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Climbing from Life’s Bottom to the Top with a College Education

August 31, 2022

For more than 200 days Luca Lovato woke up in the back seat of his car, wondering where his next meal would come from or whether he’d be able to find a decent bathroom to clean up in. It was winter in Colorado for most of those months, so the cold air that seeped through his doors while he was sleeping often lingered throughout the day along with a sinking feeling of loneliness. Lovato never thought he would be in this vulnerable position. Before this, he graduated from high school, briefly enrolled in a community college and, following in his father’s footsteps, served six years in the U.S. Air Force. 

“Growing up, the two things that I hadn’t experienced when it comes to difficulties in life were going hungry and not having a roof over my head. I managed to avoid that and then I was in the thick of it, struggling,” Lovato says. 

Lovato grew up in Falcon, Colorado, east of Colorado Springs. He was a theatre kid who loved being the center of attention, communicating with people and being part of a show. After high school and serving in the military, he became interested in the work behind the scenes. Instead of vying for the lead, he became passionate about storytelling through the lenses of video and photography. So much so, he purchased a camera and filed for an LLC creating his very own video and photography business.  

His business venture started off successfully. For more than a year, he spent his time creating promotional videos, filming weddings and taking professional photos for clients. But Lovato soon began to realize his passion projects weren’t turning out to be as lucrative as he hoped.  

“I didn’t know how to sell my craft, because I didn’t know how to market,” Lovato said. “I also bought cheap camera lenses and everyone in the industry knows you should buy more high-quality lenses instead of a beefy camera.” 

Lovato’s business slowly but surely came to a halt, not only making it difficult to pay his bills, but also for basic necessities. 

It led me to having suicidal thoughts, which are easy thoughts to have while you're homeless,” said Lovato. “My friend talked me down and managed to arrange a place for me to crash, which was the point I would eventually turn around and become the person I am today.” 

Even though he was at his lowest, something his friend told him that day gave him courage to rise. 

“They helped me see my value,” Lovato said. “They recited a quote that I still use all the time, ‘we are all works of art in progress, just waiting to be seen as the masterpieces that we are.’” 

With newfound strength, Lovato sought what resources were available for serving in the military and discovered he was eligible for college tuition assistance. So, at the age of 27, he took back control of his future and enrolled in the Aims2UNC program.

Luca Lovato

Lovato serving in the U.S. Air Force

The program assists with the transition from Aims Community College to the University of Northern Colorado, providing students access to streamlined advising on their way to earning a four-year degree.

Once he knew higher education was an option, it was easy for Lovato to decide what he wanted to study. He wanted to learn what he didn’t know before and what could have saved him from being homeless in his mid-twenties; he wanted to learn how to successfully launch a business. 

“I am very interested in the business program and what people do when they come out of the business school at UNC,” Lovato said. “Looking at what alumni have achieved after graduating, I know that as long as I work hard, success is almost guaranteed.” 

Success has already been accomplished. In May 2022, Lovato received his associate’s degree in Business Administration from Aims Community College and transitioned over to UNC this fall, this time exploring communications and public affairs.  

“I thought I would just be working odd jobs for the rest of my life, so it is shocking that I am here and with a 3.8 GPA,” Lovato said. “That is a crazy thing to happen. I didn’t think I could do this when I was young, but now I can see that I can.” 

Video above: Luca Lovato discusses his journey to higher education

Returning to the classroom has given Lovato confidence, purpose and an appreciation for the future. He’s looking forward to taking courses like Communication and Leadership and Interpersonal Communication at UNC. While he doesn’t want to create another video production business on his own again, he’ll produce those projects as a hobby, he does want to start a different kind of business collaborating with others. The fact that a new business is a tangible goal is just one of many things he’s most grateful for.  

“I am grateful for my cats, I’m grateful for the fact that I get to eat and that I can afford it because I have school ahead of me and a job,” Lovato said. “I am so grateful that I can see this day coming. The only way is up. I’ve already seen the bottom.” 

Luca Lovato

Lovato in action filming one of his video productions

Luca Lovato

Lovato in action filming one of his video productions

Luca Lovato

Lovato in action filming one of his video productions

Lovato will be interning with the Peer Specialist Program through Colorado Veteran Affairs while attending UNC. He also wants to have a voice in suicide prevention both at UNC and later volunteering with mental health programs.  

For information about UNC’s Counseling Center, visit their website online. To learn about resources related to suicide in the state, visit the Colorado Health Institute website. 

– written by Sydney Kern

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