When Sibria Bollman imagines her life after community college, she lights up just thinking about the possibilities.
“I want to travel. My plan is to find a company that allows me to market for a bunch of different people—this week I’m going to Germany, or I’m going to India,” she said. “I can go see the world and bring back what it has to offer to people.”
Plans weren’t always so clear for Bollman. The second-year Arapahoe Community College (ACC) student struggled in high school and barely graduated. Now, she’s made the President’s list for her academic achievement.
“The ’community’ in community college is truly there,” she said. “People really do want you to succeed and thrive.”
Doing the Work
A lifelong Coloradan, Bollman grew up in Douglas County and loves to explore the outdoors. Her parents provided a happy, middle-class childhood, she said, and even saved up for her future college education.
But when Bollman got to high school, she began to disengage.
“I was preoccupied with my life outside class,” she recalled. ‘Who am I going to hang out with? What am I doing after school?’ Everything besides class.”
A couple of educators noticed Bollman drifting. Her pottery instructor, Ryan Davis, invited her to work through issues while kneading clay—a kind of art therapy, she said. Counselor Courtney Hay warned Bollman that she was dangerously close to repeating her senior year but could turn things around with some effort.
Those interventions changed her life, she said.
“It clicked. I realized I am the only one who can actually do the work, and I have to do it for myself,” she said.
Becoming a Scholar
Bollman crossed the graduation stage but didn’t know where to go next. ACC had recently opened its Sturm Collaboration Campus that was a quick drive from her house. She figured she could knock out some general education courses there while she explored career options.
“Let’s go to Arapahoe,” she told herself. “I’ll be doing something, moving on with my education, but I’m not wasting any time or money. It was safer not to go to a big four-year college having no idea what I was doing.”
At first, Bollman was interested in becoming a therapist and started taking sociology classes. When she learned about ACC’s business program, however, she quickly changed majors and lasered in on marketing.
I realized I am the only one who can actually do the work, and I have to do it for myself.
Then the pandemic paused in-person learning. Working from her bedroom, Bollman poured herself into schoolwork out of boredom. To her surprise, she was earning high grades for the first time in her academic career.
“I actually have the ability to learn and teach myself and then write a paper or make a project, she said. “I was like, ‘This is amazing’.”
She credits the ACC staff for turning her into a real scholar. The campus community is warm and supportive, and instructors are exceptionally dedicating to teaching and meeting students’ needs, she said.
“Compliments are great, but criticism is where you really learn and grow,” she said. “Because it’s a smaller college, you have the opportunity to take [feedback] and really work on it.”
A Family Affair
One semester shy of graduating with her associate degree, Bollman isn’t the only family member who’s thriving in college. Bollman’s brother is attending Colorado Mesa University, and her mother Andrea, a legal executive assistant with CCCS, is working toward her paralegal degree at ACC.
Bollman says it’s been fun to compare college experiences and help each other with assignments. There’s some friendly competition, too.
“I might be taking a little bit too much credit, but I started this trend in my family,” she said. “If you can get A’s, I can get A’s!”
While all the Bollmans are succeeding, Sibria says she’s especially proud of her mom, who is living proof that it’s never too late to go to school. And she has advice for other students whose path to success may have started a little rocky.
“This is your life. You have to be happy with it, and if you are not, you will not have the passion or the drive to complete school,” she said. “So do it for yourself, and don’t feel like you’re in a rush. The world will take you where you need to be.”