Cancer, poverty, abuse and mental illness are just a few obstacles a group of resilient students have overcome in their young lives. The Reno-Sparks Rotary Clubs gave more than $38,000 in scholarship money to those students at their annual 'Achievement Beyond Obstacles' Scholarship Program luncheon.

Bryan Zepeda Pocasangre is a scholarship recipient this year. He is one of just over 20 students recognized Thursday, for his resiliency. 

Joel Muller, Assistant Governor for Rotary International Reno-Sparks says, "These are amazing kids, kids who have overcome poverty, abuse, neglect, illness and have persevered in the face of adversity."

They are students breaking both physical and mental barriers -- like one young woman, Victoria Matthews, a leukemia survivor and scholarship recipient.

The ABO program helps mentor these students by giving them the tools they need to cope and overcome.  Matthews explains the steps they walk the students through, "One-- what? What's your obstacle? Two--so what? What did this teach you? Three--now what? What are you going to do now?" 

The goal of the program is to help these kids recover and go on to lead successful lives, no matter how deep the trauma runs. Just like Zepeda, who grew up in an abusive household. He says, "I could remember my dad kicking, punching, throwing my mom around. All I could do was cry and hope that he wouldn't come back."

He recalls an instance the abuse got so bad, his mom almost died. She was admitted to the hospital for an entire week.  Zepeda says it not only affected him mentally, but academically, "For about two weeks I refused to go to school. I just wanted to stay with her."

Over time, his wounds began to heal. The ABO program, he says, helped him realize that with the mindset, "Moving forward, what are you going to do? How are you going to do it."

So, moving forward, he now knows exactly what he'll do. His mother, Floridalma Pocasangre adds proudly, "I love him so much. My son is very very intelligent." The future University of Nevada, Reno student plans to use this scholarship money for an engineering degree. That is all thanks to ABO, and, of course, his mother, for his fighting spirit.

The program also mentors these students throughout their college careers to give them continued support. 

If you'd like to donate time or money to the program, click here.