Stephanie Pavilus is no stranger to a busy life. Right now, she’s raising a son with special needs, completing her undergraduate degrees in biology and psychology, volunteering, and working full-time.
She aims to fulfill her dream of going to medical school and becoming a neonatologist. It’s an active life and one that she’s been navigating since high school.
However, all this hasn’t stopped Pavilus, 21, from achieving great things. She graduated from high school early with a 3.1 GPA, and transferred to Nova Southeastern University her junior year after being offered a scholarship for academic excellence.
Through her hard work, Pavilus hopes to help others and give her son Kai a good life. She is planning to have a big family someday.
“When it comes to her son, she’s on top of that,” said Maleka Smith, Pavilus’ life coach at SOS Children’s Village, a non-profit organization that provides support for foster children and young adults.
During Pavilus’ three years in the young-adult program, Smith has helped her find daycare services, tutoring, housing, and financial assistance. Smith has also seen Pavilus’ hard work and drive during that time.
“She’s a young mother, and she’s so ambitious,” said Smith. “She strives for greatness.”
Pavilus’ dedication to school and motherhood inspired the agency to nominate her for Wish Book. Pavilus hopes to receive gift cards for clothing and food, a tablet for Kai, and textbooks to help her study for the medical school entrance exam.
Pavilus has been headed for medicine since she was young.
“I’ve always wanted to be a doctor, but I never knew what type of doctor I wanted to be,” said Pavilus. “I discovered neonatology when my son was born, and he was born really sick.”
Kai helped her realize that she wanted to specialize in newborn care after he was born prematurely with underdeveloped lungs.
Fortunately, he recovered and is healthy now. He has autism but goes to school and loves spending time with his many cousins.
As Kai showed off his favorite toys during a recent visit to their apartment in Boca Raton, Pavilus explained that it’s sometimes hard to keep up with motherhood and school.
“Because of the lack of childcare… I end up having to take him to the class with me,” she said. “I’m lucky when I have professors who are super-understanding.”
When she can’t bring Kai to class, Pavilus has to catch up with her lessons during professors’ office hours. She also has to make sure Kai gets on his bus safely before she can leave for her classes, which are about a 40-minute drive to Davie from her home in Boca Raton.
Kai’s autism adds to Pavilus’ already busy life. She said his issues are mostly behavioral, and he especially struggles with change.
“It all depends on what’s happening around him; that really brings it out of him,” said Pavilus.
However, she doesn’t want that to define who her son is or how she raises him.
“I want him to be like a good individual because, at the end of the day, I’m raising someone’s husband,” said Pavilus. “I’m raising someone’s dad. I’m raising someone’s boss, coworker, whatever the case may be.”
She works full-time for the Hospital Corporation of America, processing patients and providing customer support. Pavilus also travels to Tampa monthly to volunteer with AdventHealth, a non-profit health care system. She hopes that job will help her get into medical school.
“I’m working from home now,” Pavilus said. “I work 40 to 50 hour weeks.”
A tablet for Kai would help keep him occupied whenever Pavilus brings him to class and when she goes to Tampa.
“I have to pull him out of school for the day because we’re on the road,” said Pavilus. “He can do something educational and he’s not just chilling all day.”
It’s a lot, but Pavilus said that with all she does, life is improving.
“Some days are definitely harder than others,” she added. “But I’m just learning as I go along because it could always be a lot worse, and I have experienced a lot worse. But that’s kind of just what makes me who I am.”
Pavilus’ life coach, Smith, said her Wish Book items are unique.
“I’ve been at this organization for six years, and I’ve never had anyone one of my recipients even ask for a book,” said Smith. “These are vital things that she needs right now to excel.”
A tablet to help her with Kai and MCAT books to ensure she succeeds in school are the start of Pavilus’ big dreams.
“I want to build my own house, I want to be in my career, I want to be happy motherhoodand I want to be on the path to be able to bless other people humbly enough,” said Pavilus. “It all depends on where God decides to take me.”