Yoselin Estacuy’s road to graduation at Colorado State University is an example of the American Dream, but it was also paved with huge obstacles.
She was born and lived in Guatemala for nine years before she met her father, who for financial and immigration reasons worked construction in the United States.
“That was a big transition, getting to know my dad,” she said. “I did have pictures and we were able to talk on the phone, but it’s not the same.”
Estacuy was a fourth-grader who didn’t speak English. She went against cultural norms to attend college.
“Latino culture … leaving your house is not a thing (at that age),” Estacuy said. “My parents, being immigrants, having traditional values, me telling them that I was going to leave home for college was very shocking in a way because they were expecting me to stay with them after I graduated (high school). I explained to them that this is why I was doing it and they were able to understand that and they really value education and they had seen how much work I had done, so they respected that decision.”
Estacuy also helped her family after her mother’s legs were broken by an out-of-control driver in May 2020. She took a semester off to care for her mother and younger brothers.
Nonetheless, she overcame all of it and was named as a Spring 2022 Outstanding Graduate of the College of Health and Human Sciences.
“It makes me feel very proud of myself and that other people see the work that I’m doing and know the effort that I have put into school,” Estacuy said. “So I feel very proud of myself. It’s really an honor.”
She credits her educational journey to the I Have a Dream Colorado Foundation, which “recruited” her whole elementary school class.
“They said they would mentor us all the way through high school and help us do whatever we wanted to do after that,” Estacuy said. “Because of that program, I was actually able to go to college. They gave me so many resources. I had a mentor who was a doctor who helped me with applications, and they had an after-school program where I could get tutoring or work on anything.”
After graduation, Estacuy plans on taking a kind of gap year: volunteering as a research assistant at CSU, staying home in Denver and applying for graduate schools for occupational therapy (CSU is her first choice). And maybe some rest and relaxation.
“I feel very exhausted and tired,” she said. “I’ve really been pushing myself these past five years and I feel like I deserve a break.”
In their own words
Q. What experiences in your life or at CSU have required you to demonstrate courage?
January 2021 came around, and my mom was doing better. She was not in a wheelchair anymore. She was beginning to use a walker to get around. It was also time for the spring 2021 semester to start. I decided to go back to school because I did not want the accident to stop me from achieving my goals. I was sad to leave my family. But when I moved back to Fort Collins, I realized I was so focused on taking care of my family that I had dismissed my mental health entirely. The trauma from the accident began to affect my academic performance and overall health. I went to counseling at CSU, and I was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), anxiety and depression. I knew I was not doing well, but hearing this diagnosis made things more real for me. I am not the same person I was before the accident. It took so much courage to reach out for help. I reached out to Student Case Management and the Student Disability Center. I received accommodations, and I successfully finished the spring 2021 semester because of their support. To this day, I still struggle with the trauma of the accident, but it is my family that inspires me to continue. Since I was little, I have witnessed my parent’s hard work and their sacrifices. It is their hard work and determination that inspires me every day.
Q. What was the most rewarding part of your CSU experience?
Another meaningful experience I have had at CSU is being part of CREWS (Creating Respect, Educating Wellness, for and by Students). CREWS is a non-judgemental peer education group that aims to educate fellow Rams to make safe and educated decisions about alcohol, sexual health and tobacco. I enjoy being a CREWS member because I have found a community where I feel welcomed. I have met exceptional individuals who care about my well-being and academic performance. CREWS has become a safe space where I feel heard. I have found a community that cares about making an impact and helping other students. I have also developed many professional skills, including public speaking and motivational interviewing.
Q. What is your advice to incoming students at CSU?
My advice to incoming CSU students is to explore new interests. For example, take a class that is outside of your current major. Challenge yourself by getting out of your comfort zone. Join different organizations and stick to those that align with your interests and values. Do not be afraid to ask for help. There are many individuals and organizations at CSU that are here to support your academic success and your overall well-being. Check in with yourself every day and remind yourself of the values that are true to you. Finally, recognize when you need a break, and take care of yourself. Take advantage of CSU services like tutoring, the rec center, and counseling services. There is always something new to learn, but you have to be willing to try new things, so attend many events. In this way, you can also meet new people and make friends. In the face of challenges, remind yourself of what inspires you.
Q. Why did you get into peer mentoring?
Being a first-generation student, a student of color here at CSU, I’ve just always wanted to share my experience and be able to help others who have a similar identity to me because I know how hard it was in that transition to college and also navigating college after that first year.