Checota Scholar Has Always Been All About Helping Others

With full-ride scholarship, Medical Assistant student will earn diploma and get healthcare position

Mark Feldmann,

November 17, 2023

Faby Lopez

The Checota scholarship has been incredible. As a full-time student and a full-time mom, it was a huge weight off my shoulders to not worry about college costs.

Faby López Franco MATC Medical Assistant Student and Checota scholarship recipient

MILWAUKEE – Even as a little girl, Faby López Franco always lent a helping hand. 

In kindergarten, she would finish her own work then assist her classmates completing their work.

“I have always been good with people and have tried to help others as much as I can,” said López Franco, a student in the Medical Assistant program at Milwaukee Area Technical College. “You definitely need to be that kind of person to be a good medical assistant. You need to really want to help people understand what they are hearing from doctors and nurses.”

Thanks to MATC and to the Ellen and Joe Checota MATC Scholarship Program, López Franco will graduate in December, join the workforce and start helping patients understand their medical diagnosis and recommendations.

Launched in August 2022, the full-ride Checota MATC Scholarship Program helps eligible students pursuing technical diplomas and certificates earn their credentials and enter the workforce quickly.

For López Franco, the scholarship paid for her tuition, books, equipment – scrubs, stethoscope, blood pressure cuff – food and child care for her 5-year-old daughter. The financial assistance allowed her to attend school full time and get her diploma in two semesters. 

“The Checota scholarship has been incredible,” she said. “As a full-time student and a full-time mom, it was a huge weight off my shoulders to not worry about college costs.”

López Franco was born in central Mexico and came to Milwaukee when she was 8 years old, along with her mother and younger brother.

She graduated from Milwaukee’s St. Anthony High School in 2016 and wanted to become a medical examiner. 

“I always wanted to figure out what happened to a person, whether it was natural or something else,” she said. “I always wanted to help give relatives peace of mind.”

After high school, she attended Mount Mercy University in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to study forensic science. But she left after only one semester due to financial issues.

She returned to Milwaukee, got married, had her daughter and took a job as an educational assistant at St. Anthony. Her marriage eventually broke apart, and she decided to go to MATC to study dental hygiene.

“I had always remembered our counselors in high school telling us how financially smart it was to go to MATC,” López Franco said. “They really stressed that you could go there for two years and transfer.”

She started courses in the fall of 2019 but dropped out when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and the college went to virtual instruction. “I’m the kind of person who needs in-person classes. I really didn’t like taking classes online,” she said.

In 2022, she returned to MATC through the ReStart program, which provides a scholarship to eligible returning students to pay off past-due balances owed to the college. She took several science courses and began working as a certified nursing assistant at East Troy Manor, a long-term senior living facility. 

In the spring of 2023, she was accepted into MATC’s Medical Assistant program and heard about the Checota Scholarship. Laurie Zielinski, her medical terminology instructor, told the class about the Checota program.

“Throughout the semester I like to keep the students informed on the many things happening in the college,” said Zielinski, who also serves as lead faculty for the Healthcare Pathway certificate programs. 

“In particular, I like to remind the students about the scholarships available to them because I believe some students forget about scholarships once they leave high school. As an instructor, I am in a unique position because I have their attention, I can address any question they may have immediately. Also, I think sometimes students get so many emails from the college that they do not always pay attention to all of them, so when I highlight in class, I pique their interest.”

With her costs covered, López Franco took an on-campus job as a Bilingual Student Ambassador at the college’s CareerHub. In November, she started an externship with the 16th Street Community Health Center.

She is also preparing to take a national certification exam and has already been asked to apply for positions at Aurora and Froedtert hospital systems.

“It’s all very exciting and a little nerve wracking,” she said. “Most of all, I want to do something that I enjoy doing every day and want to go back and do it again the next day. Thanks to MATC, I believe I will find that.”

Learn about MATC's Medical Assistant program

ABOUT MATC: Wisconsin’s largest technical college and one of the most diverse two-year institutions in the Midwest, Milwaukee Area Technical College is a key driver of southeastern Wisconsin’s economy and has provided innovative education in the region since 1912. Nearly 28,000 students per year attend the college’s four campuses and community-based sites or learn online. MATC offers affordable and accessible education and training opportunities that empower and transform lives in the community. The college offers more than 180 academic programs; and transfer options leading to bachelor’s degrees with more than 40 four-year colleges and universities. Overwhelmingly, MATC graduates build careers and businesses in southeastern Wisconsin. The college is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.