A few months after I turned 17, I became pregnant, and very soon after married. From that moment, I became convinced that the likelihood that I would earn a college degree was nearly impossible, despite the fact that I always imagined myself going to law school.
While other 18-year-olds were packing for college and spending their summers lounging in the sun and saying goodbyes, I was spending my nights changing diapers and trying to soothe a fussy baby back to sleep. Raising a baby and working full time to help my husband start a small business, I can’t count the number of days that I was lucky if I even managed to get in a quick shower.
I may as well walk on the moon
Honestly, the very idea of college seemed as distant to me as the possibility of walking on the moon. I was a teen mom, a statistic, and a stereotype; and as such, I believed college was no longer in the cards for me.
For many years I struggled with a strong sense of inferiority because I had failed to attend college. The little ones that my children played with had parents who were doctors, lawyers, and engineers. Here I was, a teen mom who was struggling to make ends meet and put food on the table. Sadly, I believed that college was for normal 18-year-olds, not for teenage mothers.
Encouragement from a friend
It wasn’t until I was almost 30 that a dear friend encouraged me to enroll at Front Range Community College. The college was right across the street from where my children attended elementary school, and the schedule was flexible enough that I could attend classes while my children were in school. This sounded like an ideal opportunity, but from the moment I decided to enroll, I was utterly terrified.
I was terrified to take the placement exams
It had been more than 10 years since I had taken an academic exam. Don’t get me wrong, I knew how to do complex math, with a calculator of course, but I was fairly certain the college would require a bit more of me than that. I trained for college as if I was training for a marathon. I spent hours taking practice placement tests, did research about the kinds of classes I might be interested in taking, and planned out exactly how I could get through 60 college-level credit hours within two years, all while being a wife and working mother of two. The more committed I became to achieving my reawakened goal of earning a college degree, the more excited I became of finally “making something” of myself.
A huge mistake?
In spring 2010, I began my first semester at FRCC. After showing up to class on time, excited, and with all of my books and materials in tow, the instructor offered me a warm welcome, along with the class syllabus. Within seconds of reading through the syllabus, I suffered from an extremely intense, yet very quiet, complete mental breakdown! How the heck was I going to accomplish all of this in just 15 weeks?
A patient, friendly professor
Following that first day in U.S. Foreign Relations History, I asked my professor, Andy DeRoche, if I could speak with him. I was incredibly nervous, maybe this was all a huge mistake, and maybe I couldn’t actually cut it in college after all. Almost immediately, Professor DeRoche managed to make me laugh, ease my fears, and even offered me some great advice. This incredibly busy professor took the time to sit patiently and listen to my concerns. Professor DeRoche assured me that he would do whatever he could to help me succeed in his class, and this single encounter made a world of difference in how I would manage to survive four years of college.
From that moment, I was determined to succeed, and FRCC and its wonderful teachers and staff helped me to realize my great potential, a gift that would serve me for years to come. After attending FRCC for two years, including two semesters of summer courses, I graduated with my Associate degree and was even asked to speak during Commencement. I was elated that I had achieved my lifelong dream.
Next stop: University of Denver
Eager to embark on my next step, I applied to the University of Denver. I was accepted and offered a generous scholarship as a transfer student.
The University of Denver is considered one of the most academically rigorous institutions of higher education in the state, and thanks to FRCC, I was fully prepared. In June 2014 I graduated magna cum laude with my Bachelor’s degree in international studies. During my time there, students who had started as freshman at the university often remarked about how smart I was to attend community college before transferring. The choice to attend FRCC is one of the smartest decisions I have ever made. While FRCC offered me substantial tuition savings, the community college ended up offering me much more that can’t be measured in dollars and cents.
Community colleges change lives
FRCC changed not only my life, but also the lives of my two children. At FRCC, I was offered small class sizes, impeccable instructors, and a community of students who were just like me, people from all walks of life who were working hard to pursue an education and to better their lives. Without the help and dedication of all the wonderful teachers I had the great privilege of learning from, along with the incredible scholarship support I received from the FRCC Foundation and its generous donors, I would have simply been unable to accomplish my lifelong dream of earning a college degree.
Community colleges across the country change lives every single day. I am honored to say that I am the product of a community college, and my life has certainly changed for the better as a result.