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Abigail Zelaya

Mercy Scholar

I'm a trailblazer! I'm a first generation college student, but I won't be the last.


Abigail Zelaya ’20 has been forging a path to a healthcare career for a long time. In middle school, while waiting in an empty nurse’s office, she spotted a stethoscope. Zelaya picked up the instrument and listened to her own heart. “After that, I wanted to know everything about my body,” she recalled.

The incident is emblematic of the fiery independence that drives Zelaya, 17, to do whatever she sets her mind on. Her mother, a native of Honduras, speaks little English. With no one to show her the ropes, Zelaya became the first in her family to attend college, navigating the application process on her own.

In high school she studied to become a certified nursing assistant, and worked after school in a nursing home. “At first I was scared, but I saw I had the stomach for [nursing],” said Zelaya, who also has her eye on Mercy’s physician assistant program.

Believing a role model might have made her life easier, Zelaya is determined to be a support for others, especially her 13-year-old sister, Eunice. “I help her with school, with her friends—with anything I’ve experienced, I tell her what I know,” Zelaya said. “I had no one, but she has me to guide her.”

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Abigail Zelaya's Bio
Graduation Year:
Health and Natural Sciences