Turning Dreams into Reality :: Maria Taylor and Donel Mayaya

These stories of ICC Educational Foundation scholarship recipients are featured in honor of #GivingTuesday 2018. These stories are in their own words.

Maria Taylor – Mabel Dingeldine Scholarship 2018-2019 recipient

As a non-traditional student, I have experienced much more than some of my classmates have at this point in my life. However, thanks to the Mabel Dingeldine Scholarship, I am able to pursue my dreams and show others that education is attainable, despite any obstacles you may face.

I was born in Mexico in a little town called Maravatio Michoacan. I moved to the United States at age 19 after getting married to a very amazing guy named Bob. We were blessed with a beautiful life, including two great children named Robert and Andrew.

My husband and I had an amazing business that had humble beginnings as a gift shop called Simply Unique Gift Shop. We started this journey in our basement selling goods from Mexico. With hard work over the years, we expanded and had a restaurant called Maria’s Tea Room. Later in 2006, we changed the name to Maria’s: A Great Place to Eat and moved it to Washington, Ill.

My husband Bob was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2012. The doctor told us that Bob only had a few weeks to live. Unfortunately, Bob lost his battle with cancer in 2013. The past five years since Bob’s passing have been hard. In fact, they have been very hard. But I have learned in life that hard is not bad.

I knew after Bob passed away that I would not be able to run the restaurant. On June 24, 2017, we closed our doors for the last time. Soon after, it was time for me to decide what I would do next. It was time for me to finish my education and get a degree.

Today, I am so happy I have taken this big step toward my goals and left my fear behind me to start a new beginning. When I came to ICC, my teacher’s noticed my difficulty with my written English and helped me overcome it. I believe that this is one of the unique advantages to attending a community college, classes are small in size, the cost of education is not overwhelming, and it gives people like me a chance to come back to further my education…it truly is the smart choice.

This scholarship has helped me close the financial gap, allowing me to come back to college full time. Thank you to the ICC Educational Foundation and thank you to each and every one of my teachers for believing in my dreams and for encouraging me. Thank you to each and every one of you for believing that education and knowledge are an empowering engine for future possibilities.

Donel Mayaya – RLI Scholarship 2018-2019 recipient

I’m in my second year in the engineering science program at ICC, and my goal is to someday work with computers. I am very thankful to be able to express my gratitude because of what your donors do for us.

I was born and raised in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Life overall is not easy back home because of political instability and the scarcity of resources. Back home, I lived the modest life that my parents were able to afford for me and my siblings. As I was getting ready to graduate high school in my country in 2012, nothing else crossed my mind but the idea to leave my country in pursuit of a good college education.

I was presented with the opportunity to travel to the U.S. and join my sister. I came to the U.S. on November 4, 2013, at 18 years old. She needed help after giving birth to my first nephew, and I was very excited to join her. I had pretty great expectations about coming to the US.

Coming to America, I lived with my sister and her boyfriend while helping her with her baby in this small town called Beardstown.  Thankfully, my sister provided for basic needs, like food and shelter. During my stay with her, I could only think about one thing — my future. I could not bypass the thought that identified me with my sister’s and her boyfriend’s situations. I didn’t see my life with the same type of financial and educational limitations.

My sister’s story, my own experience, and my country’s political and economic situation are the reinforcements that keep me motivated. I became determined to pursue an education so that I could help my sister, my family back home and also have an impact in my community. As an institution, ICC didn’t know the magnitude of the positive effect they would have on my life by simply allowing me to enroll in classes. For example, they didn’t know I would become a math and computer science tutor that I am today, they didn’t know I would be a leader in one of the largest honor societies in the world, Phi Theta Kappa. What I like about ICC is that they provided me with a chance, and I use it to make a difference.

I can attest that if I were not able to get financial support to go to school, I would not have been able to make it here because my parents can’t afford to pay for my education in the States.

Because of donors like RLI and others, I am able to pursue my dreams because of the contributions of scholarship donors. One of my dreams is to become a successful computer engineer. I’m working towards transferring to a four-year college, hopefully with a full-tuition scholarship. As I become a computer engineer, I’ll be able to give back to my family and my community. Thank you for your wonderful investment, not only in my life but in the lives of my fellow classmates.