There are at least two things Chalon Coley and I have in common, we both are Dougherty Family College alumna, and we work at the same coffee shop. Working with Coley making lattes every day and navigating this pandemic as essential workers, I can say, without a doubt, Coley is a determined and driven student. I sat down with Coley to discuss her achievements and why she chose Dougherty to fulfill some of her aspirations.
Coley graduated from DeLaSalle High School in Minneapolis in 2020 and is currently a first-year student at DFC. Coley first learned about Dougherty from her high school counselor during her senior year and like many students was conflicted on college and wasn’t sure if she wanted to attend.
“After COVID shut down everything, a lot of my college plans were either put on hold or just thrown completely out the window,” Coley said. The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the lives of many students, especially those who are first-generation and have felt the unpredictability of attending college due to many barriers.
Coley plans to enter the medical field to become a plastic surgeon or a dermatologist. Her passion for the sciences, especially as a woman of color, have been elevated by her experiences as a Dougherty student.
“As a DFC student, I feel as though I am constantly learning new things that will help me in life. DFC has shown me how important it is for you to be able to advocate for yourself for not only in school but in life,” Coley expressed.
Dougherty Family College is two-year college program offering an associate degree for inspired students who want to obtain a four-year college degree but face financial or social obstacles on the way to their goal. The program is designed to propel students toward success by going above and beyond by providing structured and intensive mentoring, a core curriculum of liberal arts classes, generous financial aid, and small class sizes that provide a pathway to help students develop the skills they need to attain a four-year degree.
As a DFC student, Coley has faced many challenges aside from navigating Zoom lectures and online learning. One of those challenges involves being a student of color and navigating a predominately white institution at St. Thomas.
Coley said Dougherty invests in taking time to know their students and making sure that they are seen and heard. “What I really like about the professors at DFC is how they really push their students to share about what is on their mind. They want to know how you think and process information,” Coley stated.
Having meaningful dialogue within classrooms and the connections the Deans and staff devote to making students seen and heard is essential to the Dougherty experience.
Despite these challenges, DFC has ensured that students are met with a supportive environment to make their college learning successful.
Dougherty’s college persistence counselor, Katia Colon-Holmers who assists former and current students with the support they need to succeed, said one of those support systems is known as the mentorship program.
The mentorship program connects first-year Dougherty students with second-year students to receive advice, tools, and skills for their transition after they complete their two-year associate’s degree.
Coley shared her experience participating in the mentorship program: “My mentor, Janette Mendoza, is super nice and helpful. At the beginning of the semester, she was there for me. I was really struggling with one class and she told me about some good resources that could help me.”
The mentorship program has encouraged Coley to challenge herself further and use what she has learned at Dougherty to continue her education in her recent acceptance at St. Catherine University.
Coley plans to major in the medical sciences to help her attain her dream job in plastic surgery, all while being part of St. Kate’s dance team.
Having second-year students exemplify their support to new students who feel lost or uneasy about their college experience has helped many students like Coley define their goals and allocate the resources needed to persist in their college career.
Dougherty Family College takes pride in acknowledging the diverse fabric that the students makeup by challenging them and encouraging them to be proud of who they are and what they are capable of accomplishing.
In honor of Black History Month and celebrating African American experiences all year long, Dougherty has encouraged students to participate in events and opportunities to discuss and share cultural and racial experiences. One of those events is the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color) Gathering Circle. This monthly event opens up the space for students to come together on Zoom to share and celebrate their cultural and racial experiences.
These gatherings take place each Wednesday afternoon through May 5 and are facilitated by DFC counselor Angela Mendez and Phil Rosier from the counseling and psychological services located on the St. Paul campus.