Special Reports

Scholarship improves mom's future

FRESNO -- Miriam Vásquez, 22, was thrilled to receive a Morgan Scholarship from Planned Parenthood last Saturday morning.

The $1,000 scholarship -- which will help pay for Vásquez's courses at Madera Community College -- is the only type of financial aid the undocumented single mother is eligible to receive.

"This is the only thing I can get to school with," Vásquez said. "I can't get a job or anything, so this is really going to help me a lot."

Vásquez, who was born in México City and immigrated to the United States when she was just one year old, said higher education has always been in her plans.

Her goals did not change, even when she became pregnant at age 16, during her junior year at Madera North High School. Her daughter, Neveah, ('heaven' spelled backwards) was born during her senior year of high school.

Vásquez graduated with her high school class in 2007, with the support of her teachers, counselors, and Planned Parenthood's Teen Success program, which helps teen moms maintain their family size until completing their secondary education.

Since then, she has focused on raising her daughter, who will turn 5 years old in June. Due to her immigration status, Vásquez has not been able to work, and can receive county assistance only for her child.

"I'm so proud of her," Vásquez said of her daughter, whose name she has tattooed in cursive letters on her right forearm. "She knows all her letters, her words, her numbers, her shapes, her colors -- everything."

Going to college has remained a priority for Vásquez since she graduated from high school four years ago, "but I didn't have any financial help," she said.

Now, with the support of the Morgan Scholarship -- which supports graduates of the Teen Success program, who want to pursue an education and improve the quality of life for themselves and their children -- Vásquez will be working toward a degree in Early Childhood Development and teaching.

She hopes to work at a school in her community, with student who are learning English as a second language.

"I thank God I got (the scholarship) because now I can go to school and get prepared for life," Vásquez said.

She can also work toward providing a better life for Neveah.

"I hope she doesn't go through what I went through," Vásquez said. "I hope she goes to college and gets a degree and gets to be a good person in life."