Natashia Duncan is no stranger to hard work.

The Oregon native has worked full time since graduating high school in 2012—often juggling several jobs at a time—and has also taken college classes online at the local community college wherever she has lived. “I’m the first one in my family to be interested in college, but my family has always been very supportive of my dreams,” she says.

Those dreams include graduating from college without debt, which means Natashia has gained a wealth of experience in the eight years since she started her adult life. She was a project coordinator and web designer for a real estate agency in Portland, a coordinator of an after-school program for low-income students, and a data entry analyst for a global merchant services company.

A Move to Colorado in 2017

When Natashia and her partner came to Colorado in 2017, she sought out Front Range Community College and began taking classes. She also got a job at Northrop Grumman in business management site support and has since worked her way up to contract order administrator, and most recently, contract administrator. “I got the promotion on my last day of classes at FRCC in May,” she says. “Northrop Grumman has been extremely supportive of my education and offered me a new role when I graduated. I love my work there and love that they want to see me continue my education.”

Online education has always fit her busy life, Natashia says. “There was a period of about two years until COVID-19 hit that my partner and I also did janitorial services, working to pay off her graduate school student loans, and we saved up to purchase our first house,” she says. “There was just no time for me to go to campus between my jobs, so I’m really grateful that I could still pursue college online, at night, when it works for my life.”

An Incredible Experience

Although online education isn’t new to Natashia, the streamlined experience and supportive environment have stood out at FRCC. “FRCC is the absolute best,” she says. “I’m very happy with the education I have received overall, but there are several instructors who went above and beyond and made me feel like I matter. When you wake up at 4 a.m. every day, clean offices, then administer government contracts all day and write school papers all night, it means a lot when an instructor reaches out to say, ‘You’re doing great.’ That’s made for an incredible experience.”

Not the Average Student

After four and a half years, Natashia achieved her college dreams with an Associate of Arts degree in May 2020. With campus closed and the world on lockdown, she wasn’t able to don her cap and gown, but it didn’t stop her loved ones from celebrating her success. “My partner put together this video of my entire family telling me how proud of me they were,” she says. “I’ll admit: I struggled with the fact that I’ve been working on an associate degree for over four years and it should take the average person two. But I am not the average student. And this wasn’t the average experience.”

Planning Her Future Career

Although she’s finished with her A.A. program, Natashia isn’t finished with her college education. In fall 2020, Natashia will start a bachelor’s degree at Colorado State University Global. She’ll major in Project Management with a specialization in Criminology and hopes to finish by 2023. “My hope is to eventually make impactful change to criminal justice,” she says. “I’d like to focus specifically on creating programs that help people coming out of prison return to society and be upstanding citizens,” she says.

As she always has, she’ll give college everything she’s got. “When I first started at the community college back in Oregon, my grandmother told me, ‘Never give up. Just keep going,’” she says. “This has been a lot of blood, sweat, and tears, but it’s worth it. I’m really excited about this milestone and about continuing forward.”

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