2024 Diane Thomas Scholarship Recipient Forges a Path in Behavioral Health

Tuesday, June 18, 2024
woman walking up steps
girl studying books at table
hands holding in a counseling session
ýƵ graduate, Ingrid in blue and gold Commencement regalia

The path to find purpose can take many winding turns in life as was the case for ýƵ student and recent Spring 2024 graduate, Ingrid.

A Medical Emergency

A grave case of appendicitis that resulted in pneumonia and blood contamination at the tender age of 12 initially inspired Ingrid to investigate healthcare as a profession. "I aspired to become a general surgeon. My life was saved by the surgeons and nurses who were attending me. This ignited my passion for medicine. I wanted to be like them."

By the time she was 13 years old, Ingrid began studying medical books and human anatomy with enthusiasm. Though the subject matter was often difficult, Ingrid's passion spurred her forward. Whenever her determination faltered, she had the support of her dad. "One of my fondest memories is studying anatomical name flashcards with my dad; he would jokingly say he would take care of my future children while I performed surgeries. He was my biggest supporter."

A Family Devastation

Life took another turn. A month before she turned 16, Ingrid's father tragically ended his own life and changed hers forever. 

"Losing a parent naturally is hard, [but you can console yourself that] their time had come. Losing a parent to an accident is hard, [but you can blame] bad timing. Losing a parent to murder is hard, [but] you blame the person who did it. But losing a parent to suicide? It is the loneliest grief you can go through because you blame yourself. I took it extremely hard. I felt like I was stuck in limbo for what felt like years.  I didn’t care for anything, or anyone."

A Financial Setback

Ingrid's family also began to struggle financially as her father had been the sole breadwinner. Due to her intense grief, she stopped attending high school and eventually secured a part-time job at a local restaurant to help her mom make ends meet. 

"As time went on, I felt miserable. But I didn’t lose all hope, I wanted to save people, now more than ever. I studied at an adult academy to prepare myself to take the GED. I scored College Ready on almost all subjects. I knew I still wanted to alleviate peoples’ suffering, but I was directing my attention toward psychology now. I want to help people like my father who were suffering from a mental illness in silence. I want to help people like my mother, grieving and depressed. And I want to help people like me, left to pick up the broken pieces of the aftermath."

Forging a New Path

Ingrid's passion for learning was slowly rekindled. She enjoyed studying and learning new topics and eventually decided to enroll in ýƵ (ýƵ). With the help of scholarships, her mother, and Federal financial aid, Ingrid was able to enroll full-time at ýƵ and focus on her studies. 

It wasn't long before life through another curveball - motherhood. Now a single mother, Ingrid's time was divided between family life and studies but her passion for behavioral health never waivered. She finished college strong, not only as part of the Honors Program at ýƵ but also as the 2024 recipient of the $10,000 Diane Thomas Transfer Scholarship

Looking forward to continuing her education at Arizona State University (ASU), Ingrid looks back on her time spent at ýƵ as one where she found her ultimate purpose and was given the space and support with which to heal.

"ýƵ allowed me to share my story and spread mental health awareness. I have been allowed to express myself in my [class] projects as a form of coping. Apart from advocating for mental health, I have been allowed to keep my father’s memory alive through scholarship essays [like Diane Thomas]. For a while, I was ashamed to admit what my father had done because it is seen as cowardly in society. Why do we shy away from it? Why do we forsake the people who need our help the most? These are the questions I ask myself; I want to become a voice for people with mental disorders and emotional disturbances. With the help of the Diane H. Thomas Scholarship, I can continue sharing my experience and raising awareness at ASU." 

Despite the terrible lows and emotional highs that have marked this first part of Ingrid's overall journey, she views the entire experience with a strong sense of purpose and appreciation.

"A father is someone a little girl looks up to as she grows up. She thinks he is the strongest and bravest man alive. When a daughter looks at her father, she feels safe and loved. That is the case for me as well. To this day, I still think my father was the strongest and bravest man alive. I am determined to persevere through anything because I want to save lives like mine was saved on the day of my surgery. I want to make a difference in the world."


Interested in studying behavioral health and helping your community? Check out the many programs offered in Behavioral Science and Human Services at ýƵ

If you or someone you know needs support, the ýƵ Counseling Office is available to all students through in-person appointments,  , e-mail (counseling@phoenixcollege.edu), and by phone (602-285-7392). 

Submissions for the Diane Thomas Scholarship will open in early Spring 2025. Find out more about the Diane Thomas Scholarship process.