Unbound stories

Overcoming great odds

May 9, 2014

Gladys, an Unbound scholar in Mexico, doesn't need to look far to find her hero. She's found a hero in her mother, Marcelina.

Gladys and Marcelina
Gladys, right, and her mother, Marcelina.

When Gladys' father passed away from cancer 10 years ago, her mother became the sole provider for the family of five, which includes Gladys' sister and grandparents.

"My mother has been the hero in my family," Gladys said. "She bravely put our family on her shoulders and has provided for us by herself."

Gladys' mother found work in a "maquiladora," a clothing factory, where she works five days a week. On Sundays, she sells soups and meats to supplement her family's income.

"My mom worked too much," Gladys said. "She had lots of pressure to provide for my siblings and my grandparents.

"Fortunately, I managed to stay in school, but I am sure that my mother had to go without certain needs, although she never said anything. She always tried to put smiles on our faces."

The Unbound scholarship Gladys earned guaranteed that those sacrifices would not be in vain.

While the family survives on the income her mother makes, the Unbound scholarship ensures that Gladys has the resources to finish her education.

"The scholarship has helped me tremendously and has been of great support because now I can afford to go to school," Gladys said. "It mainly helps to pay for my school tuition, transportation and clothing."

The Unbound Scholarship Program helps deserving young people around the world continue their educations at secondary schools, technical schools and universities by assisting with costs such as tuition, books, transportation and meals.

Gladys walking to school
Gladys walks through her neighborhood with confidence in her future.

Students must contribute service hours for their scholarships, around 30 hours each month.

Gladys usually volunteers to do a bit more. She helps sponsored children and elderly write letters at the Unbound office. On Saturdays, she teaches handicrafts to sponsored girls.

The service hours provide students like Gladys with opportunities to develop leadership skills and give back to their communities.

For families living on $2 to $4 a day, an Unbound scholarship can be the difference between staying in school and quitting to earn money for the family's survival. A college education may seem like a dream to those who are trying to overcome poverty.

Unbound scholarships help students make their dreams a reality in the face of enormous odds. When their hard work is backed by a little support and encouragement, anything is possible.

"I have learned that you can reach any of your dreams," Gladys said. "I have learned to fight my fears. I am confident and I know I can do great things."

What can you afford to study?

"What do you want to study?" is a question often directed to kids in the U.S. as they head off to college.

But for kids in other countries around the world, it's not that simple, said Henry Flores, director of the communications center in El Salvador.

The real question is, "What can you afford to study?"

Gladys studying
Gladys studies hard to do well in school.

For example, a child in a developing country who wants to study chemistry or computer science may choose to study business or education because the courses are cheaper.

Students also have to figure out how to pay for books, transportation costs, food and lodging if the college is far from home.

As if that weren't enough, young people going to college aren't able to help their parents earn additional income during the hours when they are at school or studying, said Dan Pearson, director of international programs at Unbound.

"Many parents understand that education is the key to long-term change, but they have to weigh that knowledge against the day-to-day pressures of raising the rest of their children," Pearson said. "Sometimes the pressure for income today is just too great."

It's true that some countries offer state-funded college education, but the students who want to go to school usually outnumber the seats available.

For many, an Unbound scholarship might be the only available option, which is why the Unbound Scholarship Program is so vital to students around the world.

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Education is the greatest hope children living in poverty have for a better life. The Unbound Scholarship Program helps deserving students pursue their educational goals of finishing high school, technical training or university. Not only does it provide assistance with tuition, transportation or books, but it also provides students with much-needed encouragement to complete their education. Learn more »

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