A debilitating car accident didn’t stop Cielo Garcia Chavez from achieving her dreams
The Criminal Justice student has earned the MSU Denver Provost’s Award and graduates in May.
To better understand Cielo Garcia Chavez, you only have to go back to the start of her senior year in high school, when she was applying for college scholarships.
Despite receiving over 20 rejections, she kept at it. Then, just before graduation, she learned she had been granted four scholarships — enough to cover four years at Metropolitan State University of Denver.
Chavez graduated from high school in 2019 in the top 10 of her class and with 32 college credits. And in May, the Criminal Justice major will graduate from MSU Denver with a 3.99 GPA and the 2023 Provost’s Award for student achievement.
As the second-oldest daughter of five kids, Chavez was 9 years old when she was charged with taking care of her three younger siblings while her parents worked. Then, at age 14, Chavez and her parents were in a horrifying car accident.
“When I looked in the mirror, I didn’t recognize myself,” she said. “I had to get up every day to go to chiropractic and doctors’ appointments. I felt lost, frustrated, and had many days I wanted to give up, but I didn’t let the roadblocks from my own body stop me.”
Through all the difficulties, Chavez was careful to keep schoolwork a priority. In middle school, she earned an invite to join the National Junior Honor Society along with multiple presidential honor rolls and perfect-attendance certificates. During her sophomore year of high school, she was selected for the National Honor Society, where she volunteered at many service events.
“After school, I would head to my old middle school to mentor and tutor sixth-grade students, helping them with homework and giving them advice on life skills like time management,” she said.
At MSU Denver, she earned a 4.0 GPA for her first year and was selected to be a member of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars. In fall 2021, Chavez joined some classmates and Lunden MacDonald, a professor of Modern Languages, to restart the Spanish Club — hosting events, meetings and workshops.
“The Spanish Club has received many compliments from students and professors, thanking us for hosting events that brought everyone together,” Chavez said. “We’ve created an environment where students feel comfortable practicing their Spanish and also learning about different cultural heritages.”
MacDonald said she thinks Chavez represents the next generation of young Latino students who’ll conquer the world of higher ed. “She shines as an example of the power and the life-changing education our institution offers,” MacDonald said.
Chavez, who is leaning toward working in victim advocacy, will speak at the Spring 2023 Commencement ceremony May 12. “MSU Denver is my second home,” she said. “I didn’t have a dream school when I graduated from high school, but it turned out to be a dream come true.”