Tania Huerta Chagoyan
Aurora University
ACI General Scholarship

Tania Huerta Chagoyan of Streamwood, Illinois, remembers the nurses who helped her through health-related issues when she was growing up. That is one of the reasons that Huerta Chagoyan chose nursing as her major at nearby Aurora University. “I want to help the kids that were like me growing up having a lot of health issues,” she says.

A bilingual student in Spanish and English, Huerta Chagoyan says she also chose Aurora because of its small classes and close-knit community. Plus, the university’s nursing program has a good reputation, with a high student passing rate on the National Council Licensure Examination, the standard for nursing licensure.

Her family, especially her brother Erick, help motivate her to do well in school, she says. “He’s an accountant.  I’m really proud of him, and he’s the one who really inspires me to pursue my education. He’s always motivating me and always helping me out, giving me advice to continue on with my education,” Huerta Chagoyan says.

2020 was a difficult year for her. “Because of Covid, I lost my job. I was working as a waitress, and all restaurants were shut down. I didn’t know how I was going to pay for school. I saw my financial award letter, and I owed a pretty significant amount for this upcoming year. I started getting really worried,” she says. Huerta Chagoyan’s parents help with living expenses, but much of the responsibility for college tuition falls on her.

She was awarded an ACI General Scholarship, along with other scholarships. “It really helped me because I knew that I wasn’t going to be as financially strained, but also I could focus more on my education. I didn’t have to put my education aside to be financially stable,” Huerta Chagoyan says.

This year, her fortunes changed. She’s working as a receptionist in the health-care clinic, setting up appointments and dealing with paperwork. It helps that she’s working in a setting with medical assistants and nurse practitioners. “I like it a lot just because I get more of a feel of what it’s like to be in health care. You get more hands-on experience with patients,” she says. In the future, Huerta Chagoyan hopes to attend graduate school and possibly become a nurse practitioner.

Huerta Chagoyan is grateful for donors who make scholarships, such as her ACI scholarship, possible. “Thanks to them and their help, they help students like me continue in their college education uninterrupted and being able to really focus on their educational goal and being able to accomplish that,” she says.

Away from school, Huerta Chagoyan volunteers at her church, St. Ansgar Roman Catholic Church, Hanover Park, Illinois, where she and her family help raise funds for the parish through Sunday food sales.

Mia Pitts-Hope
Wheaton College
McGraw Foundation Emergency Financial Aid

Mia Pitts-Hope, a first-generation college student, arrived at Wheaton College four years ago with important goals: Earn a college degree and begin a career with Nike, a company she dreamed of working for while growing up Denver. Pitts-Hope, a communication major at Wheaton, says, “I want to work for their ad department,  making their ad campaigns, like in a magazine, TV and the commercials. I love Nike. Basketball and Nike were a big part of my childhood growing up.”

Pitts-Hope, the youngest of three children, was home-schooled. Her tutor encouraged her to apply because the tutor’s daughter attended Wheaton. “When I got in, I was really shocked,” she says. “But then the aspect of ‘can I afford it?’ came into question. Because I applied mostly on a whim, not because I knew I could go there.” Pitts-Hope could not afford a campus visit when she was admitted. Her first visit was during freshman orientation. Fortunately, she earned scholarships that made it possible for her to attend Wheaton, where she has made some lifelong friends.

Pitts-Hope was raised by her maternal grandmother, a source of inspiration, plus family and financial support. “My biological parents couldn’t do it at the time, so my grandmother stepped in. I was very little,” Pitts-Hope says. “She took care of me. She was very much like my best friend, my confidant. I would call her for everything. I spent a whole bunch of time with her.” Her grandmother passed away suddenly last November in the midst of the pandemic, the result of an aneurysm. Pitts-Hope has also faced other tragedies while attending Wheaton. Three weeks into her freshman year, her father died. Earlier this year, an uncle died from brain cancer. Through all of the losses, and her own health concerns, Pitts-Hope says Wheaton College faculty, staff and students have graciously supported her.

As an independent student, she has faced the financial realities of college tuition costs. In need of tuition funds, Pitts-Hope asked Karen Belling, Wheaton College director of student financial services, if there were scholarship or financial aid opportunities available. “I just needed a sign of life because the expenses were starting wear me down,” she said. “My savings were starting to wear down as well. I wanted to be fully independent and support myself.”

Fortunately, Pitts-Hope was awarded a grant from McGraw Foundation Emergency Financial Aid through ACI. “When that grant came in, It really just … I mean, I just sat at the computer just in shock,” she said. “This is the hope that I was praying for. In that moment, I was like, ‘my life has been changed.’ It really has been a blessing. I can continue to work hard and can continue to strive, and I can continue to apply for these things so that I can continue to get my education.” In the future, Pitts-Hope said she wants to earn a doctorate.

This past summer, she was a mentor with Bridge, a college-readiness program at Wheaton College for high school students from Chicago. During the school year, Pitts-Hope is a technician with Wheaton’s institutional technology department, helping to solve IT-related issues on campus. She has been the public relations manager for the William Osborne Society for Black culture. She also participates in Koinonia for promotion of Asian cultures and Unidad Cristiana, a Christian organization that promotes Latino cultures.

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