Omaha Mexican-American woman earns EducationQuest scholarship

A statewide non-profit organization awarded $138,000 in scholarship funds to 24 Nebraskans.
Published: Sep. 16, 2022 at 5:33 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - A statewide nonprofit organization awarded $138,000 in scholarship funds to 24 Nebraskans, including 23-year-old Yajaira Villagomez.

Villagomez was born in Omaha after her parents emigrated from Mexico in 1998. She is the oldest of three male siblings and was married when she was 17 and while some may argue that’s a young age to tie the knot, Yajaira says it’s normal in Mexican culture.

“My grandmother had her first child at 14, so it’s not a surprise for people to get married young and even less of a surprise to marry someone older,” Villagomez said.

But the marriage soon ended and so did her college career at the time but her perseverance paid off.

English specialist for Project Achieve, at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, Connie Sorensen-Birk, nominated Yajaira for EducationQuest’s scholarship. EducationQuest is a nonprofit organization, with a mission to improve access to higher education in the state.

“She took the initiative and applied and got it,” Sorensen-Birk said.

The application process for the Reaching Your Potential Scholarship requires two essays. The first, details barriers in your life and what you’ve done to overcome them. The second, how you plan to give back to the community.

“It’s honestly the most important thing to me. There are so many more of us that are lost and I just want to shine a light on them and let them know that anything is possible,” Villagomez said.

“It really is inspiring. You know there are amazing young people out there. So how can you not feel hopeful about the future,” Sorensen-Birk said.

Yajaira plans to graduate in August of next year. She’s pursuing an education in the medical field and hopes to one day assist those with mental health needs.