Against All Odds

Graduating College Without Financial Aid

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Keene, Texas » Alondra Zavala fell in love with Southwestern Adventist University from the first time she visited campus. One major hurdle stood in the way of attending. She could not receive any scholarships or loans because of her legal status. Determined to attend Southwestern, Zavala worked hard and prayed continuously.

Now, as a class of 2017 psychology graduate, Zavala has no college debt, works full-time, and is in the process of setting up a Southwestern University scholarship.

“If I had listened to discouraging voices, I may not have even gone to college, let alone attended a private Christian school,” says Zavala. “Now, I am a product of Southwestern and very proud of that.”

Zavala took education and finances a step at a time, praying for God to bless her with just one more year. Encouraged by Christian faculty, staff, and peers, Zavala’s spiritual life grew. She trusted God to provide.

Zavala worked up to three jobs at a time, especially at on-campus departments such as Enrollment. Supervisors trusted Zavala to take on new work responsibilities, pushing Zavala to believe in herself. As a result, Zavala did more than she ever thought possible. For instance, she directed CORE Freshman Orientation.

“I didn’t think I could do it, but my supervisors encouraged me,” says Zavala. “They saw something in me. I am now a more rounded person because of that.”

In high school, Zavala didn’t join clubs or play sports. Most programs required participation on Sabbath which conflicted with her Seventh-day Adventist beliefs. At Southwestern University, Zavala decided to experience as much as possible. She joined clubs, volunteered for Spiritual Life and Development, and worked for the Student Association as the editor of Status, Southwestern’s student publication.

“I used to be very reserved, but I came to Southwestern and I bloomed,” says Zavala. “The school made me into a leader.”

Even though Zavala remained in Keene the summer before her senior year to work and save money, she still did not have enough to start the semester. As Status editor, Zavala had less time for work. In addition, Zavala’s senior year included a very heavy class load. Zavala had put herself on track to graduate in three years, meaning that each semester included as many class hours as possible.

The week of registration, Student Financial Services called Zavala in to “go over the numbers.” To Zavala’s surprise, someone had gifted a scholarship to help her graduate. Zavala hadn’t heard of the scholarship before and did not expect the extra help. It made all the difference to help Zavala graduate. She even graduated debt-free, completing her undergrad in only three years. 

“It gave me a lot of hope to know that people care enough to give a scholarship that I hadn’t even applied for,” says Zavala. “I am blessed by my Southwestern family and God.”

Now, Zavala works at a disabilities office in Texas called MHMR, My Health My Resources. She is saving money to attend graduate school and work towards a PhD in Marriage and Family Counseling. In addition, Zavala is in the process of donating a scholarship to Southwestern for Deferred Action students, students who are able to study and work in the United States, but can’t receive financial aid or leave the country.

“It is hard to go to college in that situation,” says Zavala. “I want to encourage people to just give it a shot and take a step of faith. Know that if you try your best, God will provide. He provided for me. Work hard, let Him take charge, and just wait.”

Learn more about financial resources for college at,, or 817.202.6749.

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