Faces of 2020 Graduates: Perseverance During a Pandemic
December 2, 2020
University of Northern Colorado students were met with unprecedented times during 2020 where the COVID-19 pandemic forced the university to quickly adapt to a new, virtual environment from March to the end of the year. Here, seven of the around 3,000 undergraduate and graduate students who are graduating this year share their stories.
Hedrine Tchomgwang Tamajong
- Hometown: Buea Town, southwest Region of Cameroon, West Africa. Arrived in the United States in January of 2008.
- Area of Study: Early Childhood Education
- Reflection on time at UNC: As a mother of three young children, UNC helped me become who I am today. The evening
class sessions at the Extended Campus at Lowry in Denver, were a great place to take
classes because of the small classroom sizes and great instructors, along with the
awesome Director of the Center, Rosanne Fulton, Ph.D. I made great memories and new
friends who were always available to help get things done on time.
- Overcoming barriers: Being a mother of three who supported them with their school work and afterschool
activities while transferring from Community College of Aurora was not an easy task
at first. There were moments where I felt like giving up; however, my instructors
understood my situation and supported me. It wasn't easy rushing to drop off my children
before school and picking them up after my classes from their afterschool activities.
- Future plans: I plan on working with the Aurora Public Schools, where I'm currently working as a
classroom para-educator, or to take advantage of any opportunity to work as an early
childhood educator and am contemplating on continuing my education if the opportunity
- Advice you’d give to current and/or future students: Always believe in yourself, don't hesitate to ask for help when you need it, never give up when things get tough and use all of your life's experiences as an opportunity for learning.
- Hometown: Knoxville, Tennessee
- Area of Study: Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Education Master of Arts in Teaching (M.A.T.)
- Reflection on time at UNC: Being a fully online student allowed for a very unique experience. Despite being
hundreds of miles away living in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the Culturally and Linguistically
Diverse Education M.A.T. Program at UNC changed my life by inspiring me to take a
leap into my passion.
- Overcoming barriers: It has been difficult living so far away, but the faculty and staff have been extremely
- Future plans: I'm proud to say that after graduating from UNC this December, I'm launching my own
business, Rich Lit Crew, which will provide children of color with books featuring
characters and content that they can identify with. Parents, teachers and community
members will be able to access our website for resources and materials to help them
nurture their little world changer. I'm so blessed to be able to say that I graduated
from this program.
- Advice you’d give to current and/or future students: Don't quit: You can do it!
- Hometown: Littleton, Colorado
- Area of study: Early Childhood Education
- Reflection on time at UNC: My journey at UNC was not the typical college experience. I transferred to UNC after
not finding what I wanted at Metropolitan State University of Denver (MSU) and needed
a new start. Once in Greeley, I was able to experience traditional college experiences,
like living in a dorm and going to sporting events; it felt real.
Along the way, I comfortably made decisions on what area I wanted to study, and I was also able to join Greek life on campus. Through this, I've gained the most meaningful friendships and greatest support system in my quest for completing my degree in Early Childhood Education.
- Overcoming barriers: The hardest thing that I overcame when arriving at UNC was that I wasn't a traditional
freshman. I spent my 'freshman' year as a commuter student at MSU Denver. So, upon
arriving at UNC, things were different for me. I had prior experience navigating a
wide campus to determine where my classes were, but I had less experience with the
social aspect of living in a dorm or meeting people on campus.
- Future plans: My hope for the future is to find a position in a school that allows me to become
the best lead teacher that I can be.
- Advice you’d give to current and/or future students: Try as many things as you can, be safe and trust your instincts. It’s OK to ask for help.
- Hometown: Paterson, New Jersey
- Major: Audiology and Speech-Language Sciences
- Reflection on time at UNC: I cannot say enough great things about UNC! I transferred to UNC and took courses
outside of my major. Every professor and instructor I've encountered here have been
nothing short of incredible. Everyone has been so supportive and truly cares about
your academic career.
- Overcoming barriers: When I first transferred to UNC, I moved across the country on my own and am considered
a nontraditional student. It was an incredibly difficult transition, but everyone
at UNC was supportive and caring, and they saw my efforts.
Another task I was faced with was my identity as a first-generation student. Neither of my parents had the ability to pursue higher education, so I had to navigate the process, applications, financial aid ... all of it, on my own. I know I made them very proud.
- Future plans: I'm continuing my education at UNC in the Master's of Arts in Speech-Language Pathology
program. Go Bears!
- Advice you’d give to current and/or future students: College and higher education have been a roller coaster ride for me. Take the time to network with other students and clubs, get to know your professors and all the university has to offer. Mostly, take advantage of this time: Studies and academics are important, but also take this time to have fun.
Chloé Colleen Gates
- Hometown: Fountain, Colorado
- Area of Study: Theatre Studies
- Reflection on time at UNC: After applying to UNC once and not getting accepted, I applied a second time during
my sophomore year at another institution and was admitted. Better yet, I was accepted
into my major of choice. I always wanted to come to UNC, and now, I'm glad to say
that I never stopped trying.
My time spent at UNC fostered my closest friends who uplifted me to propel myself toward my dreams. My teachers challenged me with new concepts and gave me the tools I needed to weave a good story. My time spent at UNC was accompanied by long walks around the campus, thinking of what’s next, and fostering friendships. Those walks cleared my head to better focus on the next assignment, the next project, the next extracurricular moment.
I'm thankful for coming into college scared, anxious, self-conscious and leaving as a self-assured, well-educated young woman. It’s hard to look back and not be thankful. I'm thankful for a Theatre degree and have never doubted my decision.
- Overcoming barriers: Being a Theatre Studies major, it was hard to get my name out there as an actress,
as a creative. That only gave me more inspiration to persevere. I found that the Film
Production Club put me back on track for what I truly wanted to do, and everyone in
the club believes in me; I made a name for myself there.
With respect for the major, it was the best decision I’ve ever made. I found value in my classes and in myself, and through every rough moment something kept telling me to keep going, and I did and am happy that I did. Being a transfer student also made it hard to get to know other students; however, with determination, that was no longer a problem. I'm truly thankful for the challenges as I learned from them.
- Future plans: I'm moving to Austin, Texas, with a job in video production and am going to star
in one or two Indie films. I'm never going to give up on my passion while hopefully
keeping a healthy ego in the process.
- Advice you’d give to current and/or future students:
This was taught to me during high school, yet it never clicked as to why it was important until my senior year. A motto or mantra to build around yourself helped me. More advice: Sit in the front row of class — trust me, it helps.
- Hometown: Colorado Springs, Colorado
- Area of Study: Psychology with a minor in Criminal Justice
- Reflection on time at UNC: UNC has become my second home. Being a first-generation college student, I was welcomed
with open arms. The support was unbelievable! Everyone was so genuine and treated
you as if they have known you for years. UNC was my home away from home, and I'll
forever cherish all the memories that were created these past four years.
- Overcoming barriers: Being a first-generation student was challenging. My family and I walked into this
college experience blind as a bat. We didn't even know how to fill out our FASFA,
but the guidance that was given through these trying times was so genuine. The UNC
staff helped lead my family and me to success.
- Future plans: I plan on setting myself up to run a domestic violence safe house.
- Advice you’d give to current and/or future students: Take your time and know that it's okay not to receive the perfect grade. It's okay to feel all the feelings. Life is a journey, and college is just one rest stop for an amazing future!
- Hometown: Aurora, Colorado
- Area of Study: Elementary Education with an ESL endorsement
- Reflection on time at UNC: To be honest, I struggled my first couple of years at UNC. It was my first time away
from home, and I struggled trying to find where I belonged. I almost gave up until
I found out about the UNC Lowry Campus, which helped remind me why I fell in love
with teaching in the first place.
- Overcoming barriers: I was having a hard time living away from home for the first time. I wanted the independence
piece, but I never realized how much my parents had given me until I was 75 miles
away from them.
- Future plans: I'm so excited because I have already accepted a second-grade position in Cherry
Creek School District starting in January. I also plan on getting my master's in Curriculum
and Planning in the near future.
- Advice you’d give to current and/or future students: The whole college experience changed my life. You earned your spot on this campus, so take your time and enjoy it. Don’t feel like you are ever competing with other students. This is your journey, no matter how long it takes you.