From the Belmont Cragin neighborhood, Katherine Pisabaj is the seventh of eight children. Raised by a single mother, once she graduated from Lane Tech High School in 2017, she wasn’t sure how she would pay for college. Lucky for her, one of her older sisters is a staff member at Wright College and let her know about the Star Scholarship, which would pay for her tuition and books while she earned an associate degree.

Katherine jumped in to her studies at Wright, and made sure she met with her advisor right away. Knowing she wanted to become a dietitian, she printed out the prerequisites she would need to get into top four-year universities, and she followed them religiously. She had a goal, and she wanted to make her mom proud, saying “my mom worked triple shifts, day and night to support me and my siblings – so I wasn’t just working hard for me, but for her, too.”

Then, in February 2018, the unthinkable happened – Katherine was a victim of gun violence. As her boyfriend drove her home one evening, an unknown person fired once directly into their car, hitting Katherine in the back. With a collapsed lung, ruptured spleen, and damage to her stomach, she needed surgery and a week recovering in the hospital before she spent the next three weeks healing at home. But then, determined not to fall behind, she returned to the classroom.

“It was challenging, and I had to drop a few classes because I was too far behind. But my professors were understanding and I was able to complete the semester,” she said.

She also used her experience to create awareness and started a club on campus that addresses gun violence in our communities. Even though it meant reliving the trauma and overcoming flashbacks, it was her way of giving back to her community.

“Wright helped me entirely – academically, as a person, and community-wise. I had so many supportive professors and gained so many friendships. Everyone made my experience so much easier – especially when I returned to classes after being shot. The community at Wright helped me turn such a horrible thing into something I could overcome,” she said.

Ultimately, Katherine persevered and graduated with her Associate in Science in December of 2019. She will be attending UIC in the fall to work toward a Bachelor’s of Science in Nutrition.

FInd your community at City Colleges of Chicago. Learn how Star Scholarships assist with books and tuition here.

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