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2013 Student Success Award Winners

See video highlights from the awards ceremony 

Alber R. Lima, a student at Community College of Aurora in Colorado


Alber R. Lima
It has been more than 10 years since I had last sat in a classroom, prior to enrolling at Community College of Aurora. As a high school dropout, going back to school felt like a monumental challenge because I had forgotten the little things I had learned while in school. But I didn’t let such challenges intimidate me. I knew that if there was a time to set goals and achieve them that the time was now. So I made a decision to start from the very bottom. I earned my GED and signed up for college right away. Never did I think I would be able to turn things around in my life, until I pushed myself to learn. It humbles me every time I remember how I went from Elementary Algebra to now studying Calculus III. I‘ve set a goal to become an engineer, and CCA is helping in paving the way for me. Thanks to helpful and friendly faculty, CCA has been a great experience. I want to give special thanks to James Gray, Yuliya Fedasenka-Cloud, Mark Ortiz, Amy Zsohar, Victor Andersen, Bruce Powell and Harold Mardones. These instructors have taught me the values of education and the importance of knowledge in branches of higher learning. I’ve learned so much, and it has opened my eyes and allowed me to see the world from a different perspective. I hope to be an encouragement for others to achieve their goals, not doubt themselves, and believe they can prosper. I am the only one in my family who has pursued a college degree and I look forward to earning my bachelor’s and master’s degrees. These achievements I hope will create a ripple affect for my future generations.
Ashenafi Fantahun Gelaw, a college student in Colorado


Ashenafi Fantahun Gelaw
I was born in Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia, and raised in a small town called Mersa. I immigrated to the United States in 2004 and received my citizenship in 2010. I am proud to say I am a citizen of this great nation and very grateful and thankful for having the opportunity to attend school at CCA as part of my path to success. Education has always been an important part of my American dream. But twice, the realities of life have forced me to leave school in order to earn a living. Still, I never gave up my plans over the last decade to continue my education and forge ahead in my pursuit of a nursing career. I began at CCA in the ESL program; now, I am a couple of courses shy of earning my Associate of Science degree and completing my prerequisites for the Nursing program at the University of Colorado, where I plan on attending next fall. My long-term plan is to get a bachelor’s degree in nursing and go for a Masters in Public Health, so I can some day work for international organizations that help a diverse group of people from around the world. I would like to thank my instructors, fellow students and especially my mother, Wubitu, for supporting me in pursuit of this dream.
Bethany Rittenhouse, a student at Community College of Aurora in Colorado


Bethany Rittenhouse
I’m so blessed to be at CCA and never imagined I would be the recipient of an award. Upon graduating high school, I was going to take a year off. Four years later, I was still not in school, had a family, and couldn’t find a minute of "me time,” let alone time for my education. When I was 22, tragedy struck and sent me down a road from which I never thought I would return. Then, God gave me Noah. When he was born it changed everything and gave me a reason to move forward. I am now a 27-year-old, first-time college student, single mom, and future educator. I would not be where I am today if it was not for my loving family, amazing son, and God’s grace. It is crazy to think my reasons for not going back to school back then are the exact reasons I now feel it is a necessity. I want my son to see how important and valuable education is and I want to continue to improve our lives. CCA has taught me that I love to learn and will continue my education even after I earn my degree. I believe everything happens for a reason and could not be happier than I am today.
Blessed Otabil, college student in Denver, Colorado


Blessed Otabil
I come from Ghana, West Africa. Back home, I had a dream of becoming a doctor.
This dream disappeared after high school when I could not make it to the university due to financial problems. Instead, I took an interest in teaching. I taught science and math at one of the private schools. While there, I was fortunate enough to be provided an opportunity of a lifetime. I won a Diversity Visa Lottery to move to the United States. With $100 in my pocket, I moved by myself to America with no idea what the future would hold for me. Coming to Community College of Aurora, despite the hardship I went through to find stability in my life, is one of the best decisions I have made. CCA has thrown light unto my path again and has helped me realize that my dream is still within my reach. Having the good fortune to work with Libby Klingsmith, I was able to gain acceptance to the Undergraduate Pre-Health Program run by Anschutz Medical Campus and Kaiser Permanente. Sometimes, I look at how far I have academically grown and wonder if I could have attained that evolution anywhere else. I would like to thank Libby for seeing the good in me right from the beginning and helping me to bring it out.
Brenda M. Anderson, college student in Denver


Brenda M. Anderson
I have a passion for learning. I’ve always been a voracious reader with an innate curiosity about how things work. Finding time for a formal education in a college setting has been challenging. Nearly two decades ago, I was enrolled at a four-year university while pregnant with my second child. Circumstances and life intervened, and I went on to raise a family of seven kids. But the pull to return to school consistently gnawed at me, until I decided in January 2012 to come to CCA. Ever since, I tell people that I “get” to go to school, whereas some people “have” to go to school. I carpooled with two of my kids to CCA for a time and the talks we had about attending college were priceless. I chose the college because it was convenient and the teachers, family atmosphere, and opportunities provided have only boosted my enthusiasm level. And it’s led to my being accepted as just one of 30 members of cohort 4 in the Integrated Nursing Pathway. I worked extremely hard to post a 4.0 average in my prerequisites, shaking off the fact that I had to start over in places I’d already been academically back when I was teenager. Getting a Student Success Award is positive reinforcement for the hard work I’ve done. But it means more. It’s a kind of acknowledgment that one can overcome obstacles, like having a large family and taking care of them, while still doing well in school. It’s also great that I can serve as a hard-working example to my children. I’m excited to be a nurse. It’s something I started to consider when I was 18. This experience has been a long time coming.
Chandra Dhungel, college student in Denver, CO


Chandra Dhungel
I am told that I was born in a jungle while we were running away from our motherland Bhutan to cross the border into Jhapa, Nepal in order to evade persecution from an oppressive government. My family entered refugee shelters in the eastern portion of the country. At 5, I entered school and would attend with no snacks and bare feet. Winter and springs passed with a single school dress, old wool sweater and a thin sleeper. My luckiest days included lunch and breakfast. Many nights were filled with darkness, with only a kerosene lamp in my cottage allowing me to prepare for exams. As I entered my teens, I had to clandestinely take part in the Caritas Children Forum since the culture prohibited women from participating in meetings and conferences. But I continued to imagine something better. My father always tried to protect me from danger and negativity and encouraged me to hang on to my dreams. One of those dreams was moving to the United States. I felt very helpless at first when I came to the U.S. because I did not know how to explain my thoughts or my feelings. But I worked night and day to learn the English language, and to assimilate to the American culture. For me to able to fulfill my father’s dreams and to be able to live up to my own expectations, I take school very seriously, and I push myself to do my very best in every area of my life and to be an ambassador for my country. I find the norms, values, traditions and culture here are completely different from Nepal, where women are devoid of rights and whose role it is to serve their husband and their families. I want to keep some of my culture from Nepal. Yet another part of me wants to show people that Nepali women are capable of having a career and able to achieve a better life. I want to complete my degree – and ultimately earn my Masters -- in Computer Science, in hopes of making the process of providing medical care for people who are suffering from disease around the world easier. And, I continue to study to become a nurse, so I may further fulfill the opportunities presented in my life. My teachers have helped me summon the courage to continue my education. I ultimately will give back to my community in return.
Chris Rummel, CCA college student in Denver, Colorado


Chris Rummel
I am preparing to transfer to a four-year university as a 29-year-old Psychology major. And as I reflect over the last three years at CCA, I realize just how much I have grown during my time at the college. I’ve transformed from someone who just enrolled to take a few elective credits with no plans of acquiring any sort of degree into a successful student who is certain he will go on to obtain a master’s degree. I’ve changed from a quiet and reserved student who doesn’t mind just getting by to one who has taken on important leadership roles such as Vice President of Psychology Club and President of the Phi Theta Kappa chapter. In reflecting, I realize just how many people I have to thank, and that without these people I would not have made it as far as I have. I have faced some intense struggles these last three years, including a custody battle for my daughter and taking on my 15-year-old sister to raise as my own. At times, it was a social support system of some very unique and incredible individuals that was the only driving force, pushing me to move forward and continue on. Among them: Jennifer Dale, for her unwavering guidance and support; Chris Faller, as a mentor and confidante; Michael Levell, for sculpting me into the confident writer I’ve become; and Kyla Doddridge, for her support and direction. I’d also like to take the opportunity to recognize my father, who has never let me down and gone to incredible lengths to help me succeed.
Desiree Michelle Lee “Desi”, CCA college student in Denver


Desiree Michelle Lee “Desi”
I have attended CCA for the last two years, and thanks to the support provided by my children and husband, and in a huge way through God’s guidance, have become a dedicated, hard-working student. If it weren’t for them, I probably wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing right now. My pride in my family knows no bounds. My son J.J. is 11 and just began middle school. K-Ray is 6 and had at least 17 touchdowns this season. My husband, Kencheze, is my best friend. He motivates me, even when he gets on my nerves. He is my biggest support system, and I love that man. Despite the workload attending college has brought my way, I’ve also made sure that my life is well-rounded outside of CCA. I am a member of Young Adults and the head of the Children’s Ministry at Scott United Methodist Church, where both my boys sing in the choir. Academically, I am on track to earn my Associate of Arts degree in Business and plan to transfer to Regis University to complete my studies. In doing so, I hope to stay the gregarious, loving, self-reflective person who frequently speaks her mind and is always seeking to learn new things.
Ed Rummel, CCA college student in Denver, CO


Ed Rummel
I am a 60-year-old, non-traditional student at CCA. Before coming to the college, I had owned and operated a concrete company for the last 20 years and was in the industry for four decades. A lifetime of labor in this industry left my body in ruins and two years ago I was forced to sell my company and go into a different line of work. At my son’s urging, I came to a Future’s Workshop at CCA and was inspired to enroll in classes. I have always had a passion for helping others overcome the battles in life that I myself also have faced. I was extremely intimidated, though, as I had not been in school in more than 40 years and had completed formal education only up to the seventh grade. Nonetheless, I was fortunate in my first semester to have a wonderful and inspiring English teacher. If not for Candace McClelland-Fieler’s guidance and encouragement, I certainly would have quit during my very first semester. Over the last few semesters, I have faced some incredible hardships, including a divorce and two major shoulder surgeries, from which I am still recovering. Yet even when I thought there was no hope for me and I wanted nothing more than to quit school, I have been able to continue on, motivated by the support I’ve received and by God’s grace and mercy. During my time at CCA, I have developed an incredible network of amazing individuals from all walks of life – faculty, staff, and students. To all of you who have been there for me when I was in need, thank you – you guys are the best of the best. I only wish I had the space here to recognize you all by name. I truly could not have done it without you. And, surely, without my son’s initial urging and incredible daily support I could not have made it through these last few semesters.
Ellis D. Davie “Lazarus”, student at CCA in Denver, Colorado


Ellis D. Davie “Lazarus”
Last February, I decided that the preceding years spent doing odd jobs in Michigan factories and in lawn care, pest control, bus driving, and refereeing youth sports were going to end. It was time for me to go back to school after a 13-year layoff and instead of just making money to pay bills, I wanted to do something I enjoyed thoroughly, something that was just for me. I’ve always been interested in what makes the human mind tick, and why we do the things that we do. It was with that thought at the forefront that I enrolled at CCA this past fall. Technology at first was a shock to the system, but with time, the new wave of knowledge I’ve accumulated has been stimulating and fun. And, for the first time in my life, I feel that education is beneficial in nurturing my mind and soul and actually enhancing my life. Before, I went to school because I had to; now, it’s something I crave. My goal is to graduate from CCA and transfer to a four-year college, where I’ll major in Psychology and continue to grow another of my passions, creative writing. I’m thankful for the continual push towards the positive provided by my wife, Paula, my mother, Ollie, my sons, Xavier, Ezekiel and Uzziah and my nieces Jasmine and Janelle. Because of my ongoing academic efforts, I can see a better future. Because of them, I can see a large part why I’m headed there.
Idaly De Reza, student at CCA in Denver


Idaly De Reza
My husband and I decided to live in the U.S because we were living in one of the most dangerous cities in the world in Chihuahua, Mexico. Yet, when I came to this country I had to face a big problem: I did not speak a word in English. I decided to start taking classes in the ESL program two years ago and that was one of the most fantastic decisions I ever made. Now, I am in the last semester of ESL and my goal is to graduate with a bachelor’s degree and become a nurse. Balancing life as a young mother, full-time student and worker has not been easy at all, but my husband and my little girl provide my motivation. Sacrifices have to be made, but the recompense will be big. The guidance I’ve received at Community College of Aurora has been excellent. I would like to thank those people who always believed in me: my husband, who also attends CCA and always is pushing me to study and helping me to be a better person; my in-laws who take care of my daughter while I am at school; and my teachers - specially Maria Halloran and Meredith Folley - who have helped and encouraged me to succeed in my goals. No one said this was going to be easy. But, with hard work and dedication, anything is possible.
Jordan Buchanan, student at CCA in Denver, CO


Jordan Buchanan
At 40 years old, I now recognize how much help I have had along the way navigating the many obstacles that I’ve faced. On the other hand, I decided I wanted to become a Registered Nurse because of the ability I will have to help others. Currently, I’m enrolled in the Integrated Nursing Pathway and am on the way towards a new career. At CCA, I am building a strong foundation to move on to the next level, which is the University of Colorado’s College of Nursing. It is an incredible opportunity to get into one of the best nursing schools in the country. I am currently working 32 hours a week at a detox center in Aurora, in addition to my classes, while also volunteering in the Bridges to Care Program and meeting family obligations. It has been an incredible lesson in time management as this has been the first time in my life to have all these responsibilities simultaneously. Right now, I feel I am working at maximum capacity just to get by with everything. Yet I also feel this is part of my growth process and preparation for the next level. The scholarship opportunity provided with my Student Success Award would be a tremendous help, as I probably will be living on student loans and a tight budget for the foreseeable future. Still, in many ways, it’s all worth it. I remain dedicated to helping individuals in need and will continue demonstrating supreme dedication in my journey towards my ultimate goal in nursing.
Justin Mark Singleton, student attending college in Denver


Justin Mark Singleton
When I got out of high school, college was not initially a thought in my mind. The economy was booming at the time and the thought was that advancing in school would be a waste of time. I became a club DJ. I worked some dead-end jobs during the weekdays. But about a decade out of school, and with money harder to come by than I thought, I decided to change direction in life and attend technical school. I soon discovered that wasn’t the path for me. I was just living and not doing a whole lot, when, one day, a friend of mine asked me for some help with her math and physics homework. I was able to help her, and it triggered something inside me. In fact, it became the inspiration for me to go back to school full time. I enrolled at CCA in January 2012 and during my time here, I have really found myself. Because of my experience at the college, I am well on my way to reaching my goal of becoming a Mathematics professor. I’ve already been accepted to Metro State and plan on earning a Bachelor of Science in Theoretical Mathematics. Getting a Student Success Award makes me feel like I’m on my way somewhere and that I can attain my goals. It’s been difficult at times, but my family and friends have lent support that has kept me focused and on track.
Lauren L. Nichelson, student attending college in Denver, CO


Lauren L. Nichelson
I have always been one to dig deeper than the surface in anything I do. When I graduated high school, I wanted to follow the business aspect of my family. After attending CCA for a short amount of time, I began to dig deeper into who I was as a person. After a severe injury changed my outlook on life in high school – I needed to find myself again. The unique path of learning that was provided by each of my instructors helped me understand myself and what part I wanted to play in society. I regained my confidence and dedication as I have been healing and attending college, and it has been the best experience thus far in my life. Not only do I want to dive into a career in Science or History, but I also know I want to travel as I do so. I am set to graduate in 2015. And thanks to the amazing advisors, instructors, and students at CCA I finally have my direction again. I owe that to each person I have met at CCA and hope that someday I can provide that kind of direction to a college student who’s been in my shoes.
Mahatani Anggraini Yusuf, student attending college in Denver, Colorado


Mahatani Anggraini Yusuf
The political, economic and social climate in Indonesia prompted my family’s emigration to the United States in October 1999. It’s been many years since I’ve been to school, but I came to CCA with a steep educational background. I graduated high school in 1960, received my bachelor’s degree in Eastern Literature and Philosophy eight years later and my masters in Medical Anthropology in 1989. I’ve spent considerable time in Germany at the Goethe Institute and taught the German language at a senior high school in Jakarta until 1995, when I retired from the Department of Education in Indonesia. I’ve lived in Aurora since ’99 and plan to remain here. I worked as a clerk in a store and as a caregiver in a nursing home until 2010. A spine problem in my neck and arms required surgery in 2011, and I requested a pension from the U.S. government to help me pay my bills. However, as a retiree, my monthly retirement pension proved insufficient to satisfy those debts. These money issues required considerable time spent at home. It was at that point that I decided to study again. I registered as a student at Community College of Aurora in Fall 2011 with the help of financial aid as a 71-year-old adult learner who has been married for 52 years with four sons, one daughter, 10 grandchildren, and one great grandson. At CCA, I have been working on my skills in English and computers and am pursuing a degree in Anthropology, which I hope to complete by spring 2014.
Mara Koss, student attending college in Colorado


Mara Koss
I am originally from Wisconsin but have called Colorado home for more than 20 years. I’ve always wanted a college diploma, and after the closure of the Aurora company for whom I worked, I decided this was the perfect time to put myself first and pursue a higher education. Working for someone else for the last 14 years and helping them achieve their business goals gave me the confidence to take a giant leap of faith and change the direction of my life. With the love and support of my family, I became a full-time college student at age 41. It was truly scary transitioning from having a full-time job to being a full-time student but it also has been incredibly fulfilling. Being a little older – OK, well, maybe a lot older - than most of my fellow students was intimidating at first. But the daily collaboration with such a diverse group of people has truly enriched my learning experience at CCA. I appreciate CCA recognizing my hard work and dedication to learning and toward achieving my educational goals and look forward to graduating in May 2014. I have always been a creative person with an appreciation for art, so choosing an Associate of Applied Science degree in Graphic Design seemed like the perfect fit. The Art and New Media Department at CCA is filled with so many talented students, artists and amazing professors who have encouraged and inspired me. I’ve learned so much from the time I’ve spent at CCA and I look forward to further developing the skill sets I acquired here. CCA has given me the tools and confidence to continue on with my education at a four-year university, and that was something I never thought I was going to achieve in my lifetime. My future goals include furthering my education, doing fabulous graphic design work for my clients, and giving back to the community that supported me.
Maria Alejandra Garibay Campos, student attending college in CO


Maria Alejandra Garibay Campos
I immigrated with my family to the United States 14 years ago from Mexico. We struggle and face many challenges being immigrants, but I am dedicated and determined to make this world a better place. In May 2012, I graduated as the valedictorian of my high school class, but because no one in my family had ever gone to college, I wasn’t sure if college would be a reality for me. With the help and motivation of the ASCENT program, I was able to enroll at Community College of Aurora, where I completed prerequisite courses for nursing. CCA has helped me realize the potential within me and shown me that with hard work and dedication I can achieve anything. I hold on tenaciously to my goal of becoming a nurse and found a non-profit organization to help people in underrepresented communities have access to health care. I am grateful for the Integrated Nursing Pathway at CCA. It is developing my skills and providing the knowledge to make me a successful nurse. After I graduate from CCA in May 2014, I will transfer to the College of Nursing at the University of Colorado-Denver where I will receive my Bachelor of Science in Nursing. Colleges like CCA and programs like Integrated Nursing Pathway can help anyone connect the dots between a dream and a reality, just like they have been making my dreams come true. I want to thank my family that motivates me and inspires me to keep pushing forward. They are my life. I also want to thank Nicole Hockert for always believing in me. Because of people like her, and many others, I consider CCA my second home.
Mary Anne Navarrete, student attending college in Colorado


Mary Anne Navarrete
I placed my educational goals on hold when I started working to help support my mother, had children, and then became a single parent. Twenty-six years later, unemployed and diagnosed with a debilitating health condition leading to a significant hearing loss, I was at a crossroads. I enrolled at CCA as a starting point to complete a bachelor’s degree in Business Management. CCA’s faculty and staff fostered an encouraging environment to succeed. The Accessibility Services department has been phenomenal in providing assistance for students, community education, and, personally, in helping me believe that my goal of a degree could be obtained despite physical and learning disabilities. The love and passion for their craft allows students to shine. I want to especially say, “Thank You”, to Jeff Paganini and give kudos to Steve Selby, Bill Hunt, and Dr. Amy Zsohar. With the support and love of my family, I’ve been able to balance work and school. I’m headed for my both my associate (2014) and bachelor’s (2016). I’m honored to receive any recognition when every person has his or her own obstacles. Life is made up of moments. It is not always easy. But do not give up and take each moment at a time.
Mercedes M. Barksdale, student attending college in Denver


Mercedes M. Barksdale
I started at Community College of Aurora in July 2012 and it has been a wonderful experience. My goal is to become a hematologist, and with the support of my two children, ages 3 and 1, and my fiancé Mario, with whom I have a wonderful relationship, I will get there. My grandmother Edna is one of the reasons for choosing my goal. She has influenced and inspired me to do the things I want to do in the medical field. When I first started at CCA I wasn’t sure what route I was going. But after long talks with my grandmother, she helped me finally figure out the direction I wanted to go. Early on at CCA, I was introduced to Angele Davenport, who started as my Reading 090 teacher. But after knowing her for the past year, she is more than a student advisor. She is more like a person I can talk to about anything going on in my life. I am currently in the process of trying to get enrolled in a phlebotomy course so I can get certified in phlebotomy. I am very happy to be a student at CCA and wish to continue here on my journey to success.
Norman A. Kimbrough, student attending college in Denver, CO


Norman A. Kimbrough
I've always wanted to go back to school but for what, I wasn't sure. I knew that in order to make a better life for my son, my girlfriend and myself, I had to further my education. I knew that having a college education would be the only way to successfully achieve my goals. I want to be someone my family can count on, a leader to my peers and a giver to the community. I admit the road travelled was not easy. At times I wanted to quit and throw in the towel. I thought my college education was going to be short lived and all hope was lost. But I continued to push. When I was ready to quit, others continued to believe in me; which, in turn, increased my belief in myself. I gave my best effort with my schoolwork knowing that with hard work, dedication and persistence I could realize my full potential. That’s why I’m here today. By attending CCA, I could work toward getting my associate degree and continue toward my ultimate goal: being an elementary school teacher and
give back what others have given me. The road to success is never easy. There will be roadblocks and obstacles in my path, but by having confidence, I will be able to handle any challenge life throws at me.
Reem Hamodi, student attending college in Denver, Colorado


Reem Hamodi
I am totally blind. That has never stopped me; attending a school in my native Iraq for the blind at 6. Moving to Libya and Jordan in order to graduate primary school. Dealing with a lack of services after moving back to my home country. I made arrangements but never concessions to succeed academically. My parents returned to Jordan in an effort to obtain refugee status from a United Nations organization. While awaiting that response, I graduated high school with a high GPA before gaining approval to move to the U.S. in 2010. My English skills weren’t good when I arrived, and I was concerned about communicating with people. I worked with a tutor in Texas, but seeking a more intensive English program, moved to Colorado, where at a school for the blind and center for vocational rehabilitation, I was taught to speak English, to cook, travel, read Braille, and use technology. My educational journey then took me to Community College of Aurora and its ESL program. Accessibility Services first provided me with a note taker until I was given, and trained on, technological equipment such as Jaws (a talking program that reads anything on screen), Braille Display (which translates anything on screen to Braille), and a victor stream (to record lectures). It helped me complete the ESL program with high marks and set me on my current path to a major in Art and Psychology. The more I study, the more I’ve been inspired. I would someday like to earn a masters and a Ph.D. in Psychology, so that I can communicate with others in a personal way and help them gain perspective in their lives. I am so excited to receive a Student Success Award.
Rogelio De Reza, a college student in Colorado


Rogelio De Reza
I was born in Texas but raised in Mexico for most of my life. I decided to come to Colorado because of the violence in my city. When I came to the U.S. all I wanted to do was to work hard to give my family a good life. I started working full-time and part-time jobs simultaneously. Yet, I realized that it was not the best thing for me; therefore, I decided to attend the ESL program at Community College of Aurora. All I wanted was to learn English when I started the program but my ESL teachers encouraged me to continue studying. Now, I am in my last semester of ESL and soon will begin taking regular classes. I plan on studying Computer Science to get a better job and give my wife and daughter a better life. I am honored to have been nominated for this award and want to thank my teachers, wife and parents for supporting me as I continue with school. School, work and taking care of my family have been extremely difficult. But with effort and dedication, I am determined to become a successful person.
Sarah Groves, a college student in Colorado


Sarah Groves
When I got married, our plan was to have children right away. I realized that after nearly six years of trying, having a child was not in my control, but furthering my education was. I enrolled at CCA with a desire to have fun and fill my time with something more productive. Along the way I found I was in control: choose my classes, how hard I work, and my grades. In doing so, I’ve maintained a 4.0 GPA. I have been able to participate in honors projects, join Phi Theta Kappa and host study groups. More importantly, I have met teachers who have changed my life. They have been an influence to me through their sound advice and steady friendship. CCA has allowed my academic knowledge to grow, but these teachers have given me a greater knowledge about myself. Because of my experiences at CCA, I will go on to receive my master’s degree, be a published writer, and teach in a community college. Hopefully, one day I’ll be doing for others what my teachers have done for me. Going to school is no longer just for fun; going to school is for my future.
Stephane Vahoua, a college student in Colorado


Stephane Vahoua
I am originally from the Ivory Coast and came to Colorado in September 2012. I believe education is the key to success and that is why I decided to major in Political Science. My educational aspirations consist of acquiring a master's degree in that area of study in the hope that it will assist me in my pursuit of a diplomatic career. I have a vision to one day be able to provide affordable assistance to marginalized communities in the world and to work for an international organization like the United Nations. I try to connect my passion for education with the desire of helping others, particularly those who are weaker and vulnerable from the horrors of war. However, I know that all of my goals will remain just dreams if I do not finish my Political Science degree.
Stephanie Doyle, a college student in Colorado


Stephanie Doyle
I grew up in California until age 11 and, early on, was a successful student.
That all changed when I moved to Colorado in sixth grade. The academic achievement I had previously enjoyed came crashing down. I was diagnosed with ADHD and began to have some of my teachers tell me that I would never amount to anything. Though I continued to fight and graduated high school, I began to believe them and chose to enter the workforce because college seemed like something that was unattainable. Wanting something better, I was encouraged by family and friends to look into college. In the fall of 2011, with new documentation of my ADHD and help from the Accessibilities Office at the Community College of Aurora, I embarked on my life-changing journey. As a successful student, I currently hold a 4.0 GPA, am a member of Phi Theta Kappa, and have been listed on CCA’s President’s List of honor students. The knowledge, opportunities, professional and personal relationships, that I have developed at CCA have given me the confidence to prevent others with learning disabilities from going through what I went through and help them to reach their full potential. Currently I am on track to graduate from CCA at the end of 2014 with an associate’s degree in Anthropology. I intend on continuing my education in order to reach my goal of graduating with a bachelor’s degree as a double major in Anthropology and Psychology. I would like to thank my family, and especially my wonderful fiancé, for contributing a great deal to my education and providing constant encouragement. I would also like to give special thanks to Elizabeth Hirsh and Jennifer Dale for nominating me to receive such a prestigious award.
Tony D. Briscoe, a college student in Colorado


Tony D. Briscoe
CCA helped me learn many skills that will allow me to obtain my future goals. In the past, I had worked numerous temporary jobs that emphasized my physical abilities, including hard labor positions such as warehouse work. I tried school for a short time, attending Eastern Arizona College. But my life turned around completely when a drive-by shooting left me paralyzed in 2008. My entire mindset had to change moving forward. An interest survey I took while rehabilitating at Craig Hospital informed me of a program that could put me back in school, and that was the impetus for my attending Community College of Aurora beginning in the spring of 2008. After receiving Vocational Rehab, I learned to walk again after eight months. CCA then became my first stepping stone towards independence. I worked in the Accounts Payable department while attending classes and, in doing so, it was pivotal in informing me of my future career decision to become an actuary. Going to CCA was a very important time for me. It helped me understand that I could use my mental acumen and not just physical attributes to succeed in a future career. I graduated CCA in the spring after I was honored to be named to the Dean’s List in the spring and fall of 2011 and 2012. I’m now attending University of Colorado Denver, where I’m continuing my path toward becoming an actuary, with an emphasis in risk management.



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