Priscilla Gonzalez and her family celebrate her graduation on CSU’s Oval.
After eight years working as a lactation consultant for new mothers in Boulder County, Priscilla Gonzalez decided to return to school and pursue a new career in education. At the beginning of 2020, the wife and mother was thriving in the College of Liberal Arts at Colorado State University with exceptional grades but began to feel weak and sick.
Gonzalez’s sickness wasn’t pandemic related, and not her top concern, but in August, when news broke of actor Chadwick Boseman’s death from colon cancer, she decided to schedule a checkup at the CSU Health Network. She went to the clinic in October for blood work, which showed she was suffering from severe anemia. Later that month, Gonzales was diagnosed with colon cancer and needed immediate surgery.
Her oncologist gave her the choice of taking a break from school to fight cancer full time or continuing her studies. With only two semesters left to earn her bachelor’s in art education, Gonzalez made the decision to remain in school and contacted her professors, who allowed her to finish the courses online during her recovery.
In the Spring of 2021, at the same time she was going through chemotherapy, Gonzalez was student teaching 40 hours a week. She took days off only when she had chemo infusions and used the weekends to rest.
“It was brutal,” said Gonzalez. “But I just kept thinking of the resilience in the human spirit. We all have it in us. My way to cope was to keep going and stay motivated.”
Gonzalez’s motivation and resilience allowed her to achieve an impressive 4.0 GPA, and she’s already accepted a job as a middle school art teacher with the St. Vrain Valley School District in the fall.
Gonzalez’s success during a challenging year was made possible by her support system.
“My husband was there for every single infusion,” she said. “My sons took over and were there to take care of me. I’ve received so much support from strangers, school, and CSU. I’m ready to give back.”
As Gonzalez prepares for graduation and awaits the results of the surgery and chemotherapy, she is looking forward to beginning teaching in the fall, while reflecting on her college career.
“I’m ready to kick this to the curb, get better, and get ready for the school year,” Gonzalez said. “I’m proud to be a CSU Ram and to have this degree. It feels wonderful to belong to this university.”