It’s 4 a.m. in Guatemala’s Central Highlands. As the roosters groggily begin their morning ritual, 20-year-old Lesly Patzán is already on her way to school in Guatemala City. Sheer determination fuels her during these early morning hours. Instead of giving way to the nagging question, “Is it all worth it?” Lesly motivates herself by reflecting on her family’s sacrifices to make her education a priority. After the hardships they have endured, Lesly has no other option. She will graduate. She will become a nurse. Her success will be worth her family’s sacrifices.

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Lesly was honored to carry Guatemala’s flag during commencement because she graduated at the top of her class.

Lesly recently graduated first in her high school class. Amidst the celebration, she couldn’t help but think back to sixth grade: “My dad had just been diagnosed with cancer. My mother started working at a vegetable packing plant to pay the medical bills. With seven children and only one income, they were struggling to put food on the table.” Lesly was on the verge of dropping out of school to start working. That is, until she was accepted into CoEd’s Scholarship & Youth Development ProgramWith a CoEd scholarship, Lesly was able to stay in school to pursue her dream of becoming a nurse.

A natural born caretaker, Lesly wanted to be a nurse for as long as she can remember. When her mother started working, Lesly was charged with the care of her younger siblings. As a sixth-grader, she nurtured a toddler and one-month-old, even feeding them and putting them to bed at night. “It was a lot for me to handle,” she remarks, “but I was determined to make things work.” She never once let her schoolwork suffer, consistently earning the top grades in her class.

Lesly Patzan receives her diploma

Lesly proudly displays her diploma and academic achievement certificate at her graduation ceremony, accompanied by her beaming parents.

The tenacity has served her well. Out of 24 students who started nursing school with Lesly, only 13 graduated. CoEd’s Scholarship Program helped shape Lesly into a strong, resolute young woman and gave her the resources to aspire to a life beyond poverty.

The first of her extended family to graduate from high school, Lesly is now employed at a hospital in Guatemala City. She often works 24-hour shifts, but she doesn’t mind. Her pride in achieving her dream sustains her. Lesly is elated to be able to help financially support her family, knowing that, along with the CoEd scholarship, their support is what made it possible for her to continue her education.

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As the first in her entire family to graduate, Lesly is a source of inspiration to her siblings as they continue their own schooling.

In return, Lesly’s determination has inspired her family. Her younger siblings also hope to graduate someday; thanks to Lesly’s help, her brother Danny is now able to pursue a degree in marketing. Her father is back in good health, and could not be prouder of Lesly’s accomplishments. A proud papa in every way, he constantly brags about how she has been first in her class since sixth grade.

Thanks to CoEd’s Scholarship Program, Lesly has already achieved one goal, and has the luxury to continue dreaming. “I might keep studying,” she muses. “Now that I know that I can achieve anything, I get excited thinking about all the possibilities.” When asked if the sacrifices were worth it, Lesly answers with a gigantic smile and a resounding “Absolutely.”

Meet the scholarship hopefuls who are waiting to join the scholarship program.

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