(3TV/CBS 5) - A young Phoenix-area woman working two jobs, while going to school full time, is breaking the cycle of domestic violence and abuse

“Quitting is not an option for Martha,” said Kristie, Martha’s mother. 

“I had her when I was 19 and she was my fourth child. I fell into some substance abuse issues,” she said.

“There were times when she couldn’t live with me,” she said tearing up. “Statistically, she could have been in a totally different place but she chose not to.  You want to go to school, you don’t have money? You work two jobs, you work three jobs. You don’t sleep. You don’t have a ride? You take the light rail.  She’s this amazing soul that just wants to do good for other people."

Martha is enrolled full time at Pima Medical Institute in Mesa and pays for her tuition as an Uber driver. Martha agreed to an interview with Arizona’s Family Surprise Squad’s Nicole Crites under the impression the story was about Uber drivers.

“How long have you been driving Uber?” asked Crites.

“About two and a half months,” answered Martha. 

“I was working at State Farm selling insurance,” said Martha. 

“With the demands of the medical program and you know, a full-time job, it just got to be very overwhelming," said Martha. "That’s why I started this because I am in school. It is very, very, very demanding so I have maybe three or four hours of homework at night."

“What are you going to school for?” asked Crites.

“For occupational therapy,” answered Martha. 

“I want to work with children. So my goal is to work in an outpatient pediatric clinic. We work with them doing functional activities to get them to be as independent as possible," said Martha. "I found Pima and I got accepted into the program. It’s a private school. I have eight months left, so I probably will be doing this eight to ten months and then I’ll be done."

“Is it expensive?” asked Crites.

“Overall, I’ll probably pay about $16,000 out of pocket,” said Martha.

“Oh my gosh!” said Crites.

“Pima has a café and I actually started working there about a week ago,” said Martha. “So yesterday, I worked from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. in the café. I left at 5 p.m. and turned on my meter and worked from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Ubering last night.”

“Wow!” exclaimed Crites.

“Yeah and that was having class from 8 a.m. to 11:50 a.m.!” said Martha.

“Has it been a struggle day to day paying the tuition and making those bill payments?” asked Crites.

“There’s been times when I’m like, ‘I don’t know how I’m going to be able to make my school payment’. My school payment is almost as much as paying rent,” said Martha.

“Like two weeks ago I was eating ramen for two or three days a week. And you know, one day I put eggs in it and spinach and carrots and just trying to make it healthy!” she laughed. "Do whatever I can because, it’s just, I just have to finish. Failure is not an option.”

After the interview, Martha drove to Pima Medical Institute to give Crites a tour of the school. When she opened the door, a crowd of students, school personnel and her family were there to greet her.

“Surprise!” the crowd shouted to a stunned Martha.

“We’re with Arizona’s Family Surprise Squad and we have a big surprise for you, Martha,” announced Crites.

“I’m John Stanley from Toyota Dealers Association and we’re all really proud to be here with you today, really proud of you,” said Stanley as he handed Martha a pink box.

“Thank you. Oh my gosh,” said Martha taking the box.

Martha carefully opened the box and gasped after reading the note tucked inside.

“$8,000 for tuition,” said Crites.

The crowd burst into applause, while a tearful mother and daughter hugged.

“I’m so proud of you,” said mother Kristie. “I really am.”

“Also, your school has come in, they actually worked with us to give you this special surprise today,” said Crites.

“We are proud to partner with Toyota and Channel 3 to give you this surprise and gift,” said Mark Judy, associate campus director with the Pima Medical Institute. 

“We pride ourselves as a school to support our students in their educational journey while they are here. Congratulations,” he said.

“I just feel so blessed,” said Martha. “You know, there was like one time that I was Ubering and I broke down, you know, and I gave it to God and I was like ‘please,’” she said struggling to hold back tears. “It was like ‘I just have to keep working!’ And like I was saying earlier, I have to do whatever it takes to, like, I have eight months left. I just feel so blessed and you guys, thank you. I don’t even know what to say.”

“She’s the epitome of the American dream,” said mother Kristie. “She fights no matter what. She’s beautiful inside and out. I can’t be more proud of her. I can’t.”

Thank you to our partner Pima Medical Institute for helping with this surprise. Arizona’s Family Surprise Squad is powered by your Valley Toyota Dealers

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Copyright 2018 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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