MASON CITY, Iowa - A para-educator tested by tough times is getting a chance to further her education, thanks to a generous scholarship.
Abigail Zavala's life has been filled with challenges.
"I have had a lot of experience with different kinds of abuse, sexual abuse, domestic abuse."
Including making medical decisions for her father, after being involved in a collision with a train.
"Since I was the only one covering my bills, it was really hard. It was the middle of winter and I had to travel between here and Des Moines. My kids were still in school."
But despite all the obstacles life threw at her, it didn't stop this Lincoln Elementary para from following her heart.
"I feel like I can use my experiences to help other people and help kids which has inspired me to pursue this journey of higher education."
She is currently working on getting her A.A. in Psychology and Human Services certificate through NIACC.
Enter the Caring Pregnancy Center, where Abigail has turned to for help during her two pregnancies. When she about a full-ride scholarship through the center's parent organization Care Net and Regent University, she jumped at the chance.
Jo Hafermann is the Executive Director of the Center, and nominated Abigail.
"They were looking for someone who had goals, who was working towards those goals already."
Much to her surprise, Abigail was selected for the scholarship, the first time a client through the Mason City center has received one.
"Even just saying thank you doesn't express the gratitude that I feel, because this is totally sending my family and I on a new direction for our future, and I am so excited and grateful to have that blessing."
Abigail is currently finishing up classes this semester at NIACC, and is expected to start online classes through Regent next spring.
The application window for next year won't be open until mid-2020. If you care to apply, you must be an ongoing client of the Caring Pregnancy Center, where they will nominate a person for the scholarship.