The child of immigrants, Adella Arredondo didn’t always relate to her classmates or even to school itself. She knew she was expected to do well in school, but it was hard to be a teenager and handle her father’s mental illness. She would often act out and frequently found herself in trouble instead of in class. She didn’t make plans for her future and was close to flunking out of high school when suddenly her mom’s words started to sink in.
“I left my country and came to this one to give you a better life, not for you to be a failure. I need you to get up and go to school.”
Despite never completing a high school diploma herself, Adella’s mom understood the importance of education and what it could give her children.
In order to graduate high school, Adella had to take eight classes in one semester and a full workload over the summer, but her persistency paid off and she did it.
Adella had to take remedial classes during her first few years at community college because she was still catching up, academically. Just as she finally entered college-level classes, a few other exciting things happened in her life, too—she got married and had her first child.
Eight years after she first began her college journey, Adella completed her bachelor’s degree in sociology at CU Denver—something she truly never thought she would do. She didn’t skip a beat, however, and dove right into a yearlong graduate leadership program. As it so happens in Adella’s life, she got even more good news when she found out she was pregnant again. She juggled coursework and doctor’s visits during most of the program before giving birth to her second son four days after the program ended.
Her next step would have been a grad program at CU Denver, but life didn’t work out that way. Adella’s oldest son was diagnosed with leukemia. With that, she shifted all of her energy on getting him well again and didn’t enroll for grad school. When her son relapsed the following summer, his doctors encouraged Adella to go back to school—at least online—so that she could focus her mind on doing something for herself. Taking their advice, she returned to CU Denver and began writing papers and finishing assignments during hospital stays.
Once her son’s health improved, Adella transitioned back to taking classes on campus and increased her workload. This past summer she completed her master’s in administrative leadership and policy studies and walked across the stage this Saturday. She knew she wanted to take part in the commencement ceremony because of how proud it will make her mother, who has always pushed Adella to reach for more.
Throughout it all, Adella has worked full-time at the City and County of Denver, all the while raising three beautiful boys with the help of her supportive husband. Even though there were challenges, she remained persistent in her goals. She knew her hard work would lead to countless opportunities she might never have dreamed of when she was a teenager. She is now working at Denver Public Schools, where she oversees a staff of seven as the Head Start Family Services Manager.
As for what comes next, Adella recently got accepted into the Latino Leadership Institute at University of Denver that will prepare her for executive-level positions. She envisions herself someday being in a leadership position that will allow her to help ensure there are more equitable opportunities for children and families in disadvantaged communities.
As Adella reflects on her time at CU Denver, she hopes the story of her success inspires other young Latinos who might be facing similar situations as she did.