Mandy speaking at the graduation podium

First-Generation Student-Parent Continuing Her Studies at CSU

As we celebrate our graduates this spring, we hear many powerful stories about their experienceboth in college and in life. More often than not, they’re stories of overcoming significant obstacles to reach their dreams.

We get to hear from some of these students during our graduation ceremonies. We call them our “Voices.” Over the next week or so, we’ll be sharing several of their speeches with you here.

We hope you learn something worthwhile from each our our graduate’s voices.

Mandy Scanlon—Associate of Arts

Y’all, I am standing before you today because I bought a laptop I couldn’t afford, and I needed money. I didn’t come to FRCC because I was ready to educate myself out of the poverty and abuse I was experiencing, I came because in an ADHD impulse-rage, I bought a $700 laptop to play an online reality game with my online reality TV friends.

After not being able to find sustainable employment for the entirety of 2019, I was homeless, 100-percent custody single mother forced into lockdown with abusers at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. I needed money and I needed it fast, not only to pay for this laptop that was giving me a temporary escape, but I wanted to take my son and permanently escape to safety.

An Escape

Through researching loan options, I quickly found out that a round of student loan disbursements from a community college would be enough to not only pay for the laptop, but I could finally fund that escape and get my son and I to safety.

Mandy and her son in costumes

I started at FRCC in the fall of 2020 and thanks to that laptop and the amazing faculty and staff at FRCC, I have since become a TRIO Peer Mentor, Resilience Award winner, PTK member, Jack Kent Cooke Semifinalist, two-time editor of BCC’s award-winning literary magazine, Plains Paradox, I have made the President’s List in every semester I was eligible, but most importantly, I am happy, healthy, and healing.

I am Mandy Scanlon. I am a first-generation, neurodivergent, non-traditional success story, just like so many of you, and I am SO PROUD OF ALL OF US.

Finding Support

I spent my K12 years being dismissed and minimized because of my ADHD, and it was not until I arrived at FRCC, at 34-years-old, had I felt an iota of the support in education I have felt here. It turns out I didn’t hate school like I spent my entire life believing; I hated the way I was treated by the educational system along my journey.

That’s not to say I didn’t have great teachers—I had several—but educators are only as strong as their system, and that’s where FRCC exceeded my expectations. From my first meeting with my incredible pathways advisor, to the safe space with my TRIO family, to the hands I held while writing this speech, I have always felt supported, wanted, and valued by the Font Range Community College system and I’ll admit, I’m terrified to leave it.

A New Family

This community has replaced my biological family of abusers, but unlike that family, Front Range has given me the tools I need to succeed as well as the confidence in myself I never had. As I move on to Colorado State University to major in journalism and minor in anthropology, I’ll remember how the staff member who sat quietly while I sobbed in their office is also the one putting on Pikachu sunglasses and taking selfies with my son.

The faculty who sent in student of concern forms for me also wrote me letters of recommendation for some of the most prestigious schools in the nation. They supported me through life’s pain and celebrated with me through its successes.

What’s Next

While moving away from family is hard, the good thing about a supportive family is that they will always be there when you’re ready to come home. And don’t worry mom and dad, I’ll be home soon. Congratulations, class of 2023!

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