ONE GIRL'S STORY
Zonia and her small family live up long, windy roads that look like spaghetti thrown across the mountains far above the capital city of her region. There they grow corn and a few vegetables. Their home consists of two small rooms built from cinder blocks with dirt floors. A couple of chickens scratch around outside. Zonia’s mom and grandmother speak no Spanish, only the local Mayan dialect, ensuring that they will never have a paying job outside their small, rented plot of land. They are the face of rural poverty in Guatemala.
Fortunately, Zonia had a few things going for her. The first, in spite of all her primitive living conditions, was her mother. This is a woman who was determined her daughter have a better life and was sure that education was the ticket to the door of a better future. That’s how Zonia finished 6th grade when almost all of the girls nearby dropped out to help at home.
The other advantage Zonia had, and it was a perfect fit with her mom’s dreams for her, is that she’s smart. Very smart. And that’s how she got recommended for a spot in the MAIA program, which, among other things, included a scholarship and a hands-on mentor for the next 5 years.
So Zonia finished middle school with high grades and, because of her mentorship program, a new sense of what a Mayan girl like herself could do. Now her dream was to become a nurse and help those in her community, where there were no medical services. To this end she petitioned MAIA to send her to a private pre-med high school located about 1-½ hours away down those steep mountain roads.
It’s hard to say no to a girl with this much grit and a passion to help others. The extra funds were procured, her request granted, so off she went via the backs of pickups, and two buses. The problem was Zonia is plagued by carsickness. She suffered nausea and debilitating headaches on these twice daily trips. Often, she’d come home and have to go to bed before being able to do her chores and homework. Undaunted, she persisted. And graduated at the top of her class.
Now it was time to tackle university studies. Zonia applied and was accepted to one of the country’s top nursing schools. This was the first time she’d lived away from home. It was a tough transition, but she never wavered. This spring she passed both written and oral tests to receive her RN. It was a proud moment for her and her mother. In three more years she’ll have her BS in nursing. This is what happens when talented, deserving, but poor girls are given a chance. They are no longer relegated to the backroads of oblivion but can step forward as dedicated, contributing members of their community and country.