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2016 Student Success Award Winners

2016 Student Success Award Winners

Fatema Amin, 2016 CCA Student Success Winner


Fatema Amin

I grew up in Bahrain for most of my life and got married and raised a family. My dream was to attend college in Bahrain but it was too expensive. In 2012, I moved with my husband to Denver for his career. Raising three children was difficult especially after moving to a new country. Despite these challenges, I wanted to be a part of my community so I volunteered with organizations such as Anchor Center for Blind Children, Aurora Sister Cities International, and Aurora Welcome Center. As a volunteer my goal was to support immigrants and refugees in their journey of integration to America. Family and friends encouraged me to attend Community College of Aurora to help my career and volunteer ambitions. I interned with the City of Aurora, and researched cities from around the globe that could be potential economic and cultural partners for Aurora. I would like to earn an Associate of Arts in communication from CCA and transfer to Metropolitan State University of Denver to earn a degree in communication studies. I would like to return to Bahrain and start a scholarship foundation for students who cannot afford college and help others who were in my situation.

Billo Boru, 2016 CCA Student Success Winner


Billo Boru

In 2006, I came to America from a very poor family in Ethiopia; I came to America to live the American dream. During my childhood, I couldn’t attend college in Ethiopia and I wanted to attend CCA to change my life and help my two daughters and my community. Education is my primary goal because none of my family members ever pursued higher education. As a political science student and a future lawyer, I plan to change policies to improve the lives of refugees and stand for oppressed people in the world. I am an active leader in my community and I organize seminars to ensure that future generations of children learn the importance of education, their potential contributions to their community, and the dangers of drugs. I also serve as a member of the board of directors for the non-profit Oromo Community of Colorado, made up of people from that region of Ethiopia. I also help with translation and interpretation for community members and help new refugees settle and adjust to their new environment. Through these activities, I strive to become an amazing role model for my two daughters and the community.

Jesus Calderon, 2016 CCA Student Success Winner


Jesus Calderon

I come from an immigrant family and I am a first-generation college student. I want to be the first college graduate in my family and be an example for my younger sister. I attended Aurora Central High School and my whole high school career I was doing college-level work. When it came time to attend college, though, it was difficult to find the right place to go and how to pay for it. However, one of my counselors at Aurora Central encouraged me to apply for a scholarship at CCA. Since attending CCA, I have received constant encouragement from my professors that has fueled my passion for community work. That encouragement has motivated me to study public policy; in fact, I now participate in Student Government Association as an executive officer at CCA. I plan to transfer to a four-year university and study public policy and communication with the long-term goal of working in advocacy or government work.

Freddy M. Chasi, 2016 CCA Student Success Winner


Freddy M. Chasi

As a new resident to the United States in 2012, I quickly realized that I needed more education to be able to break through some invisible barriers and stereotypes that often hold people from the Latino culture back. Since my English was not good enough to take college-level courses, I enrolled at CCA in spring 2014 to take some ESL courses, then decided to continue working toward an associate degree. Despite working a fulltime job and caring for my family, I am finally close to completing my Associate of Arts degree in business. Once I complete my studies at CCA, I plan to transfer to Metropolitan State University of Denver to earn a bachelor’s degree in business management, specializing in entrepreneurship, with the desire to help others realize their own dreams. I am proud to be a student at CCA, and I am extremely proud to be nominated for the Student Success Award. I want to thank my lord and savior, Jesus Christ; my wife Mary Ann; my American family (Larry, Amy, Allen, Ashley, Garrett, and Brandi) for all their support; and my professor, Heather McMichael, for believing in me, and for this great opportunity.

Jasmine Davie, 2016 CCA Student Success Winner


Jasmine Davie

Growing up in Detroit, life had its challenges. My sister and I were raised by my grandma, but her health issues required that my uncle and aunt take full custody of us along with raising four boys of their own. My uncle instilled in us the value of hard work. He taught us that we could do whatever we wanted as long as we worked hard and never gave up. While I have always done well in school, after becoming a single mom at 22, I had to put my dreams on hold. While the idea of returning to school always lingered in the back of my mind, I had little faith that it would actually happen. In summer 2015, I mustered up enough courage to apply to CCA, and it was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I am maintaining a 4.0 GPA and I have become one of the most outspoken and engaged students in my classes, thanks to the efforts of my English composition instructor, Justin Lotspeich. He has taught me so much, and I have come a long way since sitting in the back of his classroom, shy and afraid to speak.

Richard Gomez, 2016 Student Success Winner


Richard Gomez

As far back as I can remember, higher education was the furthest thing from my mind. In junior high I was diagnosed with ADD which made school hard, but not impossible. In high school I had an interest in math classes, and even took AP statistics my senior year but I didn’t have a clue on what to do after high school. I joined the Navy so I could see as much of the world as I could and serve my country and protect those who cannot protect themselves. After four years of serving, school was not in any of my conversations or thoughts. It wasn’t until I met my wife Ayla that I was truly encouraged to pursue higher education. She gave me the confidence I needed to go back to school after 16 years of working in blue-collar jobs. My plans are to obtain my associate degree in mathematics and then transfer to Colorado School of Mines. Thank you to my wife Ayla, and my daughter Dorathy for always being there for me, and thank you to my English instructor Justin Lotspeich for being a great teacher and challenging me and my classmates.

Julia Ioffe, 2016 CCA Student Success Winner


Julia Ioffe

I was born in Minsk, Belarus and have lived in Colorado for the past 16 years. I have had to overcome some challenges in order to keep a positive state of mind. My mother had me when she was 17 years old and this added to the difficulties of our mother and daughter relationship. As fathers go, mine was nearly nonexistent; when I was 14, he died in a drunk driving incident. I had some boyfriends, some were abusive, and some were not. My mother remarried and had a son with her second husband; my baby brother is 15 years younger than me and I became a second parent for him after his father left. The silver lining in all of this is that I became a responsible, independent individual. I’m self-propelled because I have achieved a few things on my own and will continue to do so. Now, I have a husband who supports and motivates me. My son inspires me to be better and do better. Without family and CCA, it would be difficult to achieve what I have achieved so far.

Orlando Lewis, 2016 CCA Student Success Winner


Orlando Lewis

I was born and raised in Jamaica and I decided that when I was 13 that I wanted to go to college in America. Two years ago I moved to Colorado because my aunt suggested that CCA was the perfect college for me. I didn’t understand what she was saying until I spent a few months here. When I came here, I felt welcome. I feel like I’m part of this big family - almost everyone here knows me. I am very thankful for many CCA staff: Phebe Lassiter and Robin Blish – they have pushed me and stayed on me to accomplish things; James Gray – he inspired me that I can do anything and trust in myself; Michael Broadbent – he has helped me with finances and helped me discover a better payment plan for my education. Also everyone in Recruitment and Orientation has helped to raise my confidence; they got me out of my comfort zone and would push me to speak up. I am planning to graduate from CCA in spring 2017 and I plan to transfer to Metropolitan State University of Denver and earn a bachelor’s degree in computer science.

Rebecca Leyva-Hernandez, 2016 CCA Student Success Winner


Rebecca Leyva-Hernandez

Growing up in a single-parent home, I was taught to never give up on myself and those around me. I had the opportunity to work at Catholic Health Initiatives and the University of Colorado Hospital. There, I learned what it takes to do what I love and it inspired me to earn a college degree – something no one in my family has done. My plan is to pursue a minor in women’s studies and a bachelor’s degree in health care administration when I transfer to Metropolitan State University Denver in fall 2017. My plan is to help make our communities healthier and a safer place to live in. Seeing my mother struggle as a single parent has inspired me to assist the many single parents in our society. By studying gender inequality through women’s studies, I hope to motivate little girls and strong women to promote and exercise their human rights in our country. Thus, I will continue to make the best of my educational opportunities until I can voice the needs of those who need to be heard.

Elizabet Milanova, 2016 CCA Student Success Winner


Elizabet Milanova

I was brought by my parents to the U.S. from Bulgaria when I was 14 years old. Struggling with the English language in high school, I never thought about earning a college degree. But this challenge never stopped me from succeeding. I was able to learn not only English, but also Russian. After graduating from high school, I decided to continue my education in a medical field. My goal is to earn an Associate of Science degree and transfer to a nursing school to earn a bachelor’s degree. My desire to earn a college degree makes me work harder so I can be a role model for my kids. The accomplishment that I am most proud of is that I have the patience and strength to cope with all the difficulties I went through and finally reach my goals. I would like to thank my parents who have always supported me and also to thank my fiancée who always gives me good advice. I also want to thank all of the instructors who have helped me during my educational path, especially Jeff Paganini, who cares about student futures and wants them succeed.

Diana Morales, 2016 CCA Student Success Winner


Diana Morales

At a young age, my family had many financial struggles and violence in my home was a norm. I witnessed many violent incidents and was abused myself. I joined many extracurricular activities in order to stay away from home; I wanted more out of life. In high school, I wanted to become a police officer; I believed that perhaps by becoming a police officer I could protect my family. At 16, I left home to escape the physical and mental abuse and was forced to support myself. I ended up quitting high school and obtained my GED but the dream of becoming a police officer was gone. When I was 18 I met my loving husband and I finally broke the cycle of violence. After I had four children, I decided to start college at age 33. With the support of family and CCA Advisor Robyn Jackson, my goals are becoming a reality. I am one semester from obtaining my associate degree and plan to transfer to Metropolitan State University of Denver to obtain a bachelor’s degree in social work. Even though my high school dreams have changed I plan a career in social work to help others.

Kaprell Myles, 2016 CCA Student Success Winner


Kaprell Myles

When I first enrolled in college, I attended Metropolitan State University of Denver. Because of my age I wasn’t ready for college and I had to drop out. Metro State was so big and you had to know what you were doing when you went there. After a few years living in Georgia, I came back home to Colorado and decided to enroll at CCA because I had heard good things about the faculty and environment from high school friends. Being a mom, I have found that it can be a challenge to raise a five-year-old son and manage work and school. Fortunately, I’ve had help at CCA in the form of mentors. I would like to thank Susan Achziger and Ray Keith; they have always encouraged me and they genuinely care about my success. I am currently studying criminal justice at CCA and I would like to transfer to Denver University or University of Colorado Denver. Eventually I would like to work as a paralegal or somewhere else within the criminal justice system, possibly helping teenagers and counseling them to stay on the right track.

Margot Ndiaye, 2016 CCA Student Success Winner


Margot Ndiaye

I initially went to college in Rockville, Maryland but left in 2003 to take care of my son, who is autistic. After 12 years and a move to Colorado, my son is in a better position now than when he was younger, so I decided to go back to school. My life was about taking care of other people; now it is time to take care of myself. I could not find a more rewarding thing than to go back to school. Classmates say I don’t have a life; I say “My life is school.” My first class after coming back to college was with Rhonda Hattar. She shaped me; she gave me a gift. She showed me “You do the work; you see the result.” The way she teaches you have to be there to get it. You need to pay attention, you need to do the work, and you need to show respect for the class and your classmates. CCA has made me believe in myself; it really made me feel like I was part of a community. My next goal is to transfer to University of Colorado Denver with the goal of becoming a pharmacist.

Xiaolong Olsen, 2016 CCA Student Success Winner


Xiaoyong Olsen

I come from a small town in northwest China. At an early age, I realized that education was the only way that I could see the world. In China, I got into college and studied accounting but I did not enjoy the experience. After working in the accounting field for 10 years, I came to the United States and started a family and stayed at home to take care of my children. When my youngest child began school, I decided to attend CCA to take classes so I could join the workforce. Even if I do not eventually go to work, I still believe immigrants should attend college to learn the culture and English to help us assimilate into America better, instead of being isolated from society by language and culture barriers. My first college experience scared me and I didn’t want to waste time in classes without quality teaching. At CCA, I have enjoyed the excellent teaching here. Classes can be stressful but I enjoy the work and do my best. When I finish at CCA, I would like to transfer to a four-year college and finish my accounting degree.

Aneyka Reyna, 2016 CCA Student Success Winner


Aneyka Reyna

If I looked back to when I began my classes here at Community College of Aurora, I would have never thought I’d be where I am today. In my family I am the first to go to college. My parents’ hard work and sacrifice has motivated me to keep pushing forward despite the financial and legal obstacles that face us. Completing my college degree will be my way of repaying them for everything they have done. I am currently pursuing an Associate of Science and plan to transfer into University of Colorado Denver in 2017 to achieve a Bachelor of Science degree. Not only am I pursuing my dream career of being a nurse, but I also give back to the college by being a voice for the students through Student Government Association. Being in SGA has allowed me to meet the great administration at CCA and helped me contribute to students at the college. I would like to thank the advisor of the Student Government Association, Kathryn Sturtevant-James, and Vice President of Student Affairs Elena Sandoval-Lucero, for their guidance and teaching me skills that are molding me into a leader.

Deonte L. Robinson, 2016 CCA Student Success Winner


Deonte L. Robinson

I was raised by an unloving mother but when I was nine I was saved by God and my father gained custody of me. I eventually became strong enough to escape my mother’s influence and managed to survive the battles my parents would have over me. I had a lot of self-hate towards myself and that undermined my abilities throughout elementary through high school in regards to academics, athletics, and many other areas of life. I flunked out of CCA my first semester. After this, I decided to grab life by the horns. I started working fulltime on myself for two years and decided to face my demons to show God and myself what I am capable of, and I took as many credits as possible at CCA without infringing on my full-time work. Next semester I plan to transfer to Red Rocks Community College to complete my transfer program so I can get into Colorado School of Mines to become a civil engineer. I’d also like to strengthen myself and others through rapping and/or public speaking. I thank God; my soulmate; my family; and Brandon Williams for recognizing my strengths and believing in me.

Adnan Salah, 2016 CCA Student Success Winner


Adnan Salah

My academic plan is to get my Ph.D. and become an engineer. I plan to transfer to the University of Colorado Boulder after CCA. I got interested and inspired to become an engineer when one of my uncles told me about the benefits of becoming an engineer, and the amount of money you can earn. I am interested in physics and math and that has inspired me to get my Associate of Science degree. I am really proud that I made it to this level and I am the first one in my family to reach this level. I would like to thank my family and faculty member Rachel Blue for all of their support since day one at CCA. I have had to overcome homesickness but my uncle and his family have had my back since the day I met them, so that had made it easier for me to pursue a college degree.

Bae Say, 2016 CCA Student Success Winner


Bae Say

I was born in Thailand and I lived in a refugee camp growing up. When I was six years old, I and other refugees had to hide from Burmese soldiers who if they had found us would have killed us. We faced many obstacles but we always had hope. Five years ago I moved to the United States without knowing any English and was able to learn and improve my English skills and I graduated high school. When I came to America I was scared to dream about my future, especially because I was learning a new culture and adapting into a new environment. As of today, I am no longer scared. My hard work and dedication to my education helped me to adjust to the new environment and succeed. When I reflect on my experience, I know that I can accomplish anything. What I have overcome has inspired me and I plan to become a pharmacist. I would like to thank my parents for bringing me here to the United States and for the great opportunity and I am truly grateful for my teachers who have inspired me to fulfill my dreams.

Nicholas M. Schlundt, 2016 CCA Student Success Winner


Nicholas M. Schlundt

I joined the Army at 19 and served for eight years in the infantry, participating in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn. After I left the Army, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do and I took a series of entry-level jobs. It took a little while to settle down and figure out where I wanted to be and what direction I wanted to take my life in. I decided to attend CCA and become the first of my siblings to pursue a college degree. Since I’ve been at CCA, I have really enjoyed the atmosphere and the instructors. I’ve made a lot of friends since I’ve been here. I plan to transfer to University of Colorado Colorado Springs next semester and pursue my desire to be a dietician. My family has had a history of heart disease and I am interested in how serious health conditions affect nutritional requirements. I definitely want to provide for my children and show them that anyone can really pursue what they want.

Jon Starry, 2016 CCA Student Success Winner


Jon Starry

Following my graduation from high school I joined the Navy and was shipped off to Yokosuka, Japan to start my military career. I retired from the Navy in 2002. Using my GI Bill I returned to school and started at CCA to obtain an Associate of Arts with a psychology designation and an Associate of General Studies. Because of CCA’s instructors, faculty, staff, students, and just by putting one foot in front of the other, I came to realize my potential and discovered I am capable of furthering my education. Like a caterpillar changing into a butterfly, I have started a new journey at Metropolitan State University of Denver. I am currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in human services with a goal of helping and transforming the lives of veterans and/or others. I am a blessed husband of 27 years, a proud father of 24 years (my daughter is also attending CCA), and I am an honored grandfather for five years. I am honored, humbled, and thank everyone who selected me for this award.

Natalie Stowe, 2016 CCA Student Success Winner


Natalie Stowe

I am surprised and honored to be nominated for the 2016 Student Success Award. I would like to thank instructor Justin Lotspeich, the staff and instructors of CCA’s Basic Law Enforcement Training Academy program, and to my family and friends who have supported my ambitions. I chose to attend CCA because the college’s Peace Officers Standards and Training-certified BLETA program is one of the best offered at any community college. The program is staffed with knowledgeable and well-trained instructors who provide excellent training to prepare us for our careers. Attending college later in life has been quite a task. I am a single mother, working full-time while trying to start my career, and trying to juggle my own college education. My child means the world to me, and I hope that my hard work and accomplishments serve as pride and motivation for my little one’s future success. I plan on working diligently to complete my associate degree that goes along with certification from the BLETA program. I am trying to decide between majoring in sociology or psychology, but may also pursue a minor in English and criminal justice.

Justin Taylor, 2016 CCA Student Success Winner


Justin Taylor

I am a believer in the idea that in order to be a reasonable person, you have to consider everyone’s point of view. No one is more important than another, and nobody is “right” or “wrong” simply because of their worldview. I found that idea echoed in the field of anthropology, and hope to pursue a major in that field. My studies in anthropology and political science have provided me with incredible opportunities; I was chosen as a member of the 2015 and 2016 delegations to the National Model United Nations conference in New York City. I have met and spoken with diplomats from Ethiopia and South Korea, and worked with students from all over the world to address issues facing people all over the world. These experiences have shaped my education and I believe have made me a better and more thoughtful person. I would like to thank Elizabeth Hirsh, Dr. Bobby Pace, and Kimberly Tenure for supporting and encouraging me, and giving me opportunities to grow and flourish. I would also like to thank the Student Success Center advisors, particularly the TRiO program, for encouraging me to succeed at times when I thought myself unequal to the task.

Ulises Venegas-Rivera, 2016 CCA Student Success Winner


Ulises Venegas-Rivera

I ended high school very unmotivated with people telling me I couldn’t go to college or that I was not cut out for college, but I proved them wrong. I am currently doing all the things I never had the motivation to do in high school. I am currently a part of leadership programs across CCA like MyQuest and Student Government Association where I am a senator, as well as developing a student-led organization in partnership with UNICEF. I have a very strong GPA, and I’m involved in my community through service work with Support Inc. and The Children’s Hospital of Colorado. I’m very grateful to CCA for giving me a second opportunity to follow my dreams, as well as to Vicki Graham and Rachel Haag for their unconditional support through my journey here at CCA. I plan to apply for admission to the University of Southern California, University of California Los Angeles, Texas Christian University, Regis University, and the University of Maryland. I plan to pursue a degree in sociology with a minor in political science.

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Bernadette Anderious

I started attending CCA in order to improve my English skills; it’s important to know English in order to improve your career. I would like to improve my English to be a better speaker, writer, and speller. My dream after I leave CCA is to become a pharmacy technician. I would also like to thank some people for my success here at CCA. The first one and above all is my savior Yahusha (The Messiah), my sister, and faculty member Daniel Schweissing. My sister has helped me since I arrived in America. She has stood by my side by giving me support and helped me with the summer semester. It has been difficult to live in America since I have felt like a stranger at times. Daniel Schweissing trusted that I could succeed and helped me make it to my final semester. He saw my value and respected me and my work and helped me reach my goals.

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Erik Quintana-Lira

I never had a great academic experience through middle and high school. In middle school a letter was sent home to my parents stating that for the following year it would be best if I looked at attending another school. In high school I was expelled for two years, including my senior year. After bouncing from credit recovery school to credit recovery programs, I finally got my GED at Futures Academy. Futures Academy helped me improve needed skills to place into college courses, along with helping me fill out my financial aid application. I was accepted to the Community College of Aurora even after teachers, deans, principals, coaches, and staff members in middle and high school repeatedly made comments about my failing status, that I was wasting my time in school and education. I am now on track to graduate and transfer into a four-year institution, giving me the joy of stating, maybe the meaning of life is to always and continuously surprise yourself.

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Victoria Zornes

I was born and raised in Colorado. I am almost 19 years old and have been attending classes at CCA for five years as a concurrent enrollment student. I was homeschooled until my freshman year of high school, when I began taking classes at CCA. In spring 2015, I discovered the paralegal program at CCA. After my first semester, I was hooked. My plan now is to graduate in spring 2017 with a paralegal Associate of Applied Science degree. I would like to thank my mom, my family, Lourdes Huici Clever, and Amber Tamborello. You all have pushed and encouraged me to achieve more and be the best student I could be. My time here at CCA has been full of learning, challenges, and growth. I am so excited for whatever the next chapter holds.

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