Perseverance, hard work, and resiliency help bring scholarship recipient to CSU

The College of Health and Human Sciences recently recognized both scholarship recipients and donors at the annual Scholarship and Awards Brunch on Nov. 10. This year, the College awarded 292 scholarships totaling almost $600,000 – all supported by private donors.

Freshman D.J. Chapa is the recipient of the Janet J. Fritz Scholarship in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies. Chapa overcame several childhood challenges to land on his feet and enroll at Colorado State University.

Scholarship thank you video featuring 2018 scholarship recipients. Video by Allie Ruckman

Sacrifices and hardships

Growing up, D.J. Chapa wasn’t sure what his future held.

Born in Waterloo, Iowa, he was given up for adoption after only three days. He grew up in Colorado, and when he was 6, his adoptive mother was taken to jail after a significant financial scandal; he and his siblings were left in the care of his elderly aunt and uncle. Life, at the time, wasn’t anything like what most 6-year-olds experience. Chapa had to keep his siblings safe, had to make sure they all got to and from school. “Sacrifices, hardships, tears, anger, and fleeting happy moments were a normal part of my experience,” said Chapa, recalling this time of life.

Janet Fritz and D.J. Chapa sitting together
Scholarship donor Janet Fritz, left, with recipient D.J. Chapa at the College’s scholarship recognition brunch.

Growing up quickly forced him to be a leader and problem-solver, and made him into the exceptionally dedicated and passionate student he is now. “My experiences shaped me into the individual that I am today. Life is a huge experience that we all learn how to navigate, and learning that early on in my case has made me more resilient and more equipped for life in general,” said Chapa.

It was a lot of perseverance, hard work, resiliency of character and external financial support that helped Chapa get into Colorado State University. Now, he is recognized as an exceptional student in the College of Health and Human Sciences and is the proud recipient of the Janet J. Fritz Scholarship, which is awarded each year to a first-year HDFS student.

Scholarship providing second chances

Janet Fritz, professor emerita, the donor who established the Janet. J. Fritz Scholarship, provides the funds for this award each year. “I received that needed help when I started college,” she said. Fritz was a faculty member in the department for 34 years, from 1969 to 2003, teaching about cognitive development in children. Fritz was honored by the College of Health and Human Sciences Legacies Project.

When she was on the college scholarship committee, she noticed that most scholarships were for juniors and seniors at that time. “I thought, for some students, they need help to even begin their university journey and then they can apply for upper-class awards once they are eligible,” she explained.

“I am so impressed with what D.J. has already accomplished. Clearly, he will go far,” she said, adding that she’s excited to see what he will achieve in the future.

To Fritz, Chapa expressed his gratitude: “Thank you for giving me a second chance. Someone believed in me and I want to be that someone who believes in others. I feel that it is my purpose to have an impact on others. It is my true passion.”

Making dreams a reality

D.J. Chapa in a red sweater smiling with Cam the Ram.Many people in the United States and around the world have dealt with tough times. Unlike most, Chapa was able to rise above his difficult childhood, which makes him unique in many ways.

“A lot of times individuals like me don’t try for higher education because they think that they simply cannot afford it or that there is no way,” he explained. “Having a degree has always been something that I wanted to do. I didn’t know how I would do it, but I knew I needed one in order to accomplish my goals and change the cycle that kids like me have been in over, and over, and over again.”

Chapa was determined to help those who have been in situations like what he experienced, and he knew attending college would be the big first step towards achieving this goal.

“I chose CSU because of the environment that it offers,” Chapa said of his choice to come to college here. “CSU is very ahead of many other universities when it comes to inclusiveness, belonging, family, pride, and everything in-between. CSU offers a support system and sense of belonging that no other university offered.”

Everyone deserves second chances

Before coming to CSU, Chapa’s first job was at a nonprofit called Second Chances. The program specialized in employing single mothers and women coming out of sexual and physical abuse, alcohol and drug abuse, incarceration and homelessness.

“During my time there, it became more than a program,” said Chapa. During this experience he became a part of the journey for each woman, and got to learn and grow as they did.

“Learning about their life stories and seeing their daily struggles to overcome drugs and alcohol was very impactful for me. I saw them fight through, even with many setbacks and relentless pressure. These women taught me to never give up on your dreams. If you work hard enough and learn from your mistakes, you can make a difference and improve your life and your community.”

Future goals

“My current aspiration is to continue to thrive here at CSU!” said Chapa enthusiastically. “I want to graduate college and then go out and make a difference in the world.”

In 10 years, he plans to have a degree in HDFS and hopes to travel to Africa and participate in a community service project that would help educate underprivileged kids. “I value all people and believe education is the first step to empowering them. Everyone in this world matters, and it is our duty to try and have a positive impact in life.”

Another one of Chapa’s goals is to start a nonprofit dedicated to the betterment and education of underprivileged, high-risk youth.

“Loyalty to my family and my community inspires me to work hard for others as they have helped me achieve my goals and aspirations in life. Life has taught me that no matter your plan or goal, you’ll always face road bumps, but it’s how you handle them and overcome them that matters.”

“My desire is to inspire and educate others to never give up on their dreams and that through service to your community, a person can find true self-worth,” he said.

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

Thanks a Billion

Colorado State University reached the $1 billion campaign goal in October, almost two years early. The College of Health and Human Sciences has already raised $66 million, and is on its way to meeting its $85 million goal by 2020, the scheduled conclusion of the campaign. To support students like D.J. through scholarships, go to the College of Health and Human Sciences online giving page and select the Health and Human Sciences Students First Scholarship, which is awarded to students across the college.

Beyond a Billion

Due to the incredible impact scholarships have on the College of Health and Human Sciences students, scholarship funding will remain a top priority through 2020 and beyond. Thanks to the generosity of so many donors, outstanding students have greater access to education that can change lives.

The State Your Purpose campaign will continue through the University’s 150th anniversary in 2020. To learn more about opportunities to support research or any area of CSU with your gift, of any size, go to CSU’s giving website.