Student Success: Community College a Beacon of Hope
Life hasn’t always been easy for Nate Saam.
Nate spent his formative years roaming the gang-ridden neighborhoods of Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Memphis, Tennessee. Without family support at home, Nate got into trouble. By high school, he was rebelling against any and all teachers and other authority figures. “I was suspended 15 times one year,” says Nate. “I don’t think teachers knew what I was thinking, but when you’ve been given up on so many times by people who are supposed to protect you, life loses its value.”
Nate Knew He was on a Dangerous Path
A confrontation at a troubled youth conference was a turning point. “I got into a blow-out fight with a counselor who said, ‘Look, you can accept this life or you can change it,’” Nate recalls. “It was one of those ‘spark’ moments in my life where I realized I could choose to be in control.” After barely graduating high school in 1999, Nate followed a friend into the Marine Corps in 2000. He served five years, working as a microwave radio technician.
Discipline and Motivation to Turn Things Around
After being honorably discharged in 2005, he started working for a family friend’s company installing plastic molding injection machines. A work trip brought him to Colorado later that year, and when the company closed and Nate lost his job, he and his girlfriend (now wife) decided to make a change. They moved from Michigan to Denver, where he started working as a cable installer and his wife started her elementary school teaching career.
Finding a School with Personal Attention
Nate also worked part time in the front office of his wife’s school—which happened to be across the street from Front Range Community College’s Boulder County Campus. “I decided one day to go into the admissions office,” Nate says. “It was the fall of 2009. I took a placement test; I talked to an advisor. It just seemed like a good decision to try to get ahead. But I needed a place where I would get a bit more one-on-one time. I found that at Front Range.”
Facing Fears to a Path of Success
Nate says that after facing his fears, there was nothing that could stop him. “I decided right away that I was going to use my past to drive me,” he says. Each semester, Nate’s GPA improved and in his final FRCC semester, he earned a 4.0. “The instructors at FRCC really inspired me to work hard.” In particular, Dr. Jennifer Eisenlau and Glenn Locke were Nate’s cheerleaders. “They gave me the tools to succeed. They never limited me, and they helped me realize that my only boundaries were the ones I put on myself.”
Another motivator, Nate says, was his fellow students. “There were people coming from all different backgrounds—some people who had kids at a young age, some who were much older—and I really fed off their determination, too. I really enjoyed that aspect of my education.”
Pursuing a Passion for Protecting Others
Nate graduated from FRCC with his A.S. in spring 2012 (achieving a 3.65 GPA) and transferred to Colorado State University, where he is majoring in business management and considering a certificate in entrepreneurship. One day, he may write a book about how to survive as a small business—drawing on his own unlikely success story—and start a video-conference education business to inspire inner-city students to go to college. “Whatever I do, I want to help people get ahead,” he says. “My passion is protecting those who are vulnerable—whether that’s businesses or others.”
FRCC: A Beacon of Hope
When he graduates from CSU in 2013, Nate hopes he can give back to FRCC in some way—even something as simple as speaking to teachers and students about students’ different personal backgrounds and how those backgrounds affect their FRCC experience.
Everywhere he goes, Nate recommends FRCC—and for a very simple reason. “It is a beacon of hope,” he says. “For me, FRCC was a glimmer of light when I was lost in in the shadows. I grabbed onto it with everything I had.”