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Cat Zingano Overcoming Loss Scholarship

Funded by
1 winner$10,000
Application Deadline
Jul 20, 2024
Winners Announced
Aug 20, 2024
Education Level
Recent scholarship winners

"The best motivation in life is knowing what you're fighting for." - Cat Zingano

When Cat was in her early twenties and attending college, her mother was diagnosed with stage 4 brain cancer. Her declining health was very difficult on Cat’s family, and when she passed in 2005, Cat had a lot to work through, making it difficult to focus on her education. Less than a year later, Cat’s son was born. Raising a newborn and going to school after recently losing her mom, Cat needed help and remains truly grateful for all support and resources that were made available to her. 

After school and finding much success in her early MMA career, Cat suffered another tragic loss. When her husband, who had helped guide her career, died in 2014, it was devastating and a very unexpected adjustment. He was a husband, employer, father and coach. Nothing has been the same for Cat and her son since that loss. They continue to feel the struggle, and the familial change still forces them to make accommodations every day. Just as Cat did after losing her mom, her and her son have no choice but to adapt and move forward.

These tragedies have caused Cat to focus on what matters most in her life: raising her son. Whether in an MMA bout or facing daily challenges, she fights through to show him that one can't let hardship conquer their life and that a new normal can be obtained after tragedy.

Cat is an inspiration to many for the fight she displays in all aspects of her life. The Cat Zingano Overcoming Loss Scholarship will be awarded to a student who is fighting through their own loss of a close family member, legal guardian or loved one, and is in need of financial support for their education as they move forward.

Selection Criteria:
Essay, Strength, Ambition, Intent
Published August 20, 2023
Essay Topic

How has the loss of a close family member or loved one caused you to focus on what matters most in your life and what you want to "fight" to achieve?

200–800 words

Winning Application

Destiny Wallace
Auburn UniversityBirmingham, AL
For starters, I would like to start off by saying thank you Cat Zingano for this inspiring scholarship because it is an opportunity that I was always looking for to tell my story. Growing up, I would say that I experienced being a normal kid coming from a household of working hard. By providing for your family, without hard work, including education, money, support, transportation, etc., people will get nothing. Meaning that I worked hard in school, and asked for help from my family to get the resources and things I needed. When I was around the age of 8 and up, I acknowledged many things that were happening between my parents and things that a human wouldn't do to a human to harm them. When I was in elementary school, my father got arrested and taken to jail for plenty of chargers that pertained to my mom and outside of that. As time passed, my mother moved to a new neighborhood. Amidst my father being in jail, my mother continued to be there for him, despite the many situations that they had. Once I reached the 4th grade, my father had gotten released from prison during that time and lived with my mother and me. When my father was living with my mother and I, things were fine as if he became a changed man but as time went on, he changed into this horrible person. Fast forward to my first year in High School, I will never forget the day of October 10, 2016. That day was when I found out that my mother had died and that my very own father had killed her. When I lost my mom, I continued asking myself why because I was so shocked that I couldn't believe what happened to me. As the days went by, I thought about the woman my mom was and how she took care of me and my younger brother. Which gave me the motivation to give my all in life to live the life that I want and to always strive for nothing but the best. Many people in my situation or in similar cases may stop everything that they had going on in life when that person they loss was here. Causing them to shut down from the world and feel that their life and purpose of living is over without that person being here anymore. I questioned so many things in my life including family and myself on how I'm going to continue my life without the guidance of my mother. Instead of giving up on Brother, Mother, Family, and myself. I turned that anger, trauma, sadness, and much more emotions I felt into dedication and motivation. Knowing that my mom is in a better place with God gave me a sense of relief because I know she is looking down on me and watching my every move proud. The thought of being in a blessed situation to be here in the position that I am who is a part of her in a way is me continuing her legacy by being a part of her. A big commitment that I have dedicated to myself and mother in life was pursuing college. No matter what I make of myself in life, my mom would be very proud of me if she was able to be here today to be a part of many accomplishments I have achieved. Important memories such as graduating from High School and furthering my education at the Auburn University at Montgomery to pursue a Nursing degree. Loss of a loved one gave me the "FIGHT" to achieve a better life for my brother and I because I am a role model for my brother to look up too. Not only that but the fight to avoid or help others to avoid a situation of domestic violence before it's too late. I based part of the reason why I took on majoring in Nursing was to give back to others in a way of giving my all to help patients and people in any way whether or not it's critical. My purpose from this traumatic situation is to create my legacy to the world and other people like myself that your life doesn't stop there. You are a blessing with many more blessings to embark and spread to the world because what happens to you doesn't define your life, character, spirit, and self.
Anna Wiggins
Howard UniversityIndianapolis, IN
I am Anita Simba, yet that is no longer my name. My biological parents gave me this name, meaning “gracious, sweet, warrior.” I am a child of the Congo, yet that is no longer my home. I was born in a village in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. When I was a young child, my mother died while giving birth to my baby sister. My father was left with three young children - my brother, my sister, and me. My father did everything in his power to provide a good life for us, but misfortune followed his every step. He could not find a job, so we went to bed hungry many nights. Sickness consumed my sister’s body. To make matters worse, he married a woman who brought pain and devastation to our family. The burden of caring for a dying child, not her own, drove my stepmother to madness. She killed my baby sister in the dead of night. When her small, lifeless body was found the next morning, a blanket of terror smothered the village. Four men hoisted the coffin carrying my sister’s body onto their shoulders and began their long trek into the desert to lay her to rest. Desperately, I chased after them, believing I could fight the demon of death and save my sister. I ran until my legs failed me. Finally, I turned back, tormented and defeated. I left a piece of my heart in the desert that day. After this tragedy, my father left his wife and took me to live with his brother whom he hoped would provide me with a more prosperous life. Traveling in a small canoe down the Congo River, it took many days to reach my uncle’s house. Once we arrived, my father took my face in his hands, kissed my forehead, and whispered in my ear that he would come back for me once he found a job and a house for us. I watched my father walk away, not knowing if I would see him again. My heart was shattered. I would have chosen homelessness and starvation if it meant I could stay with him. I was so in love with my daddy. During the months I spent in my uncle's home, he inflicted trauma and horror on my mind and body. One day the police came to my uncle’s house. They untied me, clothed me, and took me to the police station. The official report read that they removed me from the home “to save the life of this child.” They took me to an orphanage, a single concrete room where 200 children lived on only a small bowl of beans apiece each day. After months there, I was moved to a foster home. In 2010, I was adopted and brought to America to start my new life as Anna Joy Wiggins. In 2019, I was informed that my uncle had murdered my biological father. The weight of this news was soul-crushing. I would never get to feel my daddy's gentle touch or hear his soothing voice again. My daddy was gone. Not only was my father dead, but so were my mother, my baby sister, and my brother. Every second of every day, my heart aches for my family. However, the loss I have suffered will not defeat me. My life story would lead many people to believe that I am now a broken young adult. However, this is far from my reality. The fires of my experience have forged the person I am today. I have been able to use my pain to my advantage instead of my detriment. The potential I possess has been maximized due to my trauma. I grew stronger as a result of what was meant to break me. My spirit is unbreakable. I have learned resilience through the most painful moments in my life. I am still standing despite the adversities I have endured. As a result of losing my entire family, I have vowed to fight for those without a voice. During the fall of 2023, I plan to attend college to major in criminology and sociology. Following my undergraduate degree, I will attend law school. As a lawyer, I will seek justice for marginalized people. I will be the first person from my biological family to attend college. I will succeed not only for myself but for my family. Although they are no longer here, I will make them proud. My life as an orphan girl living on the streets of Congo is over. What matters most to me is showing love and compasssion to those around me because this is what my daddy taught me. I will continue to FIGHT for my family and I will break the generational trauma. I am a warrior.


When is the scholarship application deadline?

The application deadline is Jul 20, 2024. Winners will be announced on Aug 20, 2024.