It’s to shift the spotlight! August’s Alumni Spotlight is on Yessica R! She graduated from Greeley Central High School in 2016 and went on to study Biological Sciences at UNC. She earned her bachelor’s last year and is now working towards her Master’s. She even spoke at both her high school AND college graduations! We are immensely proud of all the hard work and dedication she has put into her education, and we cannot wait to see what’s up next.

High School Attended: Greeley Central High School Class of 2016

Institution Attended: University of Northern Colorado

Field of Study: Bachelors of Science in Biological Sciences with two minors in Sociology and Chemistry.

Where college did you attend?

The college question is always a funny story. Ultimately, I applied to several universities in Colorado and had gone elsewhere for my studies. Only about three days before classes started, I realized the university I was at was not where I needed to be. Within 24 hours, I ended up packing up my dorm and coming back to my hometown to attend the University of Northern Colorado. This last-minute decision, although at the moment was sporadic and very unsure, turned into being the best thing I could have ever done. This drastic move and realization of what I needed for myself became the catalyst for my determination and persistence throughout my studies. By attending the University of Northern Colorado, I ended up growing drastically and expanding myself throughout different platforms across campus and within my community.

What are you up to now that you’ve earned your degree?

I have been working as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) post-graduation, as well as working at UNC in the Honors Office. I am also in the process of preparing for graduate school, where I will obtain my Masters in Science in Biomedical Sciences at the University of Northern Colorado starting this Fall 2021. Additionally, I will be continuing my two jobs and taking on the role as the Graduate Student for LEAP, a STEM-focused cohort helping under-represented, first-generation, low-income students succeed in STEM-related degrees. I will also serve as the Graduate Student Advisor for Mortar Board, a senior-level honor society that I was an active participant in during my undergrad.

What is the best thing that’s happened to you since being out of school/Dream Team?

The best thing that has happened to me since being out of Dream Team goes back to my last-minute college move. With the help of my Advisor Moriah at GCHS, I was able to take on all the advice Dream Team taught me about being my own advocate, fighting for myself, and aspiring for what I want and was able to attend and make the last-minute move to a university that pushed me to graduate, pushed me to become an advocate on campus, and push me to continue in higher education. If it was not for Dream Team, I do not know if my UNC journey would have been possible. For Moriah and the Dream Team, I will forever and always be grateful for their continued belief in me and pushing me to obtain my goals and aspirations.

What is one thing you want to accomplish in the next three years?

Within the next three years, I want to take the MCAT (Medical College Admission Test), apply to and be accepted into a medical school, and start my journey as a future healthcare physician. I plan to be finished with my Masters by Spring 2022 and hope to begin my medical school applications by the time the Fall 2022 semester begins.

What aspect of being in the Dream Team has stuck with you?

That in learning who and what I can be, I am worthy of pushing myself, of having a voice, and exploring higher education despite the limits it may hold. I always believed my identities were setbacks in my life, but the Dream Team reminded me that instead, they were motivators to who I was yet to become. Years later, that piece of information still sticks with me as I grow as a person and scholar. I have learned to embrace all of me and use that to create my own seats at tables, obtain different forms of leadership, and know my worth in different environments.

What are your goals for the future, and what goals have you achieved?

My goals for the future include going to medical school, becoming a pediatric pulmonologist, and eventually opening my own clinic in a lower-income area that allows me to give back to my community. I have achieved a great number of accolades in my life, including being a first-generation high school and college graduate. I have also achieved being the commencement speaker at every school graduation since elementary school up through my undergraduate commencement. Within my undergraduate degree, I was an active participant and leader in over 20 different clubs and organizations, including The McNair Scholars Program, being a tutor for The Dream Team, President of Mortar Board, Senator and Student Rights Advocate for Student Senate, a sister of Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority, Inc., and so many others.

What is one of your best memories of being in the Dream Team?

One of my favorite memories of Dream Team has to be all the help I received during middle school and high school. I had no idea how to navigate scholarships, let alone college applications, and the Dream Team made it incredibly helpful with all the workshops and one-on-one meetings to help students like myself navigate these applications and future decisions. I also really enjoy the annual Alumni picnics. I am lucky to have been able to attend each one hosted since graduating high school, and I love to meet new Alumni and see familiar faces and catch up with others.

What is one piece of advice you would give a Dream Team student who has just graduated high school?

My advice would be to always think of what the future you is capable of achieving. Think of how in four years, you will be a completely different person than who you currently are. With that knowledge, always push yourself, even if that means pushing outside of your comfort zone, because although safe spaces are important, by transforming into a brave space, you can continuously grow in who you are, and in doing so, will be able to reflect on that years later and see all the growth you managed to accomplish. Use this moving forward during difficult times because while there will be lows, highs will follow afterward with the mindset that with defeat comes victory.