Mengyuan Yu is no stranger to hard work.

In 2008, Mengyuan moved across the globe from China to the United States, a country she knew only from books and television. “It was so different than the culture I had known my whole life,” Mengyuan admits.

ESL Classes to Learn English

Weeks after arriving, she started high school at the Global Leadership Academy in Thornton and began taking ESL classes—but becoming fluent in English was no easy task. “I always thought, ‘when will I ever be able to read and do my work?’” says Mengyuan, who would stay after school to get help from teachers and translate her class notes from English to Chinese every night. “I had to work three times harder than anyone else.”

Mengyuan’s diligence paid off. By the start of sophomore year, she could understand her classmates and teachers and was keeping up in class. By her junior year, she faced a different—and better—problem.

Taking College Classes in High School

Once comfortable with English, Mengyuan began to excel in just about every subject, but especially in math. She wanted and needed more challenging classes, so her guidance counselor recommended Mengyuan apply for concurrent enrollment at Front Range Community College.

Between the fall of sophomore year and her graduation in June 2012, Mengyuan earned more than 30 credits at FRCC’s Westminster Campus. She took college algebra, trigonometry, and calculus I as a sophomore; calculus II as a junior; and algebra-based chemistry, calculus III, and chemistry I as a senior. She also took an FRCC public speaking class offered at her high school.

Preparing for a Dream

Almost since the first time she’d heard about Colorado School of Mines her freshman year, Mengyuan knew it was the college for her. Thanks to her FRCC classes, Mengyuan says she was able to strengthen her academic resume and prepare for Mines’ rigorous curriculum. After graduating with a 3.96—the class valedictorian—Mengyuan was accepted at Mines and began her freshman year in fall 2012.

“I definitely would not be able to succeed at Mines without my Front Range classes and the support of the great teachers,” says Mengyuan. “Nadine Bluett got me so excited about math,” she says. “And Marcus Szwankowski always invited me to get help after class and gave me great advice on how to study. FRCC teachers were always willing to help me prepare for the college experience.”

Studying Environmental Engineering

Mengyuan is an environmental engineering major at Mines, and says she hopes to one day use her education to help the environment while securing the nation’s safety. “I really care about protecting the environment and creating a greener habitat for us to live in,” she says. “I think food and water security could be a very interesting career.”

FRCC is a Great Stepping Stone

She knows that reaching her goals may not be easy, but she’s certainly not afraid of putting in the work. And thanks to Front Range, she knows she’s capable of college-level academics. “For me, Front Range was a great stepping stone to college,” she says. “I became so much more independent and learned how to adapt to the college environment.”

Working Hard Pays Off

Perhaps the greatest lesson from her high school years that she’ll carry with her through college and beyond is that of perseverance. “I’ve always felt that being smart only gets me so far. If I don’t work hard, I won’t get where I want to go. If you want something in life, you have to work for it.”


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