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Parker Coffelt standing against a wall

Colorado Calling – Idaho Student Finds College Home in Greeley

Twelve hours from home and separated from the single mother who raised him as an only child, Parker Coffelt isn’t wasting any time getting acclimated to the college life.

Twelve hours from home and separated from the single mother who raised him as an only child, Parker Coffelt isn’t wasting any time getting acclimated to the college life.  

Just two weeks into his first semester at the University of Northern Colorado, Coffelt is already filling his time outside the classroom with Brazilian Ju Jitsu classes at the Campus Recreation Center, hanging out with his new friends from Luján Hall and by the time this story publishes, he’ll have spent three days and two nights canoeing down the Gunnison River on an adventure organized by Outdoor Pursuits.  

All of that is in addition to the time he’s spending in class and preparing to start his work study as a lab prep room assistant in Ross Hall. As a Biological Sciences major on the Pre-Health track who’s also in UNC Honors Program and considering a minor in Spanish, Coffelt is just as focused on his academics — not to mention finding a good spot in Michener Library that’s conducive to honing the study skills he knows he will need over the coming years to reach his goal of becoming a doctor. 

“I definitely think it was a lot easier in high school than it has been in college so far. There’s a little bit of a learning curve. But I’ll get there,” said Coffelt. “Between the pre-med track, the Spanish minor and the Honors Program, hopefully, I’m doing a good job of prepping myself for the many, many years of education to come.”  

While he’s a first-generation student, Coffelt said going to college was always something he thought about and was maybe even expected of him. It also seemed like a natural next step considering he had already earned 42 college credits through dual enrollment classes in high school. 

“I think if I had a career path and plan that didn’t involve college, my mom would be OK with it, but she’s always talked to me about the importance of higher education. She didn’t go to college, so she knew the difference an education could make.” 

Originally from Boise, Idaho, Coffelt’s journey to UNC really came about by chance. After touring colleges in Idaho, Washington and Oregon and not finding anything that “called to him,” he decided to explore colleges in Colorado. While he was sitting in one of his high school classes searching for schools on his computer, he happened to come across UNC.  

“I applied to the Honors Program and was accepted. I thought ‘OK, this is pretty cool,’ so I started looking into it more,” said Coffelt. “I talked to my mom, and we looked at pricing and the scholarships I could get and thought, this might be doable.” 

Cost played a big factor in Coffelt’s college search. While the financial piece was looking promising at UNC, it was a campus visit over spring break and the random kindness of a student that really made a lasting impression on both Coffelt and his mom and put the university at the top of his list. 

“There was a point where my mom and I were crossing the street and we’re trying to find Ross Hall,” explained Coffelt. “There’s a guy in front of us and we’re going back and forth whether to ask him for help or just figure it out on our own.  

“He ended up being so awesome,” continued Coffelt. “He said he used to go here and took a year or two off and was coming back. He had some time in between classes so he walked around with us and helped us out. My mom and I both remember that experience as being just really cool.”  

Coffelt’s goal of becoming a doctor is a pursuit fueled by his outgoing personality, a knack for science and the motivation to make money. 

“I’m a people person and I find my happiness when I get to work with other people. And I’m definitely a science guy. Biology has always interested me. I like looking at the micro stuff and seeing how it affects the macro stuff and how we all interact,” said Coffelt. “I paired those two interests together, and also considered my life goals. 

“I grew up in a lower-income household, so money definitely motivates me. But it also comes down to life satisfaction. You can make a lot of money and not have a lot of happiness or find satisfaction in what you’re doing,” continued Coffelt. “For me, finding that satisfaction is working in the medical field and helping others.” 

Helping others is already something that seems to come naturally to Coffelt. During high school he participated in Sources of Strength, a program that connects youth to community resources and services to help prevent suicide, violence, bullying and substance misuse. He was also involved with the Big Brothers Big Sisters program of Southwest Idaho for over a decade, as a mentee and a mentor. 

“I grew up in a single-parent household, so my mom wanted a strong positive male role model for me,” said Coffelt. “I got matched up with by big brother, Scott, and he was definitely that role model for me. Then, in my junior year, I became a big brother. Every Wednesday I’d go out with some kids and we’d do fun activities. It was an awesome way to give back to the community and a program that has done a lot for me.” 

Beyond providing mentorship, the program is also partially responsible for Coffelt finding his way to UNC. 

“They offered me a scholarship that’s renewable every year and it pays for a third of my bill, which is really nice,” said Coffelt. “Without that, financially, my other option would have been to stay in-state. I wanted to go somewhere that I didn’t know. Now I get to explore Greeley and Fort Collins and Denver, all of these fun places the next few years.” 

Despite the 800-mile separation, Coffelt said his mother is supportive of his choice of college. 

“I wanted to go to college away from home, and as much as we knew it was going to be rough, she understood that this was a good place for me. So that was definitely a driving force for me coming here. There are good people here, it’s a good education.” 

— written by Deanna Herbert

UNC is deeply committed to meeting students’ financial needs. In 2021-22, 98% of UNC’s undergraduate students received some type of grant or scholarship aid that does not need to be repaid. Parker Coffelt received the following UNC institutional scholarships or other federal, state or grant aid: 

  • Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE) Presidential Scholarship

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