“My family was really unlucky, and my family really struggled to come from different countries. My family didn’t go to college because they couldn’t afford it. going to college,” Ibanez Garcia said. On top of that, he also said he would’ve “just felt like a number” at a traditional college.
Now at AdvanceEDU, Ibanez Garcia is pursuing a degree in Cybersecurity and Information Assurance; while Fernandez-Celis works to become a psychologist, a mission that ties directly to her life growing up in a traditional Mexican household where discussions of mental health were “taboo”.
“I think only Mexican psychologists and Spanish-speaking psychologists are so important because it helps break down that barrier. For example, how many other children were raised in traditional conservative homes where they felt like the black sheep of the family because their ways of thinking are simply different? Giving those voices power and audience … so when you see someone doing that, you know you can do it too,” Fernandez-Celis said.
Part of the program’s success is the understanding and first-hand knowledge of the organization’s leaders, including Bills.
“Much of this work touches me personally. I come from a low-income neighborhood just north of Denver and I’ve had a lot of different supports since high school,” Bills said.
Bills said part of his role as a success coach is to guide students in their academic and personal lives. For example, if a student’s life becomes too complex, he will play his part or help guide the student in his academic career and personal life. For example, if life becomes too complex for a student, he will suggest that it may be time to enroll in fewer credits so that students can get their personal lives in order.
“I think with AdvanceEDU aiming to have a mindset of closing the equity gap between low-income students of color and their white counterparts, I think it has a very good opportunity to do with our low cost of education and our support system,” Bills said.
AdvanceEDU tries to provide everything a student needs to succeed, including a co-working space in Denver, as they work to make the world a better place.
“Me personally, I feel very lucky to be the person that I am flawed and all because I always knew my purpose in life was to be at peace and to be joyful and to help others through psychology,” said Fernandez-Célis.
“I want to create and influence and have an impact in this world,” said Ibanez Garcia. “I really want to make a difference and a positive difference.”
Lindsey Ford is a multimedia journalist at Rocky Mountain PBS. You can reach her at [email protected].