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Cole Promise: 22-year-old Ana finds hope in having a better future

April 8, 2012  |  Denver Post  |  Link to article

Her original plan was to attend the same high school as most of her friends from Cole Middle School, but she took a chance and applied to the Denver School of Science and Technology, a new school with a focus on college prep.

When she got accepted, she figured she'd give it two weeks. If she didn't like it, she'd transfer to Manual High School and the comfort of her longtime classmates.

She kind of liked DSST, and kind of didn't.

"So, are you going to school to be with your friends, or to learn?" her mother demanded. "If you want to go to Manual, think of the opportunity you'll leave behind."

And so she chose opportunity.

"At my school, there was a lot of college talk," said 22-year-old Ana, who requested that her last name not be used because, like many Cole students, she fears repercussions from the fact that her family entered the country illegally. She was 9 when her newly divorced mother brought Ana and her 6-year-old sister to the U.S.

Those two factors — the tantalizing possibility of college and her immigration status — converged as she made her way through high school.

She had skeptically half-listened back in 2004, when the mayor promised every Cole student the resources for college.

And then she became part of the effort, along with Metro Organizations for People, to work with the mayor's office to find a way for the Cole Promise to address the thorny issue of undocumented students.

Eventually, through separate private funding, those students gained access to money that could cover in-state tuition — although undocumented students are charged higher out-of-state rates.

"By the time I was a senior, I was starting to look more at the possibility of me going to college," Ana said. "But I knew I'd have to find more sources than the mayor's scholarship. It was a huge help, but not enough."

She enrolled at Metropolitan State College of Denver in the fall of 2008 — part time at first, until she could amass enough money to go full time. She now also works 40 hours a week while she pursues a biology degree.

But the five-year limit on her scholarship money will run out after next year, even though she'll be several credits short of completion.

"After that, who knows?" Ana said. "But I can't beat myself down and lose hope. I'll find a way. I'm going to get a degree."

Ana dreamed of going to medical school, but the harsh financial realities of funding a college education aren't lost on her.

"There comes a point where you have to be realistic," she said. "If things are the same by the time I graduate, maybe nursing would be better, or paramedic training — something not as expensive."

She remains determined to become the first in her family to graduate from college, an achievement she hopes will let her help provide a better life for her mother and encouragement for her sister.

"It's going to happen," Ana said. "I know."

Read more:Cole Promise: 22-year-old Ana finds hope in having a better future - The Denver Post
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