Ebony Nava has been a standout at Bluegrass Community and Technical College, a straight A science major who headed student government, wrote for the school newspaper and won nearly every academic award offered — all while raising her son and her six siblings.
Nava, 26, graduated from BCTC last year and will graduate again Saturday, this time with a certificate in biotechnology and a $120,000 scholarship to continue at a four-year school.
The Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship is given to 90 community college students a year from all over the country. For now, Nava is thinking about attending Wellesley College in Massachusetts with a double major in biochemistry and philosophy.
"It's a great liberal arts school with a well-rounded education," said Nava, who in her few minutes of spare time is an advocate for preventing child abuse, promoting college affordability and expanding education rights for undocumented workers.
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Nava, who lives in Georgetown with her family, credits many in her community there and at BCTC for her ascent. When she gained custody of her siblings at age 20, she had a second-grade education but quickly earned her GED before entering BCTC.
"I didn't do this alone," she said. "I evolved with the help of so many people."
One of those people, Natalie Payne of the Georgetown Police Department, met Nava when she gained custody.
"I don't think I've met anyone in my life who has wanted something and has not let anything prevent her from reaching her goals," Payne said. "She has such a desire to better her life so she can also give her siblings a better life. There's something very unique and special about her. She's an amazing young lady."
Nava is the first BCTC student to win the Jack Kent Cooke scholarship. In addition, she recently was named a 2015 Phi Theta Kappa International Distinguished Chapter Member, as well as a 2013 Kentucky New Century Scholar.
She was student government president from 2013 to 2015 and was named to the USA Today All-Academic Team in 2013.
"This scholarship will make all of my educational dreams a reality," Nava said.