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Local family advances thanks to the Colorado Opportunity Scholarship Initiative

The Displaced Workers Scholarship helps students with everyday expenses like food, gas and day care

In the most challenging of times, students at Western Colorado Community College (WCCC) and Colorado Mesa University (CMU) are finding some much-needed relief through a unique scholarship opportunity.

New father and WCCC student Adrian Lara was studying to be an addiction counselor when he found himself at a crossroad. After losing 70% of his income to the pandemic and having a new mouth to feed, his options were quickly dwindling. Lara and his spouse both lost their jobs and he was searching for any sign of hope. That’s when he came across a grant that would change everything. The Displaced Workers Scholarship allowed Lara to continue his education and in return change the trajectory of his family. 

“It was scary. Not having an income removed our power to make choices. It brought us to a halt,” said Lara. “I was going to have to choose diapers and rent and food over my education, so this grant really did help me stay in school.” 

The Colorado Opportunity Scholarship Initiative (COSI) provides Colorado students, who qualify, with funds to help them pursue higher education, and it’s not just financial assistance but advising as well. COSI advisors support recipients all the way through their academic journey. This year, however, CMU and WCCC were awarded more than $200,000 in COSI grant funds to support displaced workers affected as a result of the pandemic. A typical scholarship helps with tuition and school fees. The Displaced Workers Scholarship is different in that it helps students with everyday expenses like food, gas, day care and so on.

“It’s still an ongoing conversation of how do we prepare for the future. But we’re establishing something good for our son and we will do whatever it takes,” said Lara.  

Lara has spent the majority of his life helping others. Before losing his job, he worked with foster children who found themselves in the criminal justice system. Getting his professional certificate in addiction counseling is another example of his drive to bettering himself, his family and today’s struggling youth through education.

“This specific grant was not in place last year. WCCC and CMU received it in July 2020 and there’s still more funds available for anyone who has been displaced by COVID-19 and wants to go to school,” said Colorado Mesa University COSI Admissions Counselor and Advisor Stephanie Parsons.

The scholarship isn’t only for those who lost their job. Reduced work hours or an unemployed spouse may also qualify. For more information about this scholarship, contact Stephanie Parsons at sparsons@coloradomesa.edu.  

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Written by Kelsey Coleman