playing field," Denicke said. "Education is a great equalizer."

Partnering with Synergy, a soon-to-be-launched free magazine for single moms, foundation officials and community leaders gathered Saturday in Sugarhouse Park to raise awareness of the issues single moms face.

"Many women are struggling," said Dotti Durtschi, founder of Synergy.

Synergy, slated to debut in November, will be organizing monthly events and a conference this summer for single moms, as well as serving as a resource guide. For more information, go to www.synergyinutah.com.

The challenges single moms face include living at or below the poverty level, lacking education and skills, getting child support and even suffering from higher rates of domestic violence and rape.

"Offenders will seek out people who appear more vulnerable. A mother and children are often perceived as a vulnerable situation," said Amy Jensen, program coordinator the Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

Recently widowed Sen. Karen Mayne, D-West Valley City, addressed the group, saying she didn't choose her circumstances.

"You can either be a victim or a survivor," Mayne said. "Women are strong. You do not know how strong you are. Know your power."

Denicke says the key to empowerment is education. Her children were 10 and 13 when she started at Salt Lake Community College — an institution she chose because it was "less intimidating."

She developed two mentors at the college: a professor and an employer on campus.

"There were people who believed in me before I believed in myself," Denicke said.

She transferred to Westminster and earned a bachelor's degree in social science. She then went through the University of Utah's social-work graduate program.

Getting through college as a single mom is difficult, especially when children get sick or have activities you need to attend, Denicke said.

"It's a challenge to be a mom, head of household and a student," she said.

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