Diocesan News

College Grad’s Message to Pregnant Students: ‘Your Life Isn’t Over’

Malika Pegues (right) has already put the scholarship funds she received from the foundation started by Josephine Rose (left) to good use. She also donated a portion to charity. “I believe in giving back,” she says. (Photo: Paula Katinas)

WINDSOR TERRACE — College students who find themselves pregnant often believe dropping out of school is their only option.

They’re wrong, says Josephine Rose, a graduate of Queens College. 

To prove her point, Rose has established a scholarship for pregnant students and students who are mothers.

Rose started the Kathleen Mullally Foundation, a non-profit named after an aunt who inspired her. The foundation was officially established in December 2020 and currently has an endowment of $14,000 to award scholarships and raise awareness of the special needs of maternal students. Her goal is to award a $1,000 grant to one student each semester.

According to the Pregnant on Campus Initiative, over two million college-age women in the U.S. become pregnant each year. The initiative was founded by the national pro-life group organization Students for Life. 

Between 2008 and 2014, women between the ages of 20 and 24 accounted for the highest rate of abortions of any age group, according to the National Institutes of Health.

“The abortion industry wants you to believe that if you’re pregnant, and you decide to have the baby, your life is going to be over and you have to leave school,” said Rose, who was a member of Students for Life while an undergraduate. “Part of why I started the foundation is to spread the message that, ‘No, your life isn’t over. You can do this.’ And our recipient is a glowing example of that.”

The foundation recently awarded its first scholarship to Malika Pegues, a Queens College student and mother of three daughters whose story of grit and determination deeply moved Rose.

Pegues received $1,000 which she put toward family and household expenses. She also donated a portion of her winnings to charity. “I believe in giving back,” she said.

At one point Pegues, a U.S. Air Force veteran, fell on hard times, and for a time lived with her daughters in a women’s shelter. At that point, she decided to change her circumstances by returning to college and getting a degree.

“I decided to go back to school while I was in the shelter because I wanted to reclaim my power,” Pegues said. She was accepted into the City University of New York Baccalaureate Program for Unique and Interdisciplinary Studies.

Her determination was such that even the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t stop her. 

During the height of the pandemic, when New York City was in lockdown and restaurants were closed, she would drop her children off with a relative and then take a long drive out to Long Island, where restaurants were open so that she could sit at a table in a Panera Bread eatery use the free Wi-Fi there to take her CUNY courses online.

In addition to her studies, Pegues has found time to serve as president of the Queens College Chapter of the National Society of Leadership and Success. The busy mom also holds down two jobs: as a team leader for crisis counselors at Project Hope and as an organizer of recreation programs for children with learning disabilities.

She wants to be an inspiration to her children, adding: “I don’t want my daughters to make the same mistakes in life I did. That’s where my motivation comes from.”

When Rose read Pegues’ scholarship application, she was impressed.

“I just thought, ‘She’s so outstanding,’ ” Rose recalled.

Kathleen Mullally, Rose’s late aunt, for whom her non-profit foundation is named, “Never had any children of her own. But she loved each and every one of her nieces and nephews so much. She was a really successful salesperson with Xerox. And when she passed away, she left a sizable amount of money to her large extended family. I couldn’t think of a better way of remembering her,” Rose explained.

The pro-life cause is close to Rose’s heart. She has served as a volunteer at The Bridge to Life, the Queens-based organization that assists women experiencing unexpected pregnancies. The organization also helps mothers after the children are born.

“People accuse pro-lifers all the time of only caring about the baby until it’s born. We get told all the time, ‘You’re only pro-birth. You’re not pro-baby,’ “ Rose said. “Nothing could be further from the truth. Bridge to Life proves it. And Students for Life has a ton of programs. I was inspired by their work.”