How PDX Bridge helped Desi Casanova Achieve her Dream

Despite many difficulties along the way, Desi Casanova has maintained a 4.0 grade point average during her time at Portland Community College. She has been working on earning an Associate’s degree at PCC, an Achieving the Dream Network college. Like many students, Desi had significant obstacles to overcome to achieve her educational goals.

As a young teenager, Desi was often discouraged by her teachers and her peers. She describes herself then as an “unsuccessful student,” and felt she was judged based on the way she spoke, dressed, and presented herself to others. Many of her teachers perceived her as a failure and told her she would not succeed in academics. Feeling she had no real options, Desi fell into a downward spiral and began to abuse drugs and alcohol. Without any support from family or friends, she quickly lost sight of pursuing an education and a bright future, and nearly dropped out of high school.

For Desi, a caring adult helped put her back on a path to a postsecondary education. She was enrolled in a TRIO program, a program designed to identify and provide services for individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds, and a counselor, who saw her potential, referred her to PDX Bridge. Desi qualified to participate in the program, one that focuses on the most vulnerable youth, those who have experienced foster care, homelessness, or the juvenile justice system. A collaboration with dozens of organizations in the Portland, Oregon, metro area, PDX Bridge provides supports to help youth through high school and the successful completion of their first year of college. Students receive personalized support from coaches, their secondary counselors, teachers, and case managers. This same network of caring adults stays with students throughout their progress in PDX Bridge, helping them overcome challenges faced inside and outside the classroom.

Desi was motivated by the prospect of graduating from high school and attending college, so she joined the program. She immediately received an abundance of support from her college success coach, Allison Trowbridge, who answered questions about preparing for college, and helped guide her to supports and activities on and off-campus. She refers to Allison as a “big influence” of the program, as she supports students by filling the role of a support network for students who lack support outside of school. Desi states she owes credit to Allison for supporting her in every step of her educational journey.

Once in school, Desi quickly excelled in her classes. She earned her high school diploma one year earlier than anticipated. She was determined to show her ability and achieve her goals. She graduated from PDX Bridge in January 2017 and has continued to excel in her academic and professional life, successes which she says have also led to significant personal growth.

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