Past Meets Present: Finding Early Childhood Education 

Arabella Orozco at her CCA graduation

Arabella Orozco grew up speaking Spanish. It was the only language she knew when she immigrated to Denver, Colorado from Havana, Cuba with her family in the early 80s. Only knowing Spanish made school difficult.

When I was seven years old, I sat in the back of the classroom all by myself because I didn’t speak English. My aunt created notecards with translations from Spanish to English, so I could communicate with my teachers and classmates but it didn’t really help," Orozco said.

In the 1980s, Denver didn’t have a lot of diversity or support for cultural differences, so her family decided to move to Miami. In Miami, she felt at home because people spoke Spanish and the culture in Miami felt like Cuba.

Arabella lived there for 30 years until her grandmother passed away. Before her grandmother died, she encouraged Arabella to return to Denver to confront her childhood struggles. Her grandmother’s nudge started Arabella on her path to Early Childhood Education.

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Discovering Early Childhood Education

When Arabella moved to Denver, she continued her successful career from Miami and worked at a high-end makeup and skincare counter where she met her husband.

“My husband asked me one day, ‘Is there something you want to do besides retail?’ and I started crying and said, ‘Yes.’ He asked me a few questions and afterward he said, ‘I think you should go into Early Childhood Education. You would make a great teacher. You are always teaching people and you are great with kids.’ Deep down in my heart, I knew I always wanted to work with children, but I never thought of going back to school was an option for me. It had been 30 years since I graduated from high school," Orozco said.

Now it was a matter of finding a school. One day she was riding her bike and saw a sign for CCA. 

“It felt like a sign from my grandmother because red was my high school color and the letter A for my first name. After I saw the sign, I applied to CCA and enrolled in classes. I’m glad I did because it led me to Dr. Simpson," Orozco said.

One-of-a-kind Support

Arabella’s first advisor at CCA recommended she talk to Dr. Ashley Simpson, Department Chair of Early Childhood Education, to get on the right path to earn an Associate of Arts (A.A.) in Early Childhood Education.

“Dr. Simpson helped me create my three-year academic plan to earn my degree. She had me work at an elementary school to make sure Early Childhood Education was the right field for me. She gave me the confidence to be more independent in pursuing my education, and she also nominated me for the 2018 Student Success Award.

I still come to Dr. Simpson for advice on my academic success even though I transferred to the University of Northern Colorado (UNC). I trust her advice, and I know she will keep me on track to fulfill my dream of working with children and graduating from UNC.” 

Arabella completed her A.A. in Early Childhood Education in spring and will complete her Bachelor of Science in summer 2020. And at 43 years old, Arabella isn’t stopping there - she plans to earn a Master of Science in Speech Therapy and a Doctorate in Child Psychology, so she can effectively help young children of all backgrounds.

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