Delphina Medina

Gateway to College graduate embraces ‘chance to move on’

Delphina Medina

Like hundreds of other high school seniors in Pueblo, Delphina Medina is about to graduate. On its surface, that’s nothing out of the ordinary – an accomplishment and rite of passage experienced by most American teenagers.
Like Delphina herself, however, her story isn’t typical.

“I wish I had half the strength Delphina has,” said Andrew Garcia, a resource specialist with PCC’s Gateway to College program.

Delphina’s freshman year at Centennial High School in Pueblo coincided with the pandemic. For a hands-on learner used to excelling in school, remote classes were the worst way to begin her high school career. Her anxiety level rose significantly.

Sophomore year was “my chill year,” she said. Always a good student, she kept up with classes and played baritone sax in the school band. 

Life shifted in unexpected and unwelcome directions the following year. Her parents divorced. The anxiety returned. She missed so many school days and assignments that her counselor, Shayla Reynolds, told Delphina she was at risk of not graduating on time.

“I was used to being a high performer,” Delphina said. “This wasn’t me.”

Reynolds suggested the Gateway program. It’s built for students who, for whatever reason, haven’t been successful in a traditional high school environment. Those who are accepted into GTC attend classes on the PCC campus and can earn college credits while they complete their high school requirements. Still, it took a while for Delphina to decide to apply. 

“My friends were the only reason I wanted to go to school,” she said. “The scariest part (about leaving) was that I thought I’d be living in my own thoughts alone, without my friends.”

Eventually, she went through the application process and was accepted to start her senior year with GTC. In a new setting with personalized attention, the change was immediate.

“I started speaking out a lot more and making friends,” Delphina said. “The past me was gone. This is brand new – a chance to move on.”

This is where the story should stop: Student struggles but finds success in a different environment. Cue “Pomp and Circumstance.” All is well.

However, the Medina family now is dealing with its biggest challenge. In December, Delphina’s mother, Laura, was diagnosed with advanced cancer. Her treatment is giving the family more time together but won’t cure the disease. 
All is not well – but all is not lost, either.

“I don’t want to mourn my mom while she’s still here,” Delphina said. “A lot of people treat her like she is the cancer. She’s not. It’s just part of our lives.”

Delphina lives with her mom full time now. They’re together almost every hour of the day. They get on each other’s nerves sometimes. And they laugh a lot. 

Despite this unwanted reality, and although she had to take many Ubers to get to class once driving became too difficult for Laura, Delphina continued with her studies and excelled.

“She has so many valid excuses to not do her work, but she never uses them,” Garcia said. “Delphina is going through what no child should ever have to endure, but she handles it with poise and positivity. On the surface, she seems like a happy-go-lucky person with no problems or struggles. It isn’t a mask but more so her demeanor, a way of life for her at this point.”

Last month Delphina was named graduate of the year for PCC’s pre-college programs and Laura was there to see her daughter receive the award.

“That moment embodied how proud we all are of her and created a cherished moment for her and her mom,” said Garcia.

Many things are beyond her control, but Delphina believes she ended up in the right place to handle this period of her life. She has a dozen college credits already and plans to attend PCC to complete her associate degree.

“Gateway showed me not to waste the opportunities I’m given,” she said. “There were some who didn’t think I’d graduate. I proved them wrong. 

“I want to work with students like me. I can understand what they’re going through. I want to be that teacher a student can rely on.”

Explore More