Scholarship winner overcomes obstacles to plot out a course for success

Nov 04, 2013

Abigail Escatel ’15 started her college career with the goal of becoming a paralegal. She so enjoyed her studies that she’s decided to pursue a career in higher education with the dream of becoming a college president. “After I started taking classes I realized I liked learning and didn’t want to stop,” says Escatel about her studies at College of DuPage (COD) before transferring to North Central.

Her dreams will now be easier to attain thanks to a prestigious Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship, which is worth up to $30,000 per year to cover tuition and living expenses. She was one of only 73 students nationwide to receive the award and is North Central’s second Jack Kent Cooke Scholar in three years.

“It was a very rigorous application process,” Escatel says. “I figured I probably wouldn’t get the scholarship. But when I started writing everything down, I realized I was involved in a lot of things.”

At COD, her success on the speech team gave her the confidence to try other activities. In addition to working more than 20 hours per week, she was a member of the honors program with a 3.889 grade-point average and a new student orientation leader. She also won a gold medal in communication analysis at the 2013 Phi Rho Pi National Forensics Tournament.

At North Central, she’s joined the forensics and debate teams, is majoring in speech communication and hopes to pursue opportunities in student affairs for her career in higher education. “I’d also like to get involved in research,” she says. “With only two years, you feel the pressure to participate in a lot of things.”

Today her motivation is a vast departure from her high school years when she assumed her options for further education were limited. Escatel is the first in her family to attend college. “My high school test scores were not the best,” she says. “A majority of my friends dropped out, and while I was not encouraged to continue, I did finish high school.” After high school, she spent most of the next two years working, taking a six-month break to care for her newborn daughter, Natalia. Setting an example for her daughter inspired Escatel to return to school.

Now she counts North Central’s nationally recognized forensics team among her new friends on campus and she already has big plans for the future. “I can apply for another Jack Kent Cooke scholarship for my master’s degree,” she adds.