Student story: Finding a home away from home

By Coconino Community College

Native American Success Center student finds opportunity at Arizona college

Business, accounting and economics are his passions.

Degree in hand and his future in his sights, Coconino Community College (CCC) alum, current student, accounting intern, and student affairs representative Cole Catron is set to move forward in his higher education journey.

“I always wanted to do something with my life,” Catron said. “And I want to make significant contributions to society. Opportunity has always been my biggest motivator for wanting to pursue college.”

Initially, he said he believed that his contributions would be in computer science, but when he was exposed to economics in his senior year of high school, he soon began to enjoy the subjects of financial services and banking.

“I found that writing software programs for an organization wouldn’t be as rewarding as managing finances for others and myself,” Catron said. “I would rather help my local underdeveloped communities better allocate their monetary resources to build their own businesses and people from the ground up.”

Catron has been taking CCC courses since his junior year at Coconino High School, where he took advantage of the dual enrollment and CAVIAT programs. During his senior year of high school, Catron said he began to struggle academically due to personal issues. Rather than retake his senior year, Catron said he decided to continue with CCC after obtaining his high school equivalency diploma that summer to qualify for financial aid.

This past fall, Catron completed his Associate of Science in General Studies and is now working toward completing his Associate of Business. He plans on attending NAU’s W.A. Franke College of Business to study business economics.

His long-term plans are to eventually obtain a Ph.D. degree in economics and hopefully one day become an instructor for CCC.

Key factors to success

For many students, finding a “home away from home” is a key factor for their success in higher education. Catron credits two programs in giving him the foundation he needed to find a successful stride in education: The TRIO Student Support Services Program and the new Native American Success Center (NASC) with its Strengthening Indigenous Student Success program.

TRIO SSS is a governmental grant program that helps students navigate the college experience by serving the unique needs of students who are the first generation in their family to attend college, who are financially challenged to attend college without financial aid, or who have disabilities.

The NASC, which is made possible with a Native American Non-Tribal Serving Institution grant, is dedicated to improving Native American students’ college completion rates.

“Through my personal hardships while attending CCC, I have been able to better connect with other students in similar situations. I can often understand the mental strains that they face when dealing with their families and a lack of support systems,” Catron said. “The Native American Student Success Center has been great at keeping students motivated and has given them the skills to succeed in college.”

Catron said TRIO and the NASC supported him and helped him to accomplish his goals in his higher education journey. He added that he is also grateful for the opportunity to serve as a peer mentor in the SISS program, where he gets to share his experiences and knowledge to help other Native American students find success at CCC. He also has been an academic tutor for English and math subjects in CCC’s Tutoring Center at the Lone Tree campus.

He added that he received great advising from staff like former TRiO SSS Director Jessica Laessig. He also met considerate, knowledgeable faculty, and received a more “personal” experience while at CCC. He was so successful that he was awarded two awards: CCC2NAU Student of the Year and Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) Student of the Year. He also completed and received credit for the 2023 Honors Native American Summer Research Program through the NAU Honors College.

“CCC has given me a chance to take the initiative and experience personal growth,” Catron said, adding that he not only received an education, but also employment opportunities and a solid support base.

He also had the experience and privilege of promoting himself and being a representative for upcoming and current indigenous students.

“I think it’s a great stepping-stone for people wanting to go to a university,” Catron said. “It has made education much more attainable than I thought it would be.”

This article originally appeared here.

Coconino Community College

is located in Flagstaff, Arizona.