Outstanding graduate proves it’s never too late to chase your dreams

An Le, husband, son, and mom

An Le with her husband, son, and mother.

An Le, a first-generation student, began her college journey at Colorado State University in the fall of 2010. Experiencing a variety of challenges, Le eventually had to step away from the Department of Human Development and Family Studies one semester short of graduating.

“Leaving CSU was a good decision for me at that time,” said Le. “Fortunately, I was able to use the HDFS curriculum and apply it to real work in the non-profit world and government sector too.”

Born and raised in Denver, Colorado, Le’s journey then took her in another direction. She started a life and a career with the experience and knowledge she had gained and moved to Arizona due to her husband’s military commitment.

“I wanted to go back to school,” said Le. “However, it was not the right time.”

Though Le was able to get back on her feet, she now lived a state away from the university. Le’s military husband was deployed, which left her taking care of their baby boy on her own. She had a lot on her plate that made going back to school feel impossible.

“Fast forward to 2020, I looked back and saw how much I had grown,” said Le. “I had built professional relationships, I had a family, and I knew I wanted to go back to school for my professional growth.”

Five years later, Le decided to go the online route, an option CSU provides for those who cannot or prefer not to be physically on campus for one reason or another. CSU Online provides flexibility, which is beneficial for students who, like Le, are trying to balance a lot on top of a degree.

To ease Le into this transition, she utilized Fresh Start, which is a CSU program that allows students to restart their CSU GPA and return in good academic standing while retaining credit for courses with grades of C- or better. Le was eligible for the program as she was pursuing her first undergraduate degree and had taken a more than two-year break from school.

“I wanted my degree, so I could make a difference in my community,” said Le. “And more importantly, for myself as a first-generation student.”

Coming back to her studies, Le faced many obstacles. Her move to Arizona left her away from her network of family and friends in Colorado. This left her isolated in a new place during the COVID-19 pandemic. While trying to adjust, caring for her family, balancing school, and finding a new job, Le also went through a miscarriage.

“It was overwhelming,” said Le. “I overcame this tough part of my life because of therapy, Lucy, my family, my son, and my grit.”

Lucy Paltoo-Brady is an adviser in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies. Both the CSU and the CSU Online HDFS programs overlap in many ways. They have the same advisers, many of the same faculty, and a lot of the same curriculum. During Le’s return to CSU, she was assigned Paltoo-Brady as her adviser.

“Lucy is an outstanding adviser,” said Le. “She made me feel comfortable coming back to school as a ‘non-traditional student,’ and I have so much respect for her because of her passion about her students.”

Le and Paltoo-Brady connected as both identifying as first-generation students. Paltoo-Brady advised Le and encouraged her to ask for help from professors.

“I am successful because I was honest with myself and to my professors that I needed help,” said Le. “I sought help when needed, and my vulnerability taught me to grow.”

While parenting and going to school, Le has been employed full time. Her place of work in Arizona allows her to help vulnerable communities experiencing poverty such as older populations and people with disabilities.

“I am proud I asked for help,” said Le. “I am proud I learned how to manage time. I am proud and grateful for this opportunity to go back to school. I am proud I am consistently growing and learning to better myself to help others. I am proud that I can sent an example for many, most importantly, for my son and husband.”

After graduation, Le plans to continue working for the federal government, hoping to make a difference and to influence lawmakers and civilians to create more effective programs for low-income individuals with better reforms.

Le will graduate this Friday, December 17, with a Bachelor of Science in Human Development and Family Studies, a double concentration in prevention intervention science and leadership and entrepreneurial professions, and the Gerontology Interdisciplinary Minor.

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