Photo of Cynthia Dietrich on a sled with hand skiis at the top of a mountain with an assistant behind her

Cynthia Dietrich might have been born with spina bifida – a defect in which the vertebrae do not close around the spinal cord – but she hasn’t let that stop her from living a full and active life.

The 26-year-old Missouri native moved to Boulder, Colorado, during high school and has since taken up a range of new hobbies – including horseback riding, hand cycling, mountain biking, and alpine skiing with a bi-unique ski and riggers for her arms. During ski season, she heads up to Winter Park once a week to ski with her dad and the National Sports Center for the Disabled. The way she feels about her various athletic pursuits is a lot like how she feels about school. “There are times you want to quit,” says Cynthia, who moved into a wheelchair full time at the age of 10. “Support is really important. And once you have that, it makes a big difference.”

Drawn to FRCC for its Early Childhood Program

During her senior year at Boulder High School, Cynthia got involved in the Bridges Transition Program, which helps high school students explore career and education options and build plans for success. That’s how she learned about FRCC – and its Early Childhood Education program. “That was one thing that really drew me here,” says Cynthia. “I’ve wanted to become a teacher since I was 9 years old, and I’ve volunteered for years at various childhood education centers and day-care centers. FRCC’s program will help me do exactly what I’ve always wanted to do.”

More specifically, Cynthia wants to teach at a school for children with special needs – much like the school where she was a student in Kansas City and later, a volunteer. Today, she volunteers at Bal Swan Children’s Center in Broomfield. “I love making connections with kids and helping them communicate and answering their questions.” In her work with a range of children with many types of disabilities, Cynthia says that she aims to show students by example that living with a disability is a matter of making adjustments. “I tell my kids that I can do the same things they can, but I just do them a little bit differently.”

A Long Road

Cynthia has been an FRCC student since 2007, taking one class a semester to ensure she can handle the work involved. “School has never been totally easy for me,” Cynthia admits. She has sought out the help of various FRCC support services, and has most recently leaned on Peggy Copeland, retention specialist, for assistance. “Peggy has helped me through many of the demons I’ve had as a student and has helped me realize that that I can do this. She has saved me!”

The Path to Success

In spring 2014, Cynthia will complete her Early Childhood Education certificate. She plans to continue on for her A.A.S. in Early Childhood Education – and begin applying for assistant teacher positions at preschools when she graduates.

FRCC has been the right environment for Cynthia to flourish and become the student and future teacher she has always wanted to be. “For me, the small classes and the welcoming teachers have been really great,” she says. “It’s a supportive place and a nice campus community.”

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