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March 24, 2023
Alumna Finds Her Path in Math—While Building a Strong Career Base
Zoey never thought she’d be a college student. But when she started working full time and could barely make ends meet, she decided to give FRCC a try. Unsure of her path, she found a community and some helpful direction on the college’s Larimer Campus.
She fell in love with math—and got the personal guidance she needed to transfer smoothly to CSU. Well prepared academically, she’s now on track to graduate in May 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics.
Zoey loved school when she was little, but started to lose that love for education in her middle school years. “I hated high school especially,” she says. “I don’t feel like many people believed in me. I did well academically—I was just a little bit of trouble. I graduated a year early just to get out.”
She discovered she had an insatiable hunger for travel. At age 16, she auditioned for an orchestra in Colorado that was going on a tour of Europe for a month. She was selected, and got to play her cello with the group in eight countries. “I love to travel and be outside. I leave the country at least a couple of times a year.”
A Rude Awakening
Still in her late teens, Zoey was determined to be an entrepreneur—but admits she was a bit naïve. “I hadn’t lived on my own and experienced paying bills.” Her parents were both successful business people who had never earned bachelor’s degrees, so that was her model. “I never thought I’d be a college student,” she recalls.
She was working full time as a server at a restaurant, and it became clear that her current path was not working out for her. “I couldn’t save enough money to start a business. I was making just enough money to survive.”
Zoey felt stuck. “I didn’t have time or money to do anything I enjoyed. I was really desperate for something else,” she recalls. That motivated her to start classes at FRCC, despite the fact that no one in her family had been to college. “I decided to give it a go.”
A Fresh Start
Her early intention was to become an environmental engineer. “I’ve always wanted to make a difference in the world and contribute to the greater good.” So she started taking the required calculus course—and fell in love with math.
“It wouldn’t have happened without the instructors I had at FRCC. The math department was wonderful—and it wasn’t just math. All the instructors have smaller classes—they care about how you do in the class. They can develop solid relationships with students. They’re accessible—that was huge for me. I was able to make personal relationships with every instructor I had.”
“I can’t recommend beginning at a community college enough. It prepares you for the bigger, less intimate classes. I needed my hand held at first.”
Finding Her People
Zoey says she didn’t arrive at FRCC seeking out a community, but you almost couldn’t avoid getting involved on campus. “There was a really wonderful sense of community and belonging.”
That’s when she got a job on campus tutoring other students in the math help center. “I loved working there. Some of the people are just beginning and math is really scary to them. I had ‘regulars’ come in and we could talk about math in a fun, non-intimidating way.”
The new job also meant she could cut back on waiting tables, and eventually take classes full time. “FRCC gave me the ability to better manage my time and get a feel for what it was like to have to balance a full-time schedule, in a gentle way.”
A Path to CSU
Zoey was still trying to figure out where she was headed in life. Then one day, she saw a poster in the hallway about transferring to CSU, and she called the advisor whose phone number was listed. “She had very specific knowledge about which courses transfer and the number of credits they transfer for.” Zoey had changed her major a few times, and felt she needed that prescribed path of which courses to take to get to CSU. “[This advisor] was able to tell me exactly what I needed to do to pursue a bachelor’s degree,” she remembers.
Based on the advisor’s suggestion, Zoey applied for the Wolves to Rams program, which helps students in STEM disciplines transfer smoothly to their bachelor’s degree program at CSU. She got accepted—and it made a huge difference for her.
“That scholarship enabled me to go to school full time and not have to go to work. This is my first semester in college that I’m not waiting tables—I can solely focus on school. Not worrying about how to make ends meet this month is such a blessing.”
New Campus, New Community
Academically, Zoey felt more than prepared going to CSU. “There’s nothing I feel like I didn’t know to be successful in my courses.”
That said, she didn’t feel entirely ready to leave FRCC and the community she had built for herself there. Luckily she took a special course that CSU offers specifically for FRCC transfer students. “It was very comforting to know I wasn’t alone. It gave me the community that I needed initially.”
Everything was bigger now, from the the campus to the classes. She slowly figured out how to make it all work—thanks, in part, to her time at FRCC. “Learning how to network is huge, and many people don’t think about it. At first, I just wanted to keep my head down and get through my courses.” But at FRCC, she says she learned how to communicate and advocate for herself. “I learned that it’s OK to ask any question. People are willing to help if you ask for it.”
She’s now doing well in her classes and is on track to finish her Bachelor of Science in math this semester.
“I can’t say enough good things about my experience at Front Range. Being involved in a smaller college—that experience was so valuable. I’m confident in saying I would not have finished a bachelor’s had I started at a four year school.”
Life After Graduation
As she gets close to graduation this spring, Zoey is seriously considering graduate school—something she never thought she would do. “I love being in an academic setting and environment.”
But she hasn’t forgotten how much she loves to travel. “I’d like to get a job where I can work remotely. Maybe move to Mexico or Costa Rica for six months or a year and enjoy life.”
She might even get off the math path eventually. “I’m really interested in the natural world, especially entomology and mycology.” She wants to explore other interests—possibly a program at CSU that offers a master’s degree in agricultural biology. Whatever direction she chooses, Zoey knows that her solid math background—from her studies at FRCC and CSU—will be a great foundation on which to build a career.