Featured photo: Graduating student Xochil Zavala in the Patton Building on the Henderson County Campus (Photo by Emily Gill, Marketing & Communications Dept.).
Marketing & Communications Dept.
When Xochil Zavala’s family arrived in the United States, she entered kindergarten without the ability to speak English. Zavala had almost completed kindergarten in Mexico but had to repeat it in the states due to the language barrier. Determined to excel in school, Zavala threw herself into her studies at a young age.
“I learned as much as I could, asked as many questions as possible, and stayed on top of my work. It was hard but I was able to get my grades up to all A’s and B’s,” Zavala said.
She continued to prioritize school as her family moved every five or six months for work.
“It was hard to acclimate to different weather, different schools, different people, and different rules and expectations,” said Zavala. “I maintained good grades all throughout.”
When she was 14 years old and in 8th grade, her parents found work that provided more stability and kept them in one location. Zavala’s determination to do well in school propelled her to join honors math and science throughout high school. Just before her senior year though, she received life-changing news.
“I found out I was pregnant. I did not want to drop out, so I talked to my counselors. Since my grades and credits were in great shape, I was offered the chance to graduate a semester early,” Zavala said. “It was hard, being pregnant and always tired, but I managed to keep up with my classes and still get good grades. I was so lucky I had great teachers who were always so happy to help me if I had questions and gave me extra time to turn in assignments.”
Zavala graduated on time with a 3.5 GPA.
While higher education was important to Zavala, financial barriers kept her from pursuing her education any further. When Zavala learned her job offered financial assistance for higher education, she inquired at Blue Ridge Community College about opportunities.
Her college counselor helped her to enroll and apply for financial aid. Zavala was thrilled to qualify for a scholarship that funded her classes for all of 2023.
“This scholarship has helped me to better not only my future but my family. This education has opened so many doors for me, and I will be taking full advantage of those opportunities,” Zavala said.
Zavala especially appreciated the flexibility Blue Ridge Community College provided.
“Online classes made it possible for me to take college classes while still maintaining a full-time job,” Zavala said. “I work 40-60 hours every week, and online courses made it possible for me to get my work done on my own time.”
Zavala will receive her business and administration certification in December and plans to continue her journey in higher education.
“I feel strongly about being a positive change within my community and being able to learn different aspects of a business,” Zavala said. “Blue Ridge has helped me gain new skills and knowledge that I plan to keep using.”