2020 Fall Graduate of the Year

Anfernee Juwan Jordan Romero
Anfernee Juwan Jordan Romero

Anfernee Juwan Jordan Romero

Romero, from Monte Vista, Colorado. attributes his success in the classroom to one thing: family.

“Family is everything to me, coming from a single parent home taught me that.”

He earned dual Bachelor’s degrees in Elementary Education and Social Studies

“My professors here at Adams State University played a major role in and out of the classroom to ensure that I was successful. They are caring individuals and continue to keep in touch. They go beyond their roles as professors, advisors and administrators,” Romerso says.

He is a portrait of someone who proves that hard work and dedication pay off. He worked full-time throughout academic career and graduated debt-free in four-and-a-half years.

“Even during COVID I continued to work,” he says.

One of the reasons his achievements are so important to him is that he is a first-generation graduate.

“My mom has had her job as a CNA for 21 years now and it’s provided for my brothers and I our whole lives. Some may not consider that an actual degree but I do, I’m just as proud of her as she is of me.”

In fact, he says that his long-term plan is to start an organization for kids that come from single parent homes. “I feel being a ‘father’ figure in the classroom isn’t enough and I want to extend that out of the classroom.”

Freshman Challenges Overcome by Sophomore Year

Romero had his share of challenges at ASU, especially starting out. “I started my education classes my second year. My grades started to improve, I was starting to make new connections, and was becoming more of myself than ever. Along the way I faced challenges and I overcame them without a doubt or fear.”

But his major changes came in 2020. “I found out I was going to be a dad and then the COVID pandemic. I felt life was setting me up for failure. Then I heard the baby’s heartbeat for the first time and it was like embers from a dying fire that burned down my doubt and negativity,” he says. “That heartbeat pushed me to work harder because I realized that I wasn’t working for one anymore, I was working for two. I have made the best of this all and when I look in the mirror, I love what I see. I have learned from my mistakes and have grown from them. I feel like my wings are working again and they are lifting me higher.”

Joslin Gilleland
Joslin Gilleland

Outstanding Nursing Student
Joslin Gilleland
Cum Laude

Gilleland, who received a BS in Nursing, is first in a lot of things. “Being a first-generation college student is a big step. Because my parents didn’t have the opportunity to graduate from college, this was my chance to make my family proud. I am grateful for the opportunity I had to gain a higher level of education and help pave the way for future generations.”

“When I was struggling to get my clinical hours completed during some major setbacks in my life, Fallon Crowther really stepped up and went above and beyond to make sure that I stayed on track. Kim Chacon was also a tremendous help and was very supportive throughout my final semester to help me meet my requirements to complete the program. The continued support from all of my instructors helped me stay motivated and gave me the confidence to keep going.”

 San Luis Valley Native Chose Hometown College

“Since I plan on staying in the Valley, I felt this was also a good way to make connections in this area.”

Gilleland graduated in 4.5 years with no student loan debt “I was very lucky to work with members of the Counselor Education Department who were very understanding of the requirements of the nursing program,” she says. “They were great to work with my schedule and always reminded me that school should come first. I was also very blessed with my financial aid awards. Through all of my years at Adams State, I didn’t have the financial burden that many students have and for that I am very grateful.”

She says that coming in as a freshman, she didn’t know what to expect from her college experience. “It was overwhelming at times, but through these years I learned how to budget my time and prioritize and find balance in my life. As a graduating senior, I feel confident to enter the workforce as a registered nurse.”

Grizzly Grit

“I broke my leg the winter break before my final semester. I overcame this obstacle through the support and encouragement of family, friends, and the Nursing Department. As difficult as some of these challenges were, they made obtaining my degree that much more meaningful.”

Dominik Klein
Dominik Klein

Dominik Klein
Cologne, Germany
Magna Cum Laude

It was a good fit from the first. “On my first visit to Adams State I felt welcome.”

Klein, who graduated in December with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration/Accounting and a minor in  Taxation and Economics, says, “Not only have the business professors been educating us in their classes about the class content, but they also pushed us to achieve more than we think we could and provided us with great resources to succeed post-graduation.”

He should be used to that success. He attended Adams State with a football and ASU Foundation Scholarship, and held down several campus jobs while attending classes and practicing. He was a student ambassador, resident assistant and a tutor for the School of Business’ Testing and learning center.  He graduated in four year with no student loan debt

“Having made those connections benefitted me because I learned quickly about all of Adams State’s resources to help students and was able to quickly contact the right people for any issue I had.”

Future Steps

Klein was an intern with Wall, Smith, and Bateman, Inc, and did so well they hired him full-time. He also hopes to earn a master’s degree in taxation at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law. He has to pass four exams to become a CPA.

“I think that I have grown tremendously as a person from my freshman year until now. Especially the past two years where I was mostly exposed to the classes within my accounting concentration my critical thinking skills, knowledge, and confidence have improved constantly and consistently and I think that it’s mainly due to our dedicated professors in the School of Business.” It also didn’t hurt that he was the 2019 football team captain and active in the Pacioli Accounting Club.

“I feel like I am at no disadvantage having finished school during a global pandemic, albeit very different from what we are used to,” Klein says. “If anything, I try to look at some of the positives that came with the pandemic for example a bigger appreciation for spending time with friends and family as well as enjoying time outdoors.”

Vanessa Thong
Vanessa Thong

Vanessa Thong
Cum Laude

“As I am a graduating senior, asking for help is what made me successful,” says Thong. “I asked for help in academics. I asked for help in how to be involved on campus. I asked for help in how to manage my schedule. I asked for help when I spread myself too thin. I asked for help and as a graduating senior, that to me is the key to success.”

As a psychology major with a sociology minor, her professors and advisors kept her on track to graduate. “Not only did they care about my academic standing and future, they cared about me as an individual which meant so much to me. They made it loud and clear that I did not have to struggle alone.”

First Generation

It meant the world to Thong that she is a first-generation graduate. “I want to be a role model to others, especially for the younger generations. I want to show them that coming from a low-income family, our dreams and goals can still be achievable. Earning a degree has to be one of my greatest accomplishments and I could not have done it without the support from my family, friends, boyfriend, and ASU.”

She chose Adams State because of the psychology department, the people at the university, the opportunities, and how it was close to family and friends. “Adams State believed in me and supported my dreams.”

She was involved in many campus organizations, including the Psychology Club, PSI CHI – National Honors Society for Psychology Club, Student Support Services, Gear-Up, and Adams State Associated Student and Faculty.

She also credits her work-study supervisors, who she says cared about her academics and my future. Not only that, they treated me like family and I could not have had a better support system besides my family and friends.”

She held internships at San Luis Valley Behavioral Health Group, and now is a full-time Adolescent Intensive Case Manager and the Colorado Spirit Crisis Counselor at the organization.

Thong graduated in less than three years with no student loan debt. “My freshman self would not expect me to be where I am at now and I am grateful for the amount of growth within the last two-and-a-half years.”