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From Aims to UNC: Non-Traditional Students Share Their Stories of Success

August 12, 2019

 Like many first-generation students, at first, a college degree seemed out of reach for Arizbe Soto-Ramirez ‘19.

“I always thought that people like me didn’t go to college,” Arizbe says. “I tried to enroll in community college right after high school, but I had no support. My parents knew nothing.” 

Nearly 20 years later she decided to revisit the idea again, and Aims Community College was ready to help. 

Arizbe Soto-Ramirez

“I remember talking to my advisor at Aims, she was so helpful. She asked me, if I could do anything, what would I do? She encouraged me not to settle, and I had never really looked at it that way before,” Arizbe recalls.  

Although his father is a proud UNC graduate, college didn’t appeal to Menan Bergman ’00 right after high school graduation.

“I wanted to hang out with my high school buddies in the small town that I grew up in,” Menan recalls. “My dad told me if I wasn’t going to go to school that I needed to find a job. So, I found a job that was very laborious, working construction. It didn’t take too long for me to realize that I needed to get a college degree." 

By the time he came to that realization, Menan was already several years out of school and unable to jump right back in and join his older brother and friends at UNC. Luckily there was another local option that could help get him to where he wanted to be – Aims Community College.

Menan Bergman

“I ended up there in 1995 and my first goal was to get my associate degree,” he says. “The Aims schedule had night classes and different times of the day so I could still work and go to school. I still didn’t know what I wanted to study but, I ended up getting a job at Aims in their PE or recreation area and that introduced me to something that I maybe wanted to study at UNC.”

The small class sizes, flexible schedules and helpful faculty at Aims proved to be the perfect preparation for a transition to UNC.

“My advisor told me that I could transfer and continue my studies, but I always thought people like me don’t go to college. We don’t go to universities. That’s when my advisor reminded me that there’s one in my backyard,” Arizbe recalls. “I just couldn’t picture myself doing that, not at 40 years old. Thinking about attending UNC was daunting. I was worried that I would just be surrounded by a bunch of 18-year-olds and would I fit in? Would it be awkward? But it never has been. It’s just like Aims, just a bigger place, different people and different buildings.” 

“I wouldn’t be where I am today without both Aims and UNC,” Menan, now a successful Financial Advisor with Bank of Colorado says. “Even if I wasn’t a non-traditional student, I would recommend to anyone to go this route for a couple of reasons. It takes that freshman jitters of 'who am I going to meet?’ out. It allows for you to kind of slowly develop your skills or your path. Aims is affordable, you’re going to get the human interaction, you’re going to get the education and then they’re going to help you if you want to keep going to your ultimate goal."

It’s because of the continued success of students like Menan and Arizbe that Aims and UNC are pleased to partner on an exciting new endeavor focused on fostering student success.

Make plans to join us Thursday, September 5th to celebrate this new partnership and learn more about how these two Greeley institutions will work together to help countless other students achieve their dreams. Learn more or register to attend this event at https://www.unco.edu/explore/aims2unc/launch/


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