DENVER - For many high school seniors, college is intimidating. Add financial planning, the pressure of college applications, and a sick father at home to the mix – and most would feel like the odds were stacked against them – but that was not the case for one John F. Kennedy graduate.
“I think I didn’t sleep for two weeks and was in her [school official’s] office every single day,” said then-Kennedy High senior Richard Maez.
Maez was the first in his family to go to college – and that wasn’t the only obstacle he had to overcome.
When he was a freshman in high school, his father had a disabling work injury, so the young man had also his family to worry about.
“Even the thought of going out of state – I knew I could do it, but that leaves my family behind,” he said.
But when he needed help the most, the Denver Scholarship Foundation stepped in to help.
By following the advise of his advisor, Renae Bruning, Maez had so many college choices – including Stanford – but chose to stay close to home and go to the University of Denver.
“I’m very lucky that I picked to stay here because I couldn’t imagine if something happened while I was gone,” Maez said.
And something did happen.
“March of freshman year, my father passes away and everything was just coming to a head of, ‘I don’t think I can do this anymore’,” he said. “My mom had to find a job, my brother and sister didn’t have one of their parents at home anymore.”
But the DSF helped him keep going.
“His siblings were my students so I just felt connected to the family,” said Bruning. “That’s a connection you can’t break.”
One day after his father’s funeral, Maez knew he had to go back – to be there to take his finals.
“Knowing I’ve work so hard to get to this point with the help of others, I can’t let them down now,” Maez said.
He graduated with his Bachelor’s degree in June and is now in graduate school at DU. He’s also student teaching at George Washington High School where he shares his story with other struggling students.
“It’s difficult, just reliving some of the experiences that I’ve had to go through, but I do it because if I can inspire one student to go out and make a difference, then I’m doing my job correctly.”