Human Development and Family Studies outstanding graduate overcomes huge barriers

To Marisa Gallardo, a Fall 2017 graduate of the Department of Human Development and Family Studies, going to college was a dream. Neither of her parents attended college. Her father immigrated to the United States when he was 14 years old and was unable to continue his education. Her mother dropped out of high school, but later obtained her GED and continued her education online.

Marisa Gallardo and her brother holding a cake
Marisa Gallardo (right) stands next to her brother (left) presenting a birthday cake to their mother.

Growing up, Gallardo was revered as the smart, “nerdy” girl in her family. Everyone thought she would go to college, including herself. In a turn of events, her mother was diagnosed with lymphoma and had to undergo chemotherapy. Gallardo also learned that her parents would be getting a divorce just a couple months after her mother’s diagnosis.

“I felt the need to forego college to take care of my mom,” Gallardo said. “I had decided not to attend college, but here was my acceptance letter telling me to come and achieve my dream. My mom told me that whatever the barrier was, we would find a way. So through my mom’s support, and several student loans, I began my journey at CSU.”

Tough transition

The transition to Colorado State University was no walk in the park. Gallardo originally came from a school that graded individuals on a one-through-four grading system; earning a letter grade was a completely foreign concept to her. However, she found solace within CSU’s Key Communities and was able to have a successful beginning to her college career. Not only has Gallardo succeeded, but academically, she has thrived, achieving a 3.9 GPA.

“I faced a lot of barriers once I moved out of the dorms,” Gallardo said. “The summer between my sophomore and junior year, my brother died. I faced many social, emotional, cognitive and financial obstacles when this happened. I even considered dropping out of college. But I decided to continue because of a promise I made to my brother before he died, that I would graduate for him, for both of us.”’

Support from faculty and staff

Thankfully, she did not have to face this tragedy alone. Faculty and staff from the Department of Human Development and Family Studies, where she also worked as an office assistant, were there and helped Gallardo through her difficult time.

“Several faculty members and professors donated to my brother’s GoFundMe, gave me tremendous support in my classes and offered resources to me,” Gallardo said. “The best help they gave me was their patience. I’d like to thank Mary Daughtrey, Lanita Doering, Sarah Barrett, Lise Youngblade and everyone for being so flexible with me, listening to me and always bringing a smile to my face.”

Gallardo’s graduation marks an end to one chapter in her life. Looking beyond her graduation, Gallardo aims to join City Year, an educational nonprofit organization dedicated to helping students and schools succeed.

“I’ve met so many incredible people who have supported me and helped me grow,” Gallardo said. “I’m going to miss being around such an amazing community.”

The Department of Human Development and Family Studies is part of the College of Health and Human Sciences.