Manuela Garrido decided it was time to go back to school after her husband of 15 years left her and her three children. He just decided he didn’t want a family life anymore, Manuela said. When he left, he did not go amiably. She recounted how he disabled her van and trashed her home, which led to his arrest and domestic-violence charges. Eventually, she was awarded child support, only he wasn’t paying it. Now his wages are garnished, and she receives the monthly help of $583, but she said he’s on probation at his work, so she doesn’t know how long the assistance will last.

His absence left her the task of figuring out, in a hurry, how she was going to pay her bills and take care of her children. One child with asthma-related health problems and no family nearby to help, she said going back to school seemed like a smart idea.

Manuela started taking online classes and receiving the Federal Pell Grant in the summer of 2014. Manuela also began applying for scholarships—in fact, she applied for everyone she was eligible for. She was awarded the Chancelor’s Service Scholarship for participating in community service with her three children, she said.

Being in school was a challenge. Her children had to get used to allowing her time to study, but taking online classes helped her juggle school and family. “Time is tight for me, but through good organization, persistence and prioritizing, I’ve been able to get everything done,” she said.

When she found Helping Hands for Single Moms in the fall of 2015, she knew it was the perfect scholarship for her. She liked that she could spend the monthly stipend on whatever she needed, rather than be restricted to spending it on school-related matters. “It’s a huge help, just being an unrestricted scholarship for real life expenses, to actually help you survive. That’s how Helping Hands helped me,” Manuela said.

The AAA membership gave her piece of mind as well, and the car repair Helping Hands provides enabled her to keep her car in safe and running. With the assistance of Helping Hands, Manuela was able to maintain her simple lifestyle and spend time with her kids while earning a degree.

In August 2015, Manuela graduated from Pima Community College with an Associate of Applied Science in Health Information Technology and a 4.0 GPA. With a background in tax preparation from a decade of seasonal work at H&R Block, she is now pursuing a degree in accounting. She stopped being a recipient of the Helping Hands Scholarship in fall of 2016. Manuela plans to pursue a career as a Medicare fraud investigator, a line of work where she will use both her degrees and all the skills she’s attained in school.

In the future, Manuela would like to help other women receiving the scholarship. “Helping Hands is a great program,” she said. “It empowers women, and it makes a difference.”