Changing Lives in Ways Only Bears Can
August 7, 2017
Bears take care of Bears, and being part of the Bear community means, no matter where you are, you’re never without a helping hand when you need it most. When student Bianca Acosta suffered extensive damage to her home and faced the impossible choice to either drop out of school to afford to fix it or stay in school and risk homelessness with her 10-year-old daughter, her UNC network took action to help. We asked Bianca to share her story.
I grew up in a small village in Zacatecas, Mexico. There was no middle school in the village so I walked one hour to the school in the next town. There was a lot of violence in the area and few educational opportunities. Because of this, I left Mexico, my parents and my younger sibling to live with my aunt in Aurora, Colorado in the hope for a better future.
I came to Colorado speaking no English at age 15. At age 17, I gave birth to my beautiful daughter, Michelle. With no immediate family close enough to help me through my many challenges, I had to become a mother, a student and an employee before my 18th birthday. I attended the New America School in the evenings for three years and graduated with honors.
Bianca is attending UNC’s Center for Urban Education, majoring in elementary education. The UNC-CUE, as part of the UNC Extended Campus, is located in the UNC Denver Center at Lowry. It offers a bachelor's degree program that prepares students to be elementary, special education or early childhood teachers in contemporary schools. Students immediately apply what they learn in their college courses through the “work and learn” program by spending weekday mornings in K-12 classrooms as part of apprenticeships supervised by veteran teachers.
Attending the Center for Urban Education has been the best option for my college education. I want to make a difference for children in underserved schools, especially in my Latino community. I know it will take time, as I must work, study and care for my 10-year-old daughter, however, I am sure one day that this dream will come true. I will do whatever it takes to make it happen.
On May 8, 2017, Denver was hit by a devastating hailstorm packing baseball-size hail that shattered windows and broke through roofs. The storm, estimated to be the costliest on record, was responsible for over $1 billion in damages to the metro area.
I purchased a small mobile home from the 60’s about four years ago after being homeless for two months due to financial stresses and other circumstances. Unfortunately, in the hail storm part of our roof was damaged letting leaks into the house and we had a couple windows broken out. We were devastated, I knew that with my part-time job salary I could not afford to cover the repairs. I was left with only two options, stop going to UNC-CUE and get a full-time job to be eligible for a loan to cover the repairs or leave our home and be homeless again. The idea of having my daughter go through homelessness again made me sad. I had promised her and myself that we would never be in that position ever again. I had lost hope, and I thought that my dream of becoming a teacher would have to be postponed.
Bianca shared her troubles with CUE Professor Jessica Feld, who reached out to UNC alumna and CUE Professor Dr. Yeni Violeta Garcia ’13. Violeta immediately reached out to her UNC connections for a solution. A common thread across the UNC community, the culture at CUE shares a family-like bond between professors and students, and they are always ready to lend a hand.
Assistant Director of Alumni Relations Chris Garcia ’08, based on the UNC campus in Greeley, saw Violeta’s request and connected her and Bianca with UNC’s Director of Financial Aid to assess her eligibility for the UNC Disaster Relief Scholarship.
I was very surprised when I got an email saying I had got a disaster relief scholarship, I was not expecting it at all, I had no idea that there was a scholarship for this kind of emergency. It was with tears in my eyes that I shared the news with my daughter. My hope was revived again. This scholarship meant so much for my daughter and me. It meant we will continue to have shelter. It meant an immeasurable increase on my peace of mind that will allow me to keep focusing on my studies. It meant no more leaks in the house every time it rains and not fearing someone could break into our home through the broken windows. The disaster relief scholarship helped us cover part of the damage and, by working full-time this summer, I was able to get a small loan to cover the rest of the damages.
Now I am ready to continue pursuing my dream of becoming an elementary teacher and providing my daughter a better future. My journey has been long and definitely not easy, but in my journey, I have learned to never lose hope and that there are many ways to solve and face a problem. I had never imagined that I could learn another language, graduate high school on the Honor Roll list and attend college and earn a 3.94 GPA. I consider that my success story is not on my accomplishments, but in learning the real meaning of resilience and meeting the people along the way that helped me to reach my goals. Thank you.
The UNC Disaster Relief Scholarship is awarded to current students who have been impacted by Colorado natural disasters. This scholarship fund was first started by UNC in response to the historic floods that devastated northern Colorado communities in 2013. It was funded through several small gifts from caring and generous donors to aid students affected by the flooding as well as future natural disasters.
Bianca and her daughter
Several small gifts shared by a caring community can grow to make big things happen for UNC students. Bears take care of Bears … and each day new Bears are changing lives in ways only Bears can. You can make a difference in the lives of Bears. Every gift matters, no matter the size. Learn more about the impact of giving to UNC and the Campaign for UNC.