Your Gifts at Work
Student Success Stories
By Adam Million
Tell us about yourself.
I am married with three children (all boys who love airplanes), and I am working for the Air Force Reserve as an instructor pilot at the Air Force Academy and I fly for United Airlines. I also volunteer with a few organizations to try and give back since so much was given to me in my early days.
The main organization I volunteer for is the Soaring Eagle Foundation, which partners with Wounded Warriors to teach them how to fly gliders. I am a volunteer flight instructor and ground school instructor. We work mainly with PTSD warriors, but we are hoping to be able to fly warriors with arm and leg injuries with the help of adaptive devices installed in our gliders. It is a really neat program and a perfect fit for a guy like me that loves to fly.
Where did your love of flying come from?
My dad flew in the Air Force and now flies for the airlines. I am sure my passion stems from his passion. My brother is also in the Air Force and all three of us flew the same airplane (C-130). My mom is also a private pilot. I guess it is in my blood!
Your received a few scholarships while at MSU Denver. What impact did those have on you?
I was very fortunate that I had an appointment to the Air Force Academy and an acceptance letter from MSU Denver. Because of the scholarships I received, I chose MSU Denver and it changed my life. Unknown to me at the time, that decision opened the doors for me to meet my wife and get the jobs I currently have. It was the best decision I ever made! If I were not chosen for the scholarship, I would have gone to the Air Force Academy and who knows where I would be now. The scholarships were my catalyst for attending MSU Denver. They gave me that little push I needed to make my college decision.
Were there any professors that made a lasting impression on you?
Professor Kevin Kuhlmann from the Aerospace Department. He helped convince me to attend Metro instead of the Air Force Academy. I had a chance to take a few of his classes while I was at Metro, and currently, I try to speak to his classes once a semester. He has a senior seminar class, and I talk to his students about my experiences in the Air Force and working for the airlines.
What would you say to potential MSU Denver students?
I can’t think of a university that gives a better bang-for-the-buck. I was fortunate to have a full ride scholarship and an additional choir scholarship. It was incredible! It is a very inexpensive institution and delivers an exceptional product.
Are you doing what you thought you would when you were in school?
I am living my dream and doing exactly what I wanted to be doing.
Is there anything you would like to say to your scholarship donors?
I am humbled and blessed by your generosity. You literally changed my life and helped me plot my course to achieve my dream. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Allison Patch Pedroza
B.A. special education '18
By Adam Million
Allison Patch Pedroza enrolled at MSU Denver in 2001 but realized she wasn’t ready for college. Today, she has re-enrolled to pursue a degree in special education and was awarded the Marge Fisch Endowed Scholarship, which supports future teachers at the middle school level.
Why did you choose special education?
Special education is fun. It’s practical. I want to work with significant support needs kids. You can really make a difference in those kids’ lives, supporting them with creative opportunities and experiences that they may not otherwise get. And with my prior experiences working in community health, I have the knowledge to also help parents and kids understand and access additional resources that they may need.
Why do you want to teach middle school?
Middle school is a tumultuous time for students and having teachers that see them as individuals and support their goals can really motivate children to become successful members of the community. It is important for students to start thinking about their futures in middle school, because they need as much time as possible to build a strong base to enable themselves to achieve everything they desire. In middle school, students need exposure to a variety of experiences and information in order to make educated decisions about their future.
What do you like most about the program?
I like the special education professors a lot. The program is flexible. There are online courses and night courses. I get a bunch of face-to-face time with my professors. They are extremely responsive when I reach out to them.
How is your scholarship going to help you?
I need money! I’m out of financial aid because I’ve taken the maximum number of credits allowed to qualify. I didn’t expect to get a scholarship, and when I got it, it was really great. Any support I can get really helps, especially since I have a child and another one on the way.
When do you anticipate graduating?
I do anticipate graduating this time. It’s important! I plan to student teach for a whole year, which would mean I will graduate in 2018. If I get overwhelmed, I can transition to a six-month student teaching program and will then graduate sooner.
By Adam Million
Jose Parra Gonzalez’s grandmother told him never to give up on school and that it was the only way to make it. She taught him core values and raised him, along with his great-grandfather, until the age of 10 when he came to the United States to be reunited with his mother.
As a Peierls Opportunity Scholarship recipient, Gonzalez continues to exemplify the values his grandmother imparted on him at an early age.
Today, Gonzalez is a senior at Metropolitan State University of Denver where he is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Biology with a concentration in cell and molecular biology. After graduation, he plans to attend the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical School to become an oncologist, either doing cancer research or working at the clinical level with underrepresented populations.
“By spending my childhood in Mexico and coming of age here in the United States, I learned values that I would not have learned if my situation were different,” wrote Gonzalez in his scholarship application. “I learned humility and gratitude by those who came before me. I know I will reach back and give the same help that was given to me.”
When Gonzalez first started at MSU Denver, he was taking eight credit hours and working full time as a server to cover living expenses as well as his tuition for the semester. Often, he would find himself worrying about how he would pay for the next semester, how he would make ends meet while also wanting to take more classes so he could realize graduation on a more traditional time frame.
He knew that he needed to make connections with teachers and professionals. He knew that he needed to gain hands-on experience to better prepare him for medical school. He was ready to immerse himself in his passion for biology and medicine, so he began applying for scholarships.
“It’s a bad feeling when you don’t know how you are going to pay for school,” said Gonzalez. “It leaves you asking yourself, ‘how many classes am I going to take,’ especially when you want to go full time, but can’t.”
With the aid of this scholarship and some assistance from his mentor at Denver Health, Gonzalez was able to take 16 credit hours in the 2015 spring semester and finish his pharmacy board certification courses on Saturday’s, which is helping him obtain an internship and better preparing him for medical school.
“Thanks to my receiving the Peierls Scholarship, I will be able to invest more time into my academics as well as my community,” wrote Gonzalez in his scholarship thank you note. “This is the first year in my college career that I will not have to stress about making ends meet every four months. I am the first in my family that will graduate with a bachelor’s degree and I hope my siblings will follow my lead and obtain their bachelor’s degree as time progresses.”