Jennifer Wood said she wasn’t exactly “college material” coming out of Rocky Mountain High School in Fort Collins.
“If people who knew me in high school knew that I’m headed to graduate school, they would think it was a joke,” said the single mother of three.
Wood double-majored in sociology and social work at Colorado State University and will graduate this month. But the journey wasn’t easy. After her divorce in 2013, when she was working in restaurants and driving for Uber to make ends meet, she decided to try Front Range Community College.
“I didn’t want to work those jobs the rest of my life,” Wood said. “When I transferred to CSU in 2017 it was an incredible thing because growing up, I never thought I’d get to go there. Just getting my campus ID card was a big deal, a really emotional thing for me.”
“When I transferred to CSU in 2017 it was an incredible thing because growing up, I never thought I’d get to go there.”
—Jennifer Wood, outstanding grad
She started studying sociology, then fell in love with social work. Her course work got off to a rocky start, however.
During Wood’s first semester in the program, her 10-year-old son broke his femur playing football and had to accompany her to campus in a wheelchair for weeks until he could go back to school. Then last fall, her oldest son was diagnosed with a tic disorder, on top of anxiety and depression. She’s had her own struggles with learning, dating back to high school, but she said that with caring faculty and other CSU resources, she’s discovered that her learning style is to talk through concepts, not memorize.
“I could have gotten some accommodations (for her disability), but I’d made it this far without them, so I decided against it,” Wood said.
She’s served on the school’s Committee for Social Justice and the student group Social Work in Action, and is helping lead an effort to create a mandatory diversity course on campus. Wood will start working on a master’s degree in social work from CSU this summer.
“Jennifer is an amazing person and creates deep relationships with students and staff in her life,” said one of her faculty mentors in the school, Marie Zamzow. “She has attended college as a single parent, fighting her way through learning difficulties and financial hardship in order to be here. Jennifer regularly meets with staff so that she can more deeply look at social work issues and policies that she learns about in class. People around her feel happy to know her.”