FOR RELEASE: Feb. 16, 2012
Sophena Bebo has had her share of hard times, but over the last two years, she’s become cautiously optimistic that things may have turned around. Among other signs that life may be on the upswing: the University of New Mexico-Gallup student was recently notified that she was chosen by the Soroptimist Club to receive a $1000 scholarship as a result of an essay she wrote about overcoming a lifetime of difficulties.
Bebo, a student in the college’s TRiO program and the single mother of five children, took several stabs at getting an education over the last decade. For one reason or another she was unable to enroll at UNMG and as the years went by, she began to feel she was too old for school in her mid-30s and thus was reluctant to try again.
“Fear played a big part in keeping me from enrolling,” she said.
Finally in 2010, she got her courage up and she took a leap and enrolled in for the spring semester.
Bebo had previously attempted to study nursing as a reaction to the birth of her fifth child, who was born with a heart defect. In time, however, she realized she was not cut out for nursing, and this time around, decided she’d pursue studies in pre-elementary education.
“I always wanted to help children,” she says, adding that she has worked as a substitute teacher and done volunteer work in schools.
By the Fall of 2011, she was working on bringing up her skills through TRiO, a federally funded student support program that helps many of UNM-Gallup’s succeed at college. Bebo worried about her grades, but by semester’s end, found to her delight that she had passed her classes. This semester, she is feeling a bit more encouraged that she can and will do well.
The struggles that Bebo relates are not unique; many UNMG students have had similar experiences. She has had to contend with domestic violence and alcoholism, as well as overcoming a difficult home life as an adopted child. Although she got through high school successfully, she made some choices she now regrets, including partying and choosing the wrong partners. But it was writing about that life that helped win her the scholarship that now will boost her effort to be a successful student and eventually, a self-supporting citizen.
“What I wrote was meant to help other women going through domestic violence and difficult life situations, and overcoming,” she says.
These days, she is enlisting her eldest child to help look after the young ones while she is studying and going to class. The Pell Grant helps pay tuition and some living expenses, but she is aware that she must maintain her grades at a 2.0 to hold onto the grant and her dreams.
“I would like for other women to know that UNMG is here for the taking, but you have to put in the work,” Bebo says. She also adds, for those now caught up in the spiral of domestic violence and alcoholism, “The choices we make are important. You put yourself in your own situations. Being here has helped me keep my life going in a good direction, even though I did what so many young people are doing now. I didn’t know how make the most of my opportunities. But in time, I knew I wanted something better for me and my children. I want to do better for them.”