Kevin Plocher in classroom

Kevin struggled with severe anxiety in high school, and almost didn’t graduate with his class. Thanks to his mom, his teachers—and his own perseverance—Kevin managed to make it through a tough senior year.

Starting college at FRCC gave him the support and confidence he needed to do well in school and pursue his passion. He’s now on track for a bachelor’s degree in physics from CSU.

More Than Just Shyness

Kevin had a pretty typical childhood in Fort Collins. He did reasonably well throughout elementary and middle school—he had friends and got good at skateboarding. But he started to struggle with some pretty serious anxiety in high school.

“I had trouble socializing with kids at school. It brought out a lot of worry in me because of both the social and academic aspects. I was more comfortable staying in my room, reading and playing vid games, or going skating with my friends.”

Falling Behind in School

By his junior year, school just wasn’t really a place he wanted to be. He started getting in a lot of trouble with his grades and falling behind on his learning.

Senior year, it got worse. “My anxiety got really intense. I couldn’t talk in class. I never wanted to go to school—I ditched a lot.”

When teachers would do ice breaker activities or team building exercises—or start class discussions in which students were required to participate—Kevin would ask to use the restroom to escape. But he would actually hide out in the library until he thought it was safe to go back. “That was one of hardest years of my life.”

Big Bad News

Kevin wasn’t the only one who noticed that things weren’t going well. Early in the school year, his teachers sat down with him and his mom, and told them he wasn’t going to graduate at end of year if he stayed on his current path.

They laid out a grueling schedule he would have to follow if he wanted to graduate on time. “They said this is what you’re going to have to do: Take a full schedule, plus a class after school. Plus you’ll have to complete nine online classes by the end of the year. My advisor said he didn’t think it was possible.”

Motivated to get out of high school, Kevin gave it his all. But halfway through the first semester, he just couldn’t handle all the pressure. “I couldn’t deal with my anxiety anymore.”

Finally, Some Relief

Kevin and his mom met with the school counselor, and talked to his teachers for special accommodations that would help with his anxiety level. (For example, he would no longer have to present in front of the class.) This gave him a huge sense of relief.

He continued to go to school, diligently completed his homework and did his extra online classes. By the end of first semester, he was doing reasonably well. “I finished six online classes that semester. My GPA had been awful up to that point—but this helped a lot.” After first semester, he felt good—like this new setup was working. “It felt good to get good grades. I found a new sense for wanting to learn.”

He continued to get good grades second semester, and by the middle of the term, he had finished all of his extra online classes. That spring he graduated on time with his class.

Life After High School

Advising office at Larimer Campus

After commencement, Kevin had no plans to go to college because “the last thing I wanted to do was go back to school,” he laughs. But his mom pushed him to consider it because he had done so well in his final semester of high school. She got him to meet with an advisor at FRCC who helped him register and asked what he was interested in.

The previous year of hiding out in the high school library had given Kevin exposure to some new subjects. “I spent a lot of time learning about the stars and physics, galaxies, the universe—just reading on my own.” So he decided to study physics at FRCC, planning to complete a two-year associate degree.  “It was the first time I was ever excited about anything school related.”

He met with the disability support services staff and arranged to have similar accommodations to his high school classes. “I was so scared and nervous,” he remembers.  “I walked into my first class—it was philosophy—and the professor understood what was going on and was really supportive.”

Getting Comfortable in College

Larimer Campus sign with flowers

“I started to notice the dynamic of college at FRCC, which put me at ease. Everyone was so much more open, relaxed, friendly—there was no high school drama. We were all there to feed off each others’ ideas, dreams and aspirations. I loved it.”

His classes were small, which helped—and because he was studying a specialized subject like physics, he ended up taking classes with many of the same people. “We built a small community of people who all know what your life is like, and you’re there to help each other.”

Supports on Campus

Kevin says his teachers were awesome. “They gave you one-on-one attention. The teachers were there for you and you only. It was reassuring to be able to ask a professor for help, and they would explain things until you got it. It was such a relief.”

“My friends and I still say FRCC had the best teachers and the best classes we’ve taken.”

While at FRCC, he ended up in the work-study program with a job in the natural sciences building. He sometimes got to help out the science lab coordinators—and that’s when he realized he wanted to do laboratory work. “I got a job as lab assistant for the chemistry, anatomy and microbiology department. Being paid to do something I liked and could also be a student—that was a great deal.”

Academic Support Center at Larimer campus

As Kevin got to some higher level physics and math, he admits that some of his classes were pretty hard. But he found the help he needed. “I used the academic support center all the time. They were super helpful.”

He would also meet with his advisor twice a semester. “She would help me sign up for classes to make sure I was getting into the right courses. She would help me think about career options. She was super helpful.”

Hopping on the Transfer Train

Wolves to Rams Logo

Kevin hadn’t been planning to transfer to a four-year school. But then someone told him about the Wolves to Rams scholarship, and he met with the transfer advisor at FRCC—just to talk about the “what if” scenario.

“I wasn’t really ready to transfer at that point. But she’s the best advisor I’ve ever met. She said, ‘What if I told you you could go to CSU next semester for free?’ My jaw dropped.” He ended up applying to CSU and for the scholarship—and was accepted for both.  

Life at CSU

Kevin managed the transition to the university pretty well—but then COVID hit and all his classes went online. Still, he managed to keep learning and building on what he knew from his earlier classes.

“Academically FRCC gave me all the tools I needed. I just continued on to the next semester—like they were connected. It was almost like it was planned. FRCC gave me everything I needed to progress.”

Everything at CSU is going according to plan. Kevin intends to graduate in the spring of 2022 with a Bachelor of Science degree with a physics concentration. “If you tell anyone from my high school that Kevin is going to graduate from college as a physics major, they wouldn’t believe it. I didn’t expect to be here at all. I did a complete 180 from high school to college. I owe it all to the faculty and students at FRCC—and my mom, of course.”

Reaching for the Stars

Kevin has decided he plans to go to grad school for a master’s degree in physics, which he also never thought he would do. After working in his field to get a few years’ worth of experience, and doing some interesting research, he plans to apply to NASA to be an astronaut candidate.

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