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Keys Scholarship Recipient Ericka Jurado Reflects on Her CCD Education

A Mother, CCD Student & Future Business Entrepreneur

by Ericka Jurado

As an active student enrolled at Community College of Denver (CCD), I am currently working toward achieving my associate degree in spring 2017 and recently learned I have been granted a Keys Scholarship.

Following my CCD degree, I intend to transfer to a local four-year college to obtain a bachelor’s degree in business management. I am considering a degree in event planning/management and would like to eventually own my own business, perhaps an event center. The Keys Scholarship will allow me to continue my education so I can achieve what I set out to do.

Why I Went Back to School

When I first chose to continue my education, I had a young, impressionable and very intelligent six-year-old son. Aside from being his protector and provider, I wanted to be someone he could look up to and be proud of—someone who could inspire him to do great things. I wanted to lead by example in my household.

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young man in red shirt hugging his mom
Ericka with her son Adrian

I became a mother at 17 and while many things were not clear at that time, one thing I knew for sure was that becoming a teenage mom was not the only thing I could or would do. With the support of my parents and sisters, I managed to make it to high school graduation. Against all odds, I graduated with my class of 2006: eight-month old baby and all. As I walked across that stage I could hear the loud and proud cheers of my family. To this day that is a rewarding moment I will not forget.

Fresh out of high school and parenting a child alone, I began to work immediately to provide for us. After a few trial-run jobs, I found a wonderful position as the assistant to the CEO of a construction firm. The pay was great, my son and I finally had benefits, and the perks of the job allowed me to give him experiences that would otherwise seem out of reach for a teen mother.

We were doing great (better than most of my friends who had gone off to college and already received a degree). But, something was still out of place. Education was always a major value in my life as my parents, who were not afforded the same opportunities, did not get further than a middle school education. Even so, they built a happy and successful life by learning through first-hand experiences and educating themselves at every given opportunity. Throughout my life they emphasized the undeniable relationship between knowledge and success. Education was valuable and important to my family and therefore even more important that my son be well educated too.

While I was fortunate enough to have found a career position at such a young age, I wanted to teach my son that he should be constantly learning throughout his life. I didn’t want him to think it was “okay” to stop as soon as he felt comfortable because nothing in life is guaranteed. More importantly, I want to prove that no untraditional life change can impede anyone from achieving what they want. I want a college degree and want to show my son that it is possible, no matter the setbacks. So, at 22, I became a freshman at CCD.

Mistakes & Setbacks Are Lessons in Disguise

To accommodate for my busy life, I took classes both on campus and online. Weekends were never an option for school or work as those were the only days I was able to spend entirely with my son (who was growing up so quickly!). To date I have completed 88 percent of my degree requirements. In the beginning, I made “rookie” mistakes, like taking calculus only to fail it. I was so disappointed and embarrassed that I quit school. For a year, I told myself “I wasn’t cut out for college.” Sure enough the feeling that I was missing something still lingered. Failing calculus was very upsetting—to this day I cringe at the memory—but the rookie mistake was not failing the course, it was stopping myself from reaching my own dream. How could I tell my son “never give up” if I was? So, I re-enrolled and this spring I will face calculus yet again. Only this time I’m prepared. I’ve taken many courses over the past five years and dropped a few when the load was too much to carry. Gradually, I learned in order to progress successfully I had to ask for help often, sit in the front row, and NEVER give up on myself again.

Becoming a CCD Graduate

The teachers at CCD have been a tremendous life-line in pursuing my degree. The extra 10 to 15 minutes of their time spent to help me understand and answer my questions have made the difference between simply passing a class and actually understanding the material.

Since starting at CCD years ago, I have become a mom again! I quit my career job to raise my sons and to pursue my degree as a full-time student. Caring for my kiddos, meeting course deadlines, and maintaining my GPA as high as possible has been quite the challenge. I am so proud to say that I can see the finish line. I could not have done any of this without the support of my family, an institution like CCD, and programs like Keys.

CCD is an institution unlike the rest. The culture here is understanding of life challenges outside of school and does not judge them, rather embraces them and allows for success anyway.

My degree will be a badge of honor I will display proudly in my home, because while it has taken me longer than a traditional student to complete, it has also cost me more than any traditional student could appreciate. My diploma will represent my journey. My journey is my testimony to why this institution is needed and is effective.

It is exciting to think that in just a few short months, I will be walking across another stage to the loud and proud cheers of my family in the background. Only this time, my son is old enough to remember we did it. I owe my courage in begin my higher education to my oldest son. I will owe the achievement of my associate degree to the persistence and belief in myself.

My life is full and complicated, that’s for sure, but I plan to reach my goal. All my hard work, tears, and perseverance will pay off.

I will be a Community College of Denver graduate.