Our Student Success Stories

Each month, TRIO Student Support Services recognizes a TRIO student as a Rising Star. Check out their stories!  

 

Ivory Owens, October 2014

Ivory Owens is completing his final semester at CCD with an associate degree in Human Services and is preparing to transfer to Metropolitan State University of Denver. Ivory is an active participant in TRIO Student Support Services, utilizing comprehensive advising, academic tutoring, and social-cultural activities.

What path brought you to CCD? 

I came to a roadblock in my life where I had to make a decision whether I wanted to live or not. I come from the streets. I had to learn the streets. I had to survive on the streets. I have been incarcerated before and every time that I have done time I have told myself, “This is it. This is the last time.” While I was doing time I earned my GED in 1999. That was a turning point in my life. Education came to the forefront of my thoughts. I wanted to further my understanding and get out of the rut that I was in. I didn’t want to return to the streets where I came from. That is what made me change. I wanted to live. I wanted to be accepted and respected and acknowledged in society. 

What obstacles have you overcome in order to be successful as a student at Community College of Denver? 

The biggest obstacle that I have overcome is interacting with other people. The environment that I came from was like “watch your back.” I had issues interacting with certain people. So it is a big obstacle: How to fit in to a new environment? This is the biggest project I have ever gotten involved with. I appreciate it. I am honored by it.  

How has higher education impacted or changed your life?

It has opened my eyes up to the possibilities of life, of advancing beyond what I was taught or what I had seen or lived. I no longer feel intimated when I speak to people. I feel like my voice is just as important as theirs so I speak on it. Higher education has put me in a bracket that allows me to speak to people that I feel are important. These people have helped me really soar past the doubts that I had in myself. Now I do not feel alienated. I no longer feel like I am unequal to others. It has opened up my eyes to be who I am and have more integrity and respect for myself as well as others. 

If you could rewind your life fifteen years, would you ever have thought that you would become the person you are now? 

To be honest with you, no. Fifteen years ago I was a ward of the State. I had an interest in making changes in my life but I did not know the direction or have the person in my life to enlighten me or encourage me until I came to college. That is where I had the advice, the assistance, the courage and - I’d even say - the love. Where I was fifteen years ago, there was no love. There was chaos. A person feels trapped with no way to advance, just trying to survive in the jungle. There was danger all around me. But once I came to college it was like my eyes were opened, the shackles were taken off of me. I was able to feel free. Fifteen years ago, I didn’t believe in it because I didn’t think I was qualified to be in college. 

Do you consider yourself a role model?

Some people really don’t want to change and when you change that intimidates them. In some interactions with family members or individuals that I used to hang out with, they look at me and say, “You are going to fall again.” I have had my ups and downs with them. But I have a mission. I want to leave a message to my children and others that are still out there in the jungle that anything is possible if you put your heart and mind to it even though it is not going to be easy. I have changed my whole life. I want to be proud of myself. I want others to know that if I can do that then they can do it. Don’t stress on where you were but prepare yourself for where you are going. Appreciate that you are here and have the opportunity. Every day is an opportunity to change your life. Be happy when the sun comes up and you come up with it. Not everyone has that chance.

Edelmira Madera, September 2014

Through a high GPA and a strong track-record of volunteering in healthcare, Edelmira earned a spot in the inaugural Integrated Nursing Pathways program. This program provides a seamless transition between Community College of Denver and the University of Colorado.

What path brought you to CCD? 

Before I graduated from high school, I was accepted into different four year colleges. I narrowed down my choice to CCD, because one of my friends told me CCD was affordable and I would be able to receive a quality education. I wanted to complete an associate degree and transfer to a four year college without spending a lot of money. When I enrolled at CCD, I was able to save money and receive a quality education. I will be completing my associate degree in the spring of 2015.

What obstacles and challenges have you overcome as a student?  

When I was in middle school, my counselor told me that I was not going to graduate from high school because of my grades and my attitude towards school. I was able to prove him wrong, because my dream was to graduate from high school and attend college. I’m the first in my family to graduate from high school and attend college. College was a whole new thing for me. In high school I was able to take six classes and work forty hours a week. I realized during my first semester, the classes that I was taking required for me to spend more time outside of class and I would not be able to work full time. I learned how to balance work and school, in order for me to do well in my classes and still pay my bills.

You were accepted into the first cohort of the Integrated Nursing Pathways program. What advice do you have for other students that would like to join this program?  

Your GPA is really important! In order to get accepted into the program a 3.0 or higher GPA is required, but in reality nursing school is really competitive right now. Your GPA must be 3.6 or higher. I would definitely recommend students become nurse assistants. The skills and experience will be really useful when you are in the program, because you are able to gain skills that you will use in nursing school as well as gain experience working in healthcare. Another good option I would recommend is to volunteer at a hospital or at a clinic. For example, Exempla Lutheran Medical Center has a Med-vantage volunteer program for college students. I joined the program and I was able to shadow the nurses in different areas of the hospital and volunteer in the hospital as well. Having any healthcare experience will be useful because it looks great on applications and you are able to see different areas of nursing and healthcare.

Why are you interested in a career in Nursing?

I have always been fascinated about the human body. In high school, I had different guest speakers who were nurses, talk to me about their experience in nursing. When I heard about their experience, I knew that I wanted to go into healthcare. I was even more motivated to become a nurse when I became a nurse assistant. When people find out I’m majoring in nursing, they tell me nursing is a field where jobs will always be available and nurses make a lot of money. I respond to them, I’m not going into nursing for those reasons. I’m going into nursing because of the patient interaction, being able to positively impact the lives of others, and being able to give back to the community.

 

Frank England, May 2014

Frank has worked through a number of severe financial hardships to succeed at the Community College of Denver. He is active with Project Angel Heart, a non-profit organization that delivers meals and kindness to individuals struggling with life-threatening illness. Frank will graduate in the summer of 2014 and then transfer on to complete his bachelor's degree. 

What path brought you to CCD?

I just got tired of everything being the same. I went from dead-end job to dead-end job, and could tell I was going nowhere. I hated the jobs that I found myself in, but could not find anything I enjoyed. My mother always told me, "You don't get a job because you like it, you get a job because you have to." I never bought into that, and I still don't. I don't understand why I can't enjoy something I have to do anyway. Once I became homeless, I knew there was only one way to go from the bottom, and only I could change my destiny, so I looked into schooling at CCD.

How did you overcome obstacles and challenges that you faced as a student?

I have actually been very fortunate since being a student at CCD. Once I became homeless again, I found shelter with a classmate (and former TRIO rising star) until I was able to get back on my own two feet. My student advisor, Beth, has been there to guide and assist me every step of the way when I needed it, and I like to feel I have been able to guide her a bit as well. There has also been the other TRIO members who have been available if I needed assistance with my classes. I never utilized the TRIO tutors much because there have been so many others there to help me, but it has been nice to know they were there if I did need to turn to them.

How did your relationship with TRIO staff shape your college experience?

Early on, I thought that the only way to get through college was to completely rely on myself. Once I found out about the TRIO program, I soon learned that this was not so. I have received a lot of great advice, mentoring, and counseling from Beth, my TRIO student advisor. Beth has also accompanied me to visit other schools, and assisted me in discovering what would be needed to transfer once I graduate from CCD. I have received excellent advice for some of my classes, and have been shown that I do not always have to take the longest path to get to the desired result. I would say that my relationship with TRIO staff has shaped my college experience into a fun learning environment, and shown me that it does not have to be scary at all.

What would you like to be doing in five years?​

In five years, I see myself as having complete my schooling, received both my associate and bachelor's degrees, working as an addictions counselor, and seeing if I wish to continue my schooling to the point of a master or doctorate.​

Orlando Castro, April 2014

Orlando has successfully worked his way through advanced coursework in mathematics in order to prepare for further education and then a career in Computer Science. He serves as a TRIO Student Ambassador, and has participated in a number of TRIO experiential opportunities, including transfer visits. Orlando graduates spring 2014.

What brought you to CCD?

What brought me to CCD was the atmosphere that it has being near the downtown area and the diversity of people. I also chose CCD to try and discover what it was I wanted to major in. With all the different people and opportunities at CCD, as well as having two other universities on this campus, that I could see my possible options of where to go and what to study for my major.

How did you overcome the challenges that you faced as a student?

Being a first generation student, I didn’t really know what I was supposed to do, or who to talk to, or what to expect at all. Joining TRIO helped a lot, giving me advice and overall support to keep going and pushing me to challenge myself and go for my bachelor’s in computer science. My main obstacle that I’m still working on improving is learning to manage my time better between work, classes, and studying. College classes are not like high school, where 90 percent of what you learn is in class. In college, you have to go in class knowing what is already going to be covered. The class is mostly review and questions about the material. Just be prepared you will have no problem passing.

What advice do you have for new students?

Becoming a TRIO Student Ambassador and seeing student struggles, I advise them to make friends whom are motivated and driven to succeed. The people you are surrounded with will affect you and help you become something better, something you never thought yourself able to be.

What would you like to be doing in five years?

In five years I would like to be working in the field of robotics. I still have no clue what exactly that all entails, but I want to work hands on and create something out of nothing. It’s exciting not know exactly where I’m headed, but I am anxious to find out what I can be. 

Vaso Bellis-Martellaro, March 2014

Vaso's determination to succeed while managing many personal and financial responsibilities is inspiring. While working long hours (at all hours of the night) to support her family financially, she has earned a 4.0 GPA and while participating in numerous TRIO activities, including advising sessions, TRIO Alternative Spring Break, and TRIO Transfer and Cultural Tour.

What path brought you to CCD?

After facing extreme financial hardship, and wanting my boys to have at least one parent with a college education, I decided to look into starting my graduate education, thus, finding myself at the Community College of Denver.

How did you overcome obstacles and challenges that you faced as a student?

I had to acclimate myself to an academic setting, by learning to use computers, dropbox assignments, and the Auraria Library as a resource. I had to figure out child care after being a stay-at-home mom, along with transportation being that we only had one vehicle. I also had to figure out how I was going to pay for my education. I overcame this by learning about public transportation, via light rail. I learned about financial assistance by applying for FAFSA and student loans. I also accessed the tutoring labs and quickly became a 4.0 student and started earning scholarships to help defer student loans.

How has being a parent shaped your own college experience?

I found myself working diligently to become a straight A student, so that I could show my boys—especially the oldest who was starting college in 2013—that hard work pays off. I have earned several scholarships based on my GPA, and this past fall I was inducted into Phi Theta Kappa International Honors Society. Being a mom pushes me to continue to not give up. All of my Greek cousins are college educated and some with master's or PhD’s; this has inspired me to follow suit.

What would you like to be doing in five years?

I will be finished with my bachelor's degree in business management and possibly pursuing my master's degree. I also hope that I will be gainfully employed and providing comfortable income to support my family.

Denise Barraza, February 2014

In addition to strong academic performance, Denise has excelled as a student employee in the TRIO SSS office. Her strong work ethic and attention to detail plays a positive role in supporting the success of other students at CCD. Denise is now a TRIO Student Ambassador, mentoring students on how to excel academically and professionally, and opening the doors of opportunity to others. Denise graduated in the summer 2014.

How has your college education opened new doors of opportunity for you?

When I first graduated high school I had no intention of continuing my education. I had a few teachers from my high school encourage me to go to college. I decided to continue my education to see where it would take me. I can say college has taken me further than I thought. One of the challenges I faced as a student was trying to balance school and work, as well as the responsibilities that came along outside of those two environments. I focused on staying organized and getting into a routine that made me succeed professionally and academically.

How has your involvement in student activities shaped your growth and development?

I joined the TRIO SSS program to help me engage in different school events, activities, and resources to be more successful. Later, I started to work as work-study for TRIO SSS as a front desk assistant position and l became a student ambassador months later. My experience has given me the ability to experience what it is like to work in a professional environment. I have been able to use my strengths to help develop what TRIO SSS has to offer, the connections I have made over the past few months are indispensable as I move forward. I feel I have been provided with quality training and supervision in a safe and supportive environment. I was given the flexibility to develop my skills in an independent manner as a part of a team.

What would you like to be doing in five years?

In five years, I would love to obtain an athletic training position with athletes at a public school that will allow me to utilize my knowledge and skills I gained throughout college.

Michelle Bledsoe, January 2014

Encouraged by a conversation with the TRIO Director, Michelle took on the challenge to engage with student activities and leadership opportunities and has never looked back. She is actively involved on campus and plays a significant role in shaping the student culture. Michelle is in the home stretch of her studies at CCD and will graduate and transfer during the 2014-2015 academic year.

What path brought you to CCD?

I made the decision to come to school when I could not find a job. Then, when I found one, it was just that a job not a career. I wanted to make something of my life. I didn’t want to make $8.00 per hour for the rest of my life.

How did you overcome obstacles and challenges that you faced as a student?

One thing I learned from CCD is to utilize your resources. I found myself struggling with writing. I went to writing lab for every paper. I learned to create study groups within the class so if I got stuck, I had someone to work with.

How has your involvement in student activities shaped your growth and development?

Getting involved with student activities has helped me engage in the student body. Attending these events help me to see where my passion is and has led me to become the vice president of Alianza CCD and the treasurer for WISE (Women Intentional about Success and Excellence).

What would you like to be doing in five years?

In five years I would love to have a non-profit organization that would cater to at risk youth, by providing a place where they can tap into their creativity with art and music. I would like to have my bachelor’s degree in business administration. Maybe even working on a MBA!

Maria Hinojosa, December 2013

Starting with Summer Bridge, Maria has participated with TRIO throughout her academic career at CCD. She is an emerging leader, having honed her skills through a number of experiential learning opportunities. Her positivity and work ethic have inspired many other students as she has modeled the behaviors and characteristics required to be successful as a student and career professional. Maria graduates in the spring 2014.

What path brought you to CCD?

As I approached the end of my senior year at Arrupe Jesuit High School, I had to make a decision of where I would attend college. My first choice was the Community College of Denver, and let me tell you why. I had the honor to receive the Kathy Fortune Scholarship, and for me, CCD seemed like the institution that would polish my understanding and prepare me to complete my bachelor's degree at a four-year institution. At Arrupe Jesuit High School, The Kathy Fortune Scholarship is awarded to five students who will attend the Community College of Denver for the first two years of their college experience, and after two years of hard work, the scholarship is awarded to one student for his or her completion of a bachelor’s degree at Regis University. I made the choice to come to CCD because financially that was the best option I had if I wanted to continue my studies. In addition, I felt that I needed to enhance my skills as a student before attending Regis University.

How did you overcome obstacles and challenges that you faced as a student?

Losing the phrase “I can’t do something” is what has helped me to overcome my challenges. Since being at the CCD, I have used my resources and am constantly reminding myself of my ultimate goal. I want to major in nursing, so that I may become a woman in the service of others. Being a college student has been a CHALLENGE; I have learned how to meet deadlines for each class, reach out to my professors when I do not understand a subject, and become humbled (soul) when I have had to withdraw from a class after numerous hours of studying, but this has not limited me from moving forward. I am ready to apply for nursing school at Regis University in the fall of 2015 and pursue my dream.

How has TRIO impacted your college experience?

Yo soy TRIO (I am TRIO). TRIO has helped me immensely by providing me with one-on-one tutoring, allowing me to experience things such as the cultural college tour, and HACU Leadership Conference in Washington D.C.  TRIO has also been a great support system for scholarships and my college experience. Attending these activities has impacted my life because it allowed me to meet people who have the same hunger for education and it helped me be open to the unexpected. Thanks to TRIO and all the people who have supported me, I have become a student who is not afraid, a student who is able to challenge her peers, and a student who exemplifies and gives meaning to the power of education. Today, I am a Kathy Fortune recipient, First Generation Scholarship recipient, and an Enlightment Scholarship recipient. Therefore, if it was not for TRIO, I would not be where I am today in my studies!

What would you like to be doing in five years?

In five years, I would like to have obtained my bachelor’s from Regis University. This spring 2014, I have been privileged to be taking a course at Regis University and am doing great. Therefore, I am sure that obtaining my bachelor’s in nursing will be hard work, but will not be impossible. In five years, I hope to be more ambitious and not lose my hunger for learning. I do not want to be the person who stands around saying, “Oh thank God I don’t have to learn that any more”. No, I want to be learning and demonstrating to others that school does not end when you obtain a degree. One can be a lifelong student and never be tired of learning. I want to be the reason why so many invested in my education and me.

Juan Carlos Montanez, November 2013

Juan is completing his associate degree fall of 2013, with very strong grades and preparing to transfer to Metropolitan State University of Denver. He utilized TRIO services to successfully apply for scholarships and complete the transfer process. 

What path brought you to CCD?

I came to CCD for the opportunity to learn about the medical field because I have kidney failure. 

What challenges have you faced as a student and how have you overcome these?

I managed to do well in school while coping with my disability. Managing a physical illness is very difficult; I may have been on campus meeting with my advisor and need to throw up at the same time. Being back in school as a non-traditional student is a unique experience. 

What was the most interesting part of being a student at CCD?

I have been pleasantly surprised by the amount of resources that are out there.  But one must be proactive in looking for these resources.

What would you like to be doing in five years?

I would like to be affecting public policy and supporting others that live with disabilities. And spending lots of time on the beaches of Mexico.

Mulue Karr, October 2013

Mulue is overcoming a number of obstacles to her education through hard work and a persistent drive to build her success skills and know-how. She dreams of one day building an organization to increase the well-being and education of children in her home country.

What path brought you to CCD?

I did not know anything about CCD until one of my GED classmates told about it. He told me that he was taking ESL classes here. At that point no one had told me about college yet. I thought to myself college was beyond my reach. I thought college was for people who had money and had a good education. It was not for me. I could barely speak English and I had financial hardships to support myself. I felt unqualified because I did not have enough money and a good education background. After all, I was not used to the college system and I did not know where CCD was located. So, I decided not come to CCD. The next day he saw me and asked me if I already went to CCD. I said no. He told me that the semester would start next week and I needed to hurry. He gave me the direction and the person’s name I needed to meet. Finally, I came to CCD to meet with Mr. John the ESL adviser. Mr. John told me that I needed to take a test in order to register at CCD. So, I took the test without any preparation. The test results show that I did not need to take ESL classes. Mr. John transferred me to Miss Rosy the CEA Case Manager. After a year, Miss Rosy transferred me to TRIO Student Support Services. Today, I still thank my classmate because he is my definite connection. Because of him, I have met wonderful people like Mr. John, Miss Rosy, and the TRIO Staff. Half of my education dream becomes true because of their help. Even if I try hard, if I do not get help from them and scholarship donors, I may not be here today. I am very thankful God puts these people in my life. This is the reason I am CCD. 

What obstacles have you faced as a student and how have you overcome these obstacles?

I do have some personal and school obstacles to overcome. My personal obstacle will be I am here alone without any other family support. I have to live with my friend’s family because I cannot afford to live by myself. My friend has four small children. You can image living with the small kids. My circumstance is not good at all. To overcome this obstacle, I read the TRIO Academic Blog to encourage myself. I do not have the power to control my circumstance, but I do have choice to react to my circumstance. My situation may seem difficult, but this is the only way I can afford to go to school full-time. I am willing to pay the price today for a better future. My school obstacles will be language problems. Even though my language is improving, I still have so many things I do not understand. I still have problems writing my assignments into my own words. To overcome this obstacle, I use the Academic Success Center. I get help from tutors and other available sources around me.

How did the TRIO Transfer and Cultural Tour impact you?

TRIO is a wonderful program. It provides students with various opportunities - for example, the TRIO Transfer and Cultural Tour. The TRIO Transfer and Cultural Tour has so much impact on me because it has allowed me to build a community with TRIO students and staff. It also gave me and other TRIO students the opportunity to share our experiences at school, as well as our personal life, which was important knowledge outside the classroom. Moreover, I gained a lot of knowledge, experience, and friendship with the TRIO students. I also learned new history, geography, and culture that I could not get from the classroom. This knowledge helped me to become wiser and stronger, not only for my education, but also for my personal life. I am so thankful to be TRIO student.

What do you want to be doing in five years?

I plan to do several things in next five years. I have short-term and long-term goals. My short-term goals are to bring up my GPA, graduate from CCD, and Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary School in 2014. After I graduate from CCD, I plan to transfer to UCD for the business management degree. As the same time, I would like to do internship for my career and volunteer in my community. For my long-term goal, I want to have a Ph.D. in economics.

Al Yokum, September 2013

What path brought you to CCD? 

I came to a roadblock in my life where I had to make a decision whether I wanted to live or not. I come from the streets. I had to learn the streets. I had to survive on the streets. I have been incarcerated before and every time that I have done time I have told myself, “This is it. This is the last time.” While I was doing time I earned my GED in 1999. That was a turning point in my life. Education came to the forefront of my thoughts. I wanted to further my understanding and get out of the rut that I was in. I didn’t want to return to the streets where I came from. That is what made me change. I wanted to live. I wanted to be accepted and respected and acknowledged in society.

What obstacles have you overcome in order to be successful as a student at Community College of Denver? 

The biggest obstacle that I have overcome is interacting with other people. The environment that I came from was like “watch your back.” I had issues interacting with certain people. So it is a big obstacle: How to fit in to a new environment? This is the biggest project I have ever gotten involved with. I appreciate it. I am honored by it. 

How has higher education impacted or changed your life?

It has opened my eyes up to the possibilities of life, of advancing beyond what I was taught or what I had seen or lived. I no longer feel intimated when I speak to people. I feel like my voice is just as important as theirs so I speak on it. Higher education has put me in a bracket that allows me to speak to people that I feel are important. These people have helped me really soar past the doubts that I had in myself. Now I do not feel alienated. I no longer feel like I am unequal to others. It has opened up my eyes to be who I am and have more integrity and respect for myself as well as others. 

If you could rewind your life fifteen years, would you ever have thought that you would become the person you are now? 

To be honest with you, no. Fifteen years ago I was a ward of the State. I had an interest in making changes in my life but I did not know the direction or have the person in my life to enlighten me or encourage me until I came to college. That is where I had the advice, the assistance, the courage and - I’d even say - the love. Where I was fifteen years ago, there was no love. There was chaos. A person feels trapped with no way to advance, just trying to survive in the jungle. There was danger all around me. But once I came to college it was like my eyes were opened, the shackles were taken off of me. I was able to feel free.  Fifteen years ago, I didn’t believe in it because I didn’t think I was qualified to be in college. 

Do you consider yourself a role model? 

Some people really don’t want to change and when you change that intimidates them. In some interactions with family members or individuals that I used to hang out with, they look at me and say, “You are going to fall again.” I have had my ups and downs with them. But I have a mission. I want to leave a message to my children and others that are still out there in the jungle that anything is possible if you put your heart and mind to it even though it is not going to be easy. I have changed my whole life. I want to be proud of myself. I want others to know that if I can do that then they can do it. Don’t stress on where you were but prepare yourself for where you are going. Appreciate that you are here and have the opportunity. Every day is an opportunity to change your life. Be happy when the sun comes up and you come up with it. Not everyone has that chance.