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Faces of Hope blog

Christina Catchings wanted a little independence and a change of pace and thought she might find both at an out-of-state college. But when her push for a scholarship to The College of Wooster (Ohio) didn't pan out, a friend suggested that Christina set her sights on Georgia Southern University in Statesboro and the HOPE Scholarship. "I toured the campus, and I loved it. It was probably the best decision I made," said Christina, who lives in Ellenwood, GA.

She graduated in May 2014 from Mt. Zion High School ranked No. 19 in a class of about 300. “HOPE was a game-changer, and it still is," she said. "If it weren’t for HOPE I probably wouldn't be in school." Christina will be a junior this year. She makes financial ends meet with grants, financial aid, HOPE and an on-campus job. She also is carrying $20,000 in student loans, she said.

Christina's high school GPA was a 3.7, high enough to qualify her for the full-ride Zell Miller Scholarship, but she did not meet the minimum SAT requirement of 1200. HOPE, which pays a majority but not all of her tuition, was well within reach. And Christina is grateful. Her parents, she said, try to help out as they can. But they have three younger children to care for as well. Savings bonds that Christina’s grandmother tucked away for her college were used up her first fall at Georgia Southern.

Christina is in Georgia Southern's pre-nursing program. She wants to be a nurse anesthetist, a specialist in administering anesthesia. Her inspirations were younger sister Alana Marie who died in 2015 of Charge Syndrome, a rare genetic pattern of birth defects, and her 14-year-old brother Caleb, who has what is commonly referred to as brittle bone disease. "A hospital is basically my second home" she said. Christina currently has a 3.5 GPA, well above the 3.0 required to retain HOPE. She said she is focused on her studies. But that GPA requirement "is always in the back of my mind," Christina said.

Credit: Nancy Badertscher