Transfer Student Trisa Colon on Building a Future as a Returning Learner

Columbia College of Chicago Transfer Student Trisa Colon
How strategy and scholarships led one student to reinvent her career path and follow her dreams.

For Trisa Colon, being a part of the student practicum cohort that is planning and coordinating the upcoming persistence scholarship fundraiser event titled “Unleashed 2022,” which will support Columbia College Chicago students, is deeply personal. Colon is the first to acknowledge that finding your professional path doesn’t always come quick or easy. There was a time when Colon would’ve been shocked to find herself at the helm of a student-run event at the college level — in fact, there was a time when she might not have believed someone if they had told her she would attend a four-year institution at all.

For Colon, as a teenager, community college seemed like the most accessible and affordable option at hand. But after enrolling at Washtenaw Community College in 2003, she began to fear that she might not ever make it to the next step. “Back then I didn’t believe I deserved, or had the knowledge to get into university later, and I didn’t have access to a lot of resources,” she says. “I really struggle with my self-image, and it got the better of me.” Eventually, she stopped attending altogether, opting for a career as a cosmetologist. It was rewarding, but Colon always held an interest in continuing her academic journey.

During the pandemic, after a many-year academic break, Colon re-enrolled in her old community college, taking online classes with the goal of combining her academic experience and her life experience. This time, she graduated. She knew, after graduation that Columbia College Chicago would be her first choice for continuing her education. “The unique approach Columbia has — educators who also work in the field currently, less common majors and minors, internship advising — all of this was very important to me,” Colon says.

But there was a hiccup. Could she afford it?

During a Zoom meeting of potential transfer students, Colon met with Associate Provost of Transfer Initiatives and Academic Partnerships Dr. Holly Herrera. With Herrera’s support and guidance, Colon submitted information for a financial aid estimate and was shocked to discover that with aid Columbia had gone from the most expensive out-of-reach school on her list to the most affordable. Soon, she was enrolled in the Arts Management degree program in a Creative Industries Concentration with a minor in Nonprofits, Public Affairs, and Communication. “I literally could not attend this school without the scholarships and grants I’ve qualified for,” Colon says.

Now, Colon is dedicated to both working in the arts and ensuring that others don’t have to learn the hard lessons she did before she found the internal strength to commit to her own potential and to believe in her expansive capabilities. Part of that commitment has driven her to give her all to the upcoming scholarship fundraiser. “I truly hope this event introduces new philanthropists to the investment opportunity that is Columbia students,” Colon says. “There are some amazing programs here that are made successful by the educators and the extremely passionate and mind-blowingly brilliant students that are here.”