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Omar Lyle attended Aurora Hills Middle School from sixth to seventh grade, left Colorado for a few years, and returned to Aurora to finish high school at Gateway High School. The time Omar spent at Gateway opened his eyes to what the real world would be like. His basketball coach, Jeff Sweet, prepared Omar for some of the drill sergeants he would later encounter in the Army. In addition, Sandra Sundine, his math teacher at Gateway, told him that he was not living up to his potential. “She brought me down to Earth and I will always remember her for that,” Omar says.
After Gateway High School, Omar entered the Army, and when he left the Army, he enrolled in Metropolitan State University of Denver. He admits he had to drop out of Metro State because he wasn’t prepared for the college life at the time. After working at various jobs in Aurora, he decided to enroll at the Community College of Aurora in 2008. At CCA, Omar says he learned about a college work ethic and received a lot more care and attention from his instructors because of the smaller class size.
Omar now works as a planning assistant with the City of Aurora’s Community Development Division. In this role, he meets with developers to evaluate environmental plans for development and administers HUD funding to different communities in Aurora. Omar also serves on the veteran’s affairs commission for the City of Aurora.
“CCA was exactly what I needed to figure out what being a student meant,” Omar says. “CCA allowed me to get the college feel – to get into that atmosphere to succeed.”
After attending CCA, Omar finished his bachelor’s degree at University of Colorado Denver, earning a degree in political science.
When Jaasiel Plascencia came to the United States from Chihuahua, Mexico, he was 18, did not speak English and experienced the frustration of not being able to communicate in his new country.
Nearly 10 years later, Jaasiel is helping others overcome that frustration as a staff interpreter at a hospital in Boulder.
After receiving his Translation and Interpretation Certificate from CCA in December 2014, Jaasiel said that he landed what he calls an “amazing job” as a staff interpreter in fall semester 2015.
He said that the Translation and Interpretation program at CCA prepared him for a career as an interpreter, especially compared with other interpreters he has met.
“I see a lot of interpreters – you can tell they’re not prepared,” Jaasiel said. “[CCA] teaches you how to do it and the right way to do it.”
In his position, Jaasiel assists Latino patients who need interpretation services at the hospital.
Before he started with the Translation and Interpretation program, Jaasiel was confused about what he should do for a career and was looking for options. When he found the Translation and Interpretation program, he fell in love with the program and career path.
He finished the Translation and Interpretation Certificate over two semesters, and after a spring 2015 internship with the city of Aurora and a summer trip to Brazil, Jaasiel started with the hospital.
Jaasiel said that CCA was a great school for not only the program but for the staff. He singled out Yuliya Fedasenka-Cloud, coordinator for the Translation and Interpretation program, as one of the faculty who inspired him.
“She’s an interpreter – she’s not just a teacher,” Jaasiel said.
He considers himself lucky that he enrolled at CCA and that he learned a lot of the necessary legal and medical terms for his career at the college.
“I’m sure there is a lot more to learn – that’s what I’m going to miss,” Jaasiel said.
Jaasiel said that he would definitely recommend the Translation and Interpretation program and CCA to anyone who is interested in translating and interpreting as a career option.
“If you have the desire and talent to do it – go for it. It will change your life,” Jaasiel said.
Jaime Corchado attended CCA as a high school sophomore in 2008 as part of the state’s Concurrent Enrollment program. He continued his education at CCA after high school and earned his Associate of Science degree from CCA in 2011. He attended Colorado School of Mines and earned his Bachelor of Science in 2015 and is now working as a systems engineer & developer at Hewlett-Packard in Fort Collins. As a systems engineer, he creates code for business storage involving big data.
Jaime cites his experience in the Concurrent Enrollment program at CCA as a major factor toward meeting his educational and career needs. Since most of the cost of the Concurrent Enrollment program was paid through Jaime’s school district, he and his family did not have to finance a large portion of his education at the start of his college journey.
“If the program wasn’t there I don’t think I would have even tried to go to college,” Jaime said. “Once I stayed in school, I knew I had to keep going.”
While at CCA, Jaime discovered that there was more to learning than simply handing in assignments and taking tests like in high school; at CCA, he learned to think more critically. “All the classes were asking serious questions,” Jaime said. “In high school, you’re never posed those questions.”
While at CCA, Jaime enjoyed the level of diversity found on campus – he often met students who were from very different backgrounds than his or he met people who encountered great difficulty to make it to college.
“You hear a lot of inspirational stories from CCA,” Jaime said.
For students considering attending college and whether or not to go, Jaime said that CCA is a great fit and will definitely change your mind about attending college.
“If you’re struggling to go to college, [CCA] will push you in the right direction to keep going,” Jaime said.
CCA alumnus, Sean Yoder attended CCA from 1995-98 and received an Associate of Arts and Associate of Science degree. After matriculating from CCA, he went on to the University of Maine, Orono, and earned a bachelor's degree in International Affairs and a master;s in Economics.
Currently, Sean is a researcher at the University of Dublin (Trinity College). He is finishing a Ph.D. in economics with a focus on developmental economics and poverty reduction. His research has provided him the means to travel throughout the world. For example, the last few years have given him the opportunity to meet business leaders in China, evaluate poverty reduction aid programs in Kenya, and consulting on draft poverty programs for other governments. His research has been published by The World Bank.
Sean feels CCA provided him with two essential items in enabling his life and career to unfold as it has. "First, CCA gave me a key foundation in areas which are very difficult ìto master," he said. "The professional and friendly instructors at CCA took the scary out of learning. The smaller class sizes allowed for increased interaction. This interaction was necessary to my learning key concepts well. The mastery of these key concepts made future work much easier. As a result, I was able to achieve higher grades than those who had done their work in much larger classes."
Second, "my degree at CCA enabled me to secure my first major job while I was still finishing my bachelor's degree. This job helped me to pay for my further education and provide for my family. The degree at CCA was critical in my being considered for the position and eventually hired."
In December 2004, CCA Alumna Vera Parker received an associate of applied science degree in accounting and certificates in computerized and governmental accounting. When she first started at CCA, she did not intend to get a degree, her job required that she complete 24 hours of accounting. After attending several classes and talking to her instructors, counselors and other students, she decided to go beyond her job requirements and seek a degree.
One of her proudest moments was walking across the stage on graduation day with families and friends in the audience sharing the excitement of this special day. "If it wasn't for the guidance of the faculty at CCA, I would not have furthered my education; they played a major role in my decision to make my education the most important part of my career."
After leaving CCA, Vera went on to earn a bachelor's degree in business administration as well as a master's degree in human resource management. "My education has broadened in scope; I am currently in the process of obtaining a doctorate degree in organizational leadership. I am so thankful that CCA was there for me at a crucial time in my career."
Vera currently works at Buckley Air Force Base as a supervisor in the accounting department. "I am the liaison between vendors getting paid and the paying office." She added, "I strive to help others in my office continue their education and make it part of their careers, as I have." It is clear that CCA has had a positive impact on Vera and continues to provide this same kind of guidance, support and education to current students.