Human development and family studies graduate inspired by her father’s resilience

Anna Grado is the fruit of her father’s hard labor and determination, just like the vegetables her father, Martin Grado, picked with his hands.

Martin and Anna smile in front of a stormy sky.
Martin Grado with his daughter, Anna Grado.

Anna is the first in her family to receive a high school diploma and also a first-generation college graduate. Her degree in human development and family studies could not have been attained without her father’s sacrifices and support.

Growing up in Mexico

Martin never imagined he would be living in the United States. In 1973, with no hospital or doctors around, Grado’s mother gave birth to him in their family’s kitchen in Chihuahua, Mexico.

Martin and his nine siblings grew up in a simple home, during a time of a financial and social crisis. His mother would make clothes out of torn up rags that she would find in the streets. He got his first pair of shoes when he was 6 years old.

Seeing his family struggle with food scarcity, Martin dreamed of one day finding a job that would allow him to feed his family. During his eighth grade year, he was forced to drop out of school to help provide for his parents and nine siblings. He worked on construction sites and sold vegetables and fruits.

First job

At 22, Martin crossed the border into the United States to have a better opportunity to reach his goal of feeding his family. His first job was in Colorado picking onions for 25 cents per dozen. He worked long hours on the field until he found a job as a dishwater at C.B. & Potts, a restaurant in Fort Collins where he met his wife.

When Anna was born, Martin struggled to make ends meet. With no money for food or for transportation, he would still bicycle to work to help provide for his family.

A man in a CSU hat stands with arms crossed inside an industrial kitchen.

A few years later, Martin obtained his citizenship and began to learn English by listening to the radio and watching television. This new skill allowed him to attain higher paying jobs as a cook, and later at the Hilton, where he worked for 19 years until he was hired at CSU’s Lory Student Center as the chef garde manger.

“Cuando octuve mi trabajo en la universidad me sentia un poco nervioso, pero al pasar de los dias me fui sintiendo seguro de mi trabajo [When I got the job at the university, I felt a little nervous, but as the days passed I felt more confident],” said Martin.

Anna could not be more proud of her dad. They are both now Rams.

“I can’t imagine all the struggles he has gone through and sacrifices he has had to make to be where he is today,” Anna Grado said. “I appreciate everything he has done to give me the life I have today, and for pushing me so hard to do well in school.”

Learning about resiliency

Anna chose a degree in human development and family studies as an incoming freshman. She fell in love with the major and chose two concentrations, prevention and intervention sciences and early childhood professions. During her studies, she began to think differently about her dad’s life.

“I remember learning about resiliency, and I immediately connected that to my dad,” Anna said. “I didn’t know before what the word resilience was or what word would help me describe my dad, and once I learned about resiliency there was no better word for him. All the struggle he went through and being where he is today was because he was resilient.”

Like her dad, Anna had to cultivate her own resilience after her parents divorced three years ago. She was struggling with assignments and school. Looking back at her classes, Anna remembers learning about the impacts of divorce on children and families. These classes helped her understand her parent’s divorce

“Me siento orgulloso de ella por haber terminado su carrera universitaria por que apesar de todos los problemas que pase por lo de mi divorcio ella salio adelante[I’m proud of her because in spite of the problems with my divorce, she succeeded],” said Martin.

Campus Connections logoCampus Connections mentor

Anna has applied those first-hand lessons on resiliency during her time as a mentor at CSU’s Campus Connections program in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies. Campus Connections pairs CSU students with at-risk youth to create a relationship that promotes the resilience and life success of the youth through mentorship.

During her senior year, Anna interned at The Family Center/La Familia working with the family strengthening services. There she went to home visits with her supervisor to help prepare children up to age 5 for school. She helped the children read and count, taught an English class and worked in early childhood classrooms.

“I learned a lot,” said Anna. “I was working mostly with the Hispanic/LatinX community and learned a lot about a program called Parents as Teachers, how to work with families with a similar culture to mine, and how to speak professionally yet build a friendly connection.”

Career path

Her experience at La Familia has made her want to go into bilingual therapy. Her long-term goal is to either be a trauma therapist or a school counselor.

“A veces uno tiene que batallar para salir adelante [Sometimes you have to fight to get ahead],” Martin would tell her daughter when times got tough.

“Mi esperanza para Anna es que sea feliz, y que logre cualquier cosa que ella se proponga [My hope for Anna is for her to be happy and for her to accomplish whatever she aspires],” said Martin.

The Department of Human Development and Family Studies is part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.