Alumni in Action: Guadalupe Zuniga-Solis

Alumni in Action: Guadalupe Zuniga Solis

Guadalupe Zuniga-Solis is not going to let a case of imposter syndrome drag her down. Though high school was a challenge for her, she became a model student at CCA. Now she is continuing onto the next chapter of her life. 

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Guadalupe Zuniga-Solis is not going to let a case of imposter syndrome drag her down. She knows she deserves all of her success. That is the sentiment she shares when she looks back on her academic journey so far. 

Zuniga-Solis graduated from the Community College of Aurora (CCA) this May with an associate degree in Social Work. As a first-generation college student, and the first person in her family to graduate, she is setting the new standard for her family moving forward, because not only did she graduate, she thrived, becoming an example of a model student. 

Her community college career was filled with achievements, including multiple scholarships, membership of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, Student Government Association and much more. But she is the first to admit, if someone would have told her high school self that she would achieve so much success in college, she wouldn’t have believed it herself. 

“I really feel like I started learning the value of education when I started growing up,” Zuniga-Solis says. During her high school years, she realizes she didn’t put a high value on education. In fact, she says she barely passed. From phone calls home, to getting kicked out of class, she says she could have never imagined that going to college would be part of her future. 

Those days are long behind her, but there were many events along the way that helped something “click” inside of her, to help her realize that it was time to focus, and put her education first. 

During her time attending KIPP Northeast Denver Leadership Academy, her school principal was fired. That event, she says, awoke something inside her. She began to research which colleges might work for her. Her high school required her to apply to nine different colleges. To her surprise, she was accepted to a few different ones. One of those schools was CU Denver. She was offered a scholarship, and began taking classes. Although her first semester went well, she began to experience imposter syndrome.

While many of her peers came from backgrounds where their family had college experience, her family was different. Her parents moved from Mexico to give their children more opportunities than they had at home. She is thankful for their sacrifice. “I did this for them too. They had to leave their family for a better future. I hope that my accomplishment represents all their sacrifices,” she says. 

At some point during her time at CU Denver, she started to feel as if she didn’t belong, and at that moment she determined that a four year university was not for her. She dropped out, and needed to find another option.

She says her mom never gave up on her, and made it her mission to get her into college. 

“Looking back on it now, all these people saw potential in me, and maybe I just wasn’t aware of it. I’ll forever be thankful to everyone who pushed me to go to college, because now I’m here. So I’m very thankful for that.”

CCA  proved to be a great option for her. It was near her house, it offered a major she was interested in, and it afforded her plenty of opportunities to find mentors and support. She was awarded the COSI Scholarship, which allowed her to meet with a coach each semester. She says her coach was instrumental to her beginning to utilize all the resources that were available to her. Among other things, they helped her fill out her FAFSA, find other scholarship opportunities, and most importantly make important connections. 

She found the tools she needed to become a better student and learner. And in the end, she says she was able to draw on inspiration she received in high school. Zuniga-Solis recalls the times she would be taken out of class to meet with her high school social worker. It was during those times that the social worker encouraged her to think about what she could do with her life after she graduated high school. 

Zuniga-Solis did not know how much of an impact these discussions would have on her for the rest of her life. However, that was the advice she carried with her into college, and was ultimately the deciding factor in her decision to become a social worker. 

“My high school social worker helped me learn that I have something in me that likes to give back. And representation really matters. As a Mexican-American, I feel like going into new places, and seeing who’s there helps you feel more at ease. So I feel like I want to be that person.”

 One piece of her puzzle is complete. With her associate degree in hand, she’s moving onto the next chapter. Having conquered the struggles of high school, and proving to herself she can succeed at school, she calls her first graduation an emotional experience. 

“It just made me realize that meeting new people and creating support systems is very important,” she says. “My parents were present at every event I had at CCA. It was very emotional for me, because I feel like I accomplished this for them too.”

For those who may doubt their own abilities, and need to be reminded that they too can find their own support systems and redefine their goals, she offers some advice. She says, “Don’t let those grades define who you are later on in life.”

Photos by: CCA Dept. of Strategic Communications