Chelsey Jernigan knows about overcoming challenges. At the age of four, Chelsey’s temporary tracheotomy was made permanent. She grew up attending a school for the deaf, using sign language to communicate a majority of the time. At 14, her vocal cords were removed.

Fueled by a positive attitude

Despite that challenge, Chelsey has always worked hard to achieve her goals. “I want to be successful in life, to do things on my own,” she says. “Nothing can get in the way of that.”

After graduating high school in 2007, Chelsey enrolled at FRCC to get her general education course work out of the way. “I really enjoyed FRCC. I enjoyed the students and the services for students like me. And I felt every teacher I had was accommodating and supportive.”

Finding her calling

At first, Chelsey envisioned herself working in the medical field, having volunteered for nearly a decade at the Children’s Hospital. But as time went on, she realized her passion for something close to her heart: special education.

“I’ve been a part of special education programs my entire life, and I really liked how teachers worked with me,” she says. “They helped me so much, and I want to give back to other kids.”

After graduating with her Associate of Arts degree in 2010, Chelsey transferred to Metropolitan State College of Denver’s Bachelor of Arts in Special Education program. She’ll graduate in spring 2012. After that, she has her sights set on the University of Northern Colorado’s Master of Arts in Special Education with an endorsement in deaf/hard of hearing.

Working with the deaf

After getting a master’s degree, Chelsey wants to work in a school setting. “I would love to work with children with disabilities, specifically blind and deaf students,” she says. “My own disability is what inspires me. It’s really encouraged and pushed me to work harder so I can accomplish what I want to.”

Grateful and happy

Chelsey says one of her favorite things about FRCC was the interconnectedness of the community.

“When I came, I thought college was like a huge university with 200 students in lectures all the time,” she says. “It’s not like that at FRCC.”

Most importantly, Chelsey says she values the support for students with disabilities. “I love that staff and teachers really try to work with you. Basically everyone at FRCC wants you to do well.”



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