Two Johnson County women will be able to continue their dreams of higher education after receiving $4,000 in grants in January from the local chapter of PEO International.

“These funds will allow both of these women to finish pursuing their degrees without having to worry about the financial burden of attending college,” said PEO member Tammy Kramer. “We couldn’t be more excited to award it to them.”

PEO – also known as the Philanthropic Education Organization – is dedicated to helping women “reach for the stars” by providing loans and grants that allow them to continue their college education.

This year, Christy Zezas was awarded a $2,200 Program for Continuing Education grant to continue her studies at Sheridan College to become a dental hygienist. Zezas previously received a $300 grant from the organization in 2015.

Afton Chesbro received a $1,800 Program for Continuing Education grant to complete her bachelor’s degree in education at Black Hills State University. The organization also provided her with a $12,000 loan through PEO’s Educational Loan Fund Program.

Since it started in 1869 at Iowa Wesleyan College as a small student organization dedicated to helping women reach their full potential, the PEO has provided more than 83,000 women from across the country with grants and loans.

Since 2001, the Buffalo chapter of the PEO has given almost $100,000 to Johnson County women in the form of grants, loans and donations.

To qualify for both the Educational Loan Fund program and the Program for Continuing Education, a woman must be within two years of completing her degree, according to Kramer.

“This is a really great program that is available to all Johnson County women who are pursuing a degree for the first time,” Kramer said. “College is expensive, which can make it a bit daunting to go back to school. Our hope is that, through these grants and loans, our organization can eliminate one hurdle that often keeps local women from pursuing their degrees.”

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