Life after polygamy is not easy.
Amanda Peterson, 24, knows that all too well. She was 17 when she chose to leave one of Utah’s most notorious polygamous groups, the Kingstons.
“I always knew at a very young age that my future was to be a plural wife and to have as many kids in God’s kingdom as possible,” Peterson said.
From a young age, she saw some of her siblings studying. She said she remembers them sneaking college books into their home.
“I did really want to go to college. That was my dream as a kid,” she said.
But education in the "order," as they call it, is not highly promoted.
“There was no pathway for school or education. I didn’t even make it past ninth grade before they put me into home school,” she said.
“To leave the Kingston Group it’s the hardest decision I ever had to make.”
Seven years later, with the help of a local non-profit, Peterson is starting a degree in dentistry. She’s beginning classes at Salt Lake Community College.
Hope After Polygamy was founded in 2017 by five former polygamous women. The charity funds scholarships for people leaving polygamy.
“When you leave polygamy, you are taught that the outside world is evil and they’re bad and they’re scary, and we’re taught that you won’t succeed and you will fail," Julie Adkinson said.
She was one of the women to start the group.
“I left the Kingston Group when I was 19,” Adkinson said. “For me, it was going to school and the way that that changed me and changed my life.”
It was a college degree that gave her a chance. She said it taught her to think for herself. Now Adkinson is determined to do the same for others.
"You feel so isolated because you came from this world that nobody understands," she said.
“This scholarship has helped me to feel more confident in my education. It helps me to feel like there are people to back me up,” Peterson added.
Hope After Polygamy has helped her pay for two semesters so far.
"Every semester she gets under her belt, her confidence will grow and she’ll believe in herself more and more and stop believing what they told us,” Adkinson said.
Since the group started, they have given out 21 scholarships. It’s funded by private donations.