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2010 Student Success Award Winners

Kim Ballard, a student at Community College of Aurora in Colorado


Kimberly Ballard
I am originally from Little Rock, Arkansas, and have lived many different places including Alaska and Central America. Currently, I am an Account Implementations Manager for Staples. In addition, I am a mother of three beautiful children, two teens and one “tween.” I often tell my children it’s never too late to further your education and decided it was time to take my own advice. I always knew I wanted to attend college, but for various reasons, I put it off time and time again. Now that I have taken this leap, I am happy and moving toward a better future. The instructors at CCA have been supportive and understanding and I couldn’t have made it this far without them. I would like to give special thanks to Jeff Paganini who told me to take things one day at a time and everything will work out fine. (You were right Jeff, go figure?! Smile) Thank you to my children who have been the greatest inspiration and to my mother and father who have been the best support system!
Cary Caruthers, a college student in Colorado


Cary Caruthers
Going to CCA was probably the best decision I have ever made. This place is like a friendly small town filled with faculty who care about students. CCA makes it easy for students to succeed. I started tutoring in the math lab in 2008 and I learned that this is a diverse place with many friendly people coming from all over the world. I wish I could stay here forever, but this is a two-year institution and the one-on-one attention I got here probably won’t continue at four-year colleges. I found guidance from instructors, even from some who weren’t mine. In 2009, I signed up for an awesome opportunity called the NASA Space Grant Consortium. It allowed me to excel in science. When I saw the flier for this program in my physics class, I said, “why not?” As a result of this opportunity, I have received recognition in various places including the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, University of Colorado, and obviously here as well. My plan is to get my bachelor’s in electrical engineering. Leaving CCA is a sad but inevitable necessity for continuing my success, which started right here. I thank everyone in the science department for their support.
Jaime Corchado, a student at Community College of Aurora in Colorado


Jaime Corchado

You know how some people can’t resist a nice glass of wine, or how others don’t know when to stop gambling? Well, I’m like that, but only when I’m faced with a challenge. I’ve forgotten how to back down. I must have inherited my working spirit. When I was six, I sold the first computer I built. During middle school, I was a mortgage loan originator. I became a translator, a tax pro, and an accountant, all while practicing my Chinese. I wrestled for Aurora Central High School while I was a teacher intern at Peoria Elementary. This year, I was a full-time student and a supplemental instructor for Calculus I. I’m not sure what exactly happens next. But if things go well, and I remain as blessed and as lucky as I have been up until now, I will become the coolest math teacher ever! Since I have been honored with this award, I will work twice as hard to live up to the expectations of CCA and of those who believe in me. Thank you, CCA, for allowing me the opportunity to better myself. I gladly accept your challenge.


Debra Kingsley
I am proud to be in college at my age because I value being a role model for those who wish to follow their dreams and passions. Being a role model is something I have been doing since my husband and I overcame our addictions to alcohol 20 years ago. I am now an addiction counselor, and, by having been there myself, I know how to give hope to those whose lives are broken and how to give faith to those who do not believe in themselves. My education has helped me to develop the materials that I use to create a supportive dynamic during group therapy. My education has also inspired my 14-year-old daughter to make her school’s honor roll. My ultimate goal is to become certified in Art Therapy. Above all, I give the glory to God. My faith has given me hope, strength, and the ability to keep pursuing goals even though it is challenging. I’m amazed at the people He has brought into my life, and the things I am able to accomplish.


William Kleinman
“I am legally blind.” This statement can elicit a variety of feelings for anyone who reads it. To me, however, it means practically nothing. The only limitations an individual has are the ones that he places upon himself. This is the ensign that I have tried to live my life by. The factors that contribute to any success I achieve in my life are the guiding hand of providence, a STRONG support system from my family, and a lot of hard work. I know that these factors will contribute to my future endeavors as I transfer to University of Denver in the fall. There have been several people who have aided me in my success here at CCA. I would like to thank admissions staff, and I want to give a special thank you to Denise Oakley for her constant guidance, support, and friendship she has blessed my life with. To my parents, I thank you for never letting me give up and pushing me to give 100% on everything. But most importantly, I want to thank my wife for her undying support and for all of those nights staying up till 3 a.m. helping me complete a 20-page essay..


April Loyd
I am from Delhi, Louisiana. I moved to Aurora in 2004. I am the youngest of six children but my siblings often look to me for encouragement and advice. I am currently working as a Licensed Practical Nurse and taking prerequisites at Community College of Aurora for the RN program. I enjoy watching movies and listen to music when I have down time. After completion of the RN program, I plan to work as a case manager or hospital liaison.


Darren Mans
I was raised by my parents in a small town in northern Minnesota with five older siblings. Being the youngest of six prepared me for the competitive world. After high school graduation, I enlisted in the US. Air Force where I was trained to repair radio equipment. Once my enlistment was up, I moved to Colorado. Right away, I found employment with a local telecommunications repair company. I worked for them for about 10 years before I was laid off. For six months I painfully searched for a job and was fortunate enough to land a job in the Financial Aid Office at the Community College of Aurora. It was not long before they convinced me to get my degree. Now, I am one semester away from graduating from CCA and transferring to the Colorado School of Mines for electrical engineering.


Ermias Nagash
I started college as an English as a Second Language student. College is the place to change my life for the better. Right now, I am working at the Denver International Airport in the customer service department. By getting a degree, I can get better job. If it’s God’s will, my plan is to become an engineer. I am thankful to get support from my wife and my parents in helping me to accomplish my goal.


Samantha Nieto
Life is never easy, always full of trials and tribulations. Growing up, I fell into the wrong crowd and lived a life I was never supposed to follow. But I was able to learn and grow from the mistakes I made. After having my son, who is the love of my life, I had new motivation to go farther and accomplish great things. It has been challenging with a full-time job and being a single mom, but everything worth having is always a challenge and I have awesome family members who are always there for support. CCA is a steppingstone for my future, one that looks brighter with each semester, one that will allow my child everything he deserves, and one which I never knew possible. So thank you CCA for being a huge part in my journey to better myself and a special thanks to Jeff Paganini for nominating me for such a unique award.


Pearl Ogbonnaya
I moved to the United States from Nigeria in June 2009, when I was 17. At that time, my dad was able to get all five of us children here to get an education, which was one of the greatest opportunities we’ve ever had. I got into college immediately. It was difficult at first, because the educational system is so different – but with encouragement from my teachers, students, family, and friends, I was able to do so much better. Being here at CCA has shown me so many possibilities for a greater future. I will graduate this December and then go to the University of Colorado for a bachelor’s degree in economics. After I get my master’s degree, I plan to go back to my country with the hopes of contributing to its economic growth. My dream job is to own a financial institution, be my own boss, have employees, oversee everything going on with the business – but not be so far away from family.


William Robinson
In 1980, I was in the Air Force at Lowry Air Force Base for technical training. Since that time, I have wanted to live in Colorado. In 1990, I separated from the Air Force to return to my home state of Massachusetts. My mother had a debilitating illness from which she would not recover. Their only son, I chose to be there to help my father to provide for her care. The years went by, and I found work in high-tech manufacturing jobs. My mom passed away in May of 1996, and I was there for my dad through those tough times. He lived to be 89 years old, and died after a valiant fight with cancer. In his last days, he expressed his wish that I go back to school and get a college degree. Now here I am in Colorado, doing just that. I owe a debt of gratitude to the caring and professional instructors and staff at CCA for making it possible.


Devon Tate
I am a single parent of a beautiful three-year-old girl who has helped me realize that I should continue with school to unfold my fullest potential. My life has totally changed over the last few years with the additions of my daughter and college—it is unlike anything I ever expected. I’m just going to keep rolling with the changes, get out of the construction business, and do something more personally rewarding in one of the fields of science. Especially since my plans to become a rock star never manifested, going to college is the best way to get what I want out of life and support my daughter. I feel that my mind for science, with plenty of experience in the trades, combined with a well-polished sense of creativity, will help me and my work be of value to the scientific community and of service to the health of the environment.


Keren Vargas
I am the first in my family to graduate high school and get an associate degree. I was excited to begin high school, but not to learn, just to meet friends. After not doing my best, I moved to a charter school to get caught up. This was the best decision I could have made. I got my act together, taking high school classes in the morning, Pickens Tech in the afternoon, and CCA at night. Because of an age concern at Pickens I couldn’t get certified to be a dental assistant the year I graduated, but I was able to get a high school diploma and associate of applied science degree. CCA was a great decision since my parents were in a financial situation. Now I am finishing up Pickens and working to save money to continue at CCA, where I only have a third of the prerequisite classes left to apply for the hygiene school at CCD. It was not easy to get to the place I am today, but I am glad that with the help of various professionals along the way, it was a lot easier. Thanks to Gabe Cordova and others for their encouragement and taking the time to listen.


Christopher Wilkins
My educational pursuit has been a marvelous journey. I have been fortunate enough, blessed, in fact, to have had experienced life in many ways. My decision to continue my education here was one of the best moves I have ever made. Recalling my first college experience, I was a completely different person at 17 than I am now in my mid-forties. If I had the support of the staff and instructors like the ones here at CCA, I would have finished years ago. Looking back, I have been successful in almost everything I have attempted, but my triumphs pale compared to the things I have accomplished at CCA. Here, under the direction of Angie Tiedeman and Leigh Bessey, I have served as the President of The Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society. I have served as a student-leader, mentoring students in The Mile High United Way Pathway Scholarship Program, working with Brad Jacobson and Sylvester Brandon. I have tutored students in Computer Applications under Patti Molai and have had countless academic and career guidance sessions with Constance Seiden, not to mention all of the fantastic administrators, faculty, and staff. Through these wonderful people, I have become a success as an individual and as a capable student.


Bridgette Williams
In January of 2009, at 45 years old, I decided that it was time for me to do something to better myself. Now that I have enrolled and am attending classes, I can’t imagine doing anything else. Attending CCA has been a very humbling experience, and it has opened up a whole new life for me. With the help of the staff here at CCA, I am inspired to be the best I can be. I have met and formed new friends and started a new life. I love being a student here, and I know I will reach all of my goals. I am currently studying for degrees in psychology and business administration. With determination and hard work, I know I will reach my goals. It has been a long hard road for me, but I know it is well worth it.
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