When Adon Wolff graduated high school, he eagerly packed his bags to attend Colorado State University (CSU) in his hometown of Fort Collins.
Then, the COVID-19 pandemic struck.
“Obviously, that affected the affordability of a lot of things in life,” said Wolff, who transferred to Front Range Community College’s business program. “I could not be happier. The smaller class sizes have been phenomenal.”
Wolff is among 310 students who received a scholarship from the Foundation for Colorado Community Colleges—the largest and most competitive cohort in the Foundation’s history. He joined fellow scholars Arbay Mohammed and Tabitha Hunt to share success stories at a donor roundtable last month.
“It’s not just about the funds,” said Wolff, whose scholarship is funded by the PepsiCo Foundation Uplift Scholarship program. “When you get that letter, it’s this intrinsic reward that says, ‘Someone appreciates me, and they recognize the hard work I’m doing.’ It’s awesome.”
Thanks to the support of dozens of philanthropic organizations and businesses—as well as private individual donors—the Foundation awarded a record-breaking $568,000 in scholarships this academic year.
The extra support made college possible, the scholars said.
“I didn’t want to get into a bunch of debt for college. I needed to be able to supplement my income,” said Hunt, a Merritt Family Opportunity Scholarship recipient who is majoring in welding at Pueblo Community College. “I honestly don’t know where I would be without the scholarship. It’s a huge, huge relief, and it has really enabled me to be able to actually do this—to be a college graduate at 40.”
For Mohamed, the scholarship represents a second chance. The longtime Boys and Girls Club participant and now mentor hoped to study education at CSU Fort Collins. But when her grandfather passed away, she had to find a new college closer to home. Today, she’s attending the Community College of Denver with plans to transfer to Metropolitan State University of Denver—and become the first in her family to graduate college.
“High schools need to normalize community colleges,” said Arbay, who received a Stone Family Foundation endowed scholarship. “You’re still getting your education just like anyone at a university. You just have to put yourself out there and be open to learning new things and new opportunities.”
Hunt agreed. Though she never graduated high school, she has thrived at PCC—joining the National Society of Leadership and Success and qualifying for Phi Theta Kappa, a national honors society for community college students.
“You need to apply for everything. Go and make those connections,” she advised fellow community college students. “I never anticipated the well-rounded experience that I’m actually getting.”
With their education and career goals on track, the scholars said more Coloradans should take a serious look at community colleges and take advantage of their robust social, financial, and academic support.
“The instructors at my school are just amazing,” Hunt said. “They really care about their students. You feel like you’re where you should be, and like you’re doing what you need to be doing.”