One hardworking mom got a life-changing surprise during her visit to “GMA.”
Karen Escobar, who is focused on her education in order to build a better tomorrow for herself, her family and her young daughter, appeared on the show to talk about the organization helping her through it all -- Generation Hope.
And while she did just that, she also received a surprise from Dan Rosensweig, the CEO of education company Chegg -- and that was payment of her entire student loan debt.
The gift is much appreciated by Escobar, who’s pushing to succeed and set a good example for her family.
“People automatically assume just because of my situation, I lack the motivation, the interest or I’m just incapable of doing that,” she told “GMA.” “And I think the best way of showing the contrary is doing by my actions, just doing exactly what they think I’m not able to do.”
Escobar, 21, is currently a junior at George Mason University pursuing a major in criminology, law and society to become a lawyer. While education is a priority for her, it comes at a cost for the young mom of 4-year-old Gloria.
“Time, money and all those kind of aspects definitely changed once I had my daughter,” Escobar told “GMA.” “I had to think about how was I gonna pay for my books, how was I gonna pay for diapers all at the same time in one semester? How was I gonna make time to go to school while working full time, and still try to be a part of my daughter’s life?”
Pregnant at 16, her big dreams were at risk. But Escobar, who is a first-generation college student, is determined to succeed.
“The big takeaway is that this isn’t endgame,” she said. “There are people out there that want to support you, that believe in you and you have options. It’s going to be hard, it’s probably going to take you a little longer, but this isn’t the end.”
“You have to ask for help. And it’s OK,” she added.
During the day, she takes care of her grandmother -- who receives dialysis treatments -- takes her daughter to school and helps her family around the house.
“I have to schedule everything,” Escobar explains. “I can't waste time doing other things. Homework time is scheduled. Picking up my daughter, going to work, all those things are set.”
At night, she attends classes and stays up late to finish homework.
“Being a young mom is a big motivation for me,” Escobar said. “I definitely look at her and I’m just like, ‘There’s no way I can let her see me fail.’”
Like Escobar, so many other student parents work hard to overcome barriers such as affordable and accessible childcare and housing. Escobar turned to Generation Hope for vital support. The organization, founded in 2010 by Nicole Lynn Lewis, is on a mission to help teen parents become college graduates by providing resources like mentorship and scholarship aid.
For Lewis, it’s personal.
“I was a teen mom. I got pregnant my senior year in high school. And even though I was on the college track, I heard the same message that a lot of young women hear in that situation. ‘Your life is over. You're not gonna go to college,’” Lewis told “GMA.” “So I started Generation Hope really to fill a gap in services and to address a need that I had lived, and I knew that education could change young people's lives, young parents' lives and their children's lives.”
Generation Hope now serves 100 teen moms and dads in the Washington, D.C. region and recently launched Next Generation Academy to provide resources to support the children of their teen parents.
“Karen is a great example of just how determined young parents can be when it comes to their college degrees. And wanting to create a bright future for their children. She has overcome, you know, so many obstacles,” Lewis said. “I think the importance of just knowing that people believe in you makes just a huge difference.”
It makes all the difference for Escobar, who is setting her sights on a not-too-distant graduation day.
“Everybody know how hard she's been working for it,” Escobar’s father Carlos told “GMA.” “It’s going to be an important day.”
“It would be a big milestone in my life. And I'd be so proud,” Escobar exclaimed. “The idea of it just makes me so happy.”