Amanda Ruiz knows there's no "perfect time" to start going after your dreams. All she wanted was a college degree, but life kept throwing obstacles in her path. Her father suffered permanent brain damage after being assaulted, and her mother was diagnosed with a brain tumor that same year. Meanwhile, Amanda was dealing with her own health issues on top of it all.
At age 18, she was diagnosed with Crohn's disease—an illness with no cure and potentially life-threatening complications. All of these health problems wiped out the family's savings and forced Amanda to drop out of East Carolina University. "We lost our house, boat, cars and any security I ever felt," says Amanda.
Eleven years after being diagnosed, doctors told Amanda about a new infusion therapy for Crohn's disease. That's when she decided it was time to get that college degree. "After having a few very close calls and having to face my own mortality, I decided to stop waiting for remission or the perfect time," says Amanda, who applied to UNC Charlotte from her hospital bed.
Amanda had another reason to persevere: her son Jayden. He wants to be a doctor when he grows up, so he can cure Crohn's disease. He's learned from his mom that education is a priority, and that you get out of it what you put into it.
ANSWER Makes a Way
Amanda learned about ANSWER Scholarship from one of her professors at UNCC. The local nonprofit gives college scholarships to mothers of school-age children in Mecklenburg and surrounding counties.
Amanda is one of more than 80 mothers who have earned their degrees thanks to ANSWER Scholarship. Every ANSWER scholar gets paired with a mentor to support her through the challenges of being a parent, a nontraditional student, and many times also holding down a job. Scholars and mentors convene monthly as a group for guidance and professional development.
That extra support works. ANSWER Scholars graduate at a rate two times the national average for nontraditional students. Amanda is thankful to be one of those graduates. After earning a finance degree from UNCC last year, she now serves as a global risk analyst at Bank of America/Merrill Lynch.
"It's so nice to have people that are genuinely invested in your success," says Amanda.
Be the ANSWER for Local Moms
ANSWER Scholarship participated in #GivingTuesdayCLT last year and the team is excited to be part of #GivingTuesdayCLT in 2019 to raise scholarship funds and recruit new volunteers. But why wait until December to be the ANSWER for local moms?
You can help ANSWER change lives today by signing up for Tailgate for Team Pride The fundraising event takes place on Saturday, October 12, from 12-4pm at Olde Mecklenburg Brewery.
Be part of ANSWER history by supporting this inaugural event. Enjoy an afternoon of football, food, and friends at Charlotte's oldest brewery. Sponsor a table for your favorite college, compete for cash prizes, and enjoy the entertainment and games, while raising funds to help send local moms to college. No team? Come share the fun for just $30.
Grab a spot and learn more here. Tickets are available online until midnight on Friday, October 11. You can also get tickets at the door.
Grace Kennedy is a Huntersville-based writer specializing in storytelling for nonprofits. Learn more at gracekennedy.net.