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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – It takes a village. And Charity Mason, a senior at Dallas’ Carter High School — has needed one—and so much more. She was one of six Carter students awarded full academic scholarships today to Texas Christian University.

“A lot of us went through a lot, a whole lot this year,” she told her classmates, while attempting to explain the group’s tears at the afternoon assembly. “It was nothing but the strength of God that got us here.”

And while all of the students are winners… none had endured what she had lost.

“My Mom passed away last year, two days before my birthday… and it was really hard for me and I didn’t know how I would make it. But, my sister and Mrs. Cardinale stayed by my side the whole entire time.” And with that, the tears took over… and she wasn’t alone.

Mrs. Cardinale was also wiping away tears. She was already in the audience—and it wasn’t by accident. She’s a Carter teacher.

“She was faced with having to move to Houston,” said Lara Cardinale. “She was devastated to have to leave this school, to have to leave her friends.”

So the Carter village kicked in.

“Mrs. Cardinale stepped in as a role model and just took me into her home and a lot of people wouldn’t have done that,” said Charity, her voice breaking. “Now, I see her as my Mom. And I don’t think my Mom could want anything better for me than to be with a lady who treats me as her family.”

As for Cardinale, a mother of two, she said she couldn’t be more proud of the 18 year old that she first met last year.

“She’d always impressed me,” said Cardinale, “her composure, her maturity. I wanted to see her successful and I think she’s going to do great things.”

The scholarship to TCU is valued at roughly $250,000 and includes mentoring and an opportunity to study abroad.

“She’s been in my office probably every day this week,” said Counselor Melissa Pace, who guarded knowledge of the winners well. Pace has also worked relentlessly behind the scenes to help students get prepared and complete college applications.

“She has always been a leader at our school,” said Pace. “She has had good days and bad days, but through it all she has persevered.” Pace said she, too, is thrilled about the TCU scholarship because she knows she will be putting Charity “in good hands.”

When asked why she continued working hard after her mother’s death late last year, Charity simply said that giving up was not an option. She wants to become a social worker.

“I know that’s how I would be able to help my sister and give back to the people that helped me get here.” And while admitting to some sadness that her mother wasn’t on hand for the big surprise, Charity said she knows that she’s watching her and is “proud… super proud.”

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