Bianca speaking at the podium at graduation

First-generation student overcomes severe anxiety to find healing, success in college.

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.” This spring, we’re sharing several of their speeches with you here.

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

Bianca Acosta: Associate of Arts

It’s hard to believe that we are here, today, celebrating the culmination of our hard work. There were times along this journey where I wasn’t sure I would make it – did you feel like that, too?

Nelson Mandela said, “Do not judge me by my success. Judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.”

Each of us is here today because we fell down and made the choice to get back up. My name is Bianca Acosta: I am a TRIO student and tonight, I am a graduate. 

College Was “Not an Option”

As a first-generation student, college was not an option for me. After high school, my goal was to get a job and start working right away.

By the time I was 19, I was a licensed cosmetologist working as a hairstylist. My time in the salon left me feeling unfulfilled as I always felt like something was missing. Deep down, I knew I wanted more out of life but I wasn’t sure what that was or how I was going to get there. 

Getting Unstuck

For many of us, the pandemic inspired change. In addition to all of the emotions brought on by COVID, I felt very empty and again, unfulfilled. For the first time, I began to seriously consider attending college, as getting an education seemed like the only way to get unstuck.  

In Spring of 2021, I landed at Front Range Community College. Since I started college during COVID, all my courses were fully remote, which was very isolating. On top of my new, stressful, full-time courses, I had to maintain a full-time job to pay for school. I was overwhelmed and felt extremely alone.  

A Helpful Diagnosis

Last fall, after experiencing severe stomach pains, I was finally diagnosed by my therapist. She said, “You have severe anxiety disorder and minor depression.”

Although scary at first, I finally felt like I knew what I was fighting and began the process of self-healing. I began practicing meditation, regular therapy sessions and setting healthy boundaries. I was also attending classes in person again. Combined, these factors began to help me feel less isolated.

I was now healthier, and a part of a community: The Front Range community. 

Working on Building Resilience

Over the last year, I’ve been working to build resilience to help me reach success. If there’s one thing Front Range has taught me, it’s the fact that mistakes are inevitable.

Here, I felt safe to try, to fail, and to try again. I’ve done poorly on exams, and messed up on assignments, but each time I’ve felt this way, I’ve reminded myself to keep trying. All of the good things in my life have come with hard work, and this degree did, too. 

A Supportive Community

Programs like TRIO, as well as some of my teachers, like Dr. Stow, have helped me learn how and why to create healthy boundaries, and the importance of listening to my body and emotions.

My tribe believed in me, even when it was hard for me to believe in myself; I would not be where I am today without the support of my family and Rob.  

My time here at Front Range has been centered around internal healing, and the drive to keep going even when I know the path will not be easy. This fall, I will be attending Metropolitan State University of Denver to finish a bachelor’s degree in communication, to pursue a career in teaching. 

Today, I look in the mirror and smile, knowing that I didn’t let my anxiety win. I feel fulfilled and am at peace knowing that I am finally un-stuck.  

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