Nicolas Nunez was a student at East Aurora High School when he connected with Dr. Chassie Sherretz, Academic Support Manager at Waubonsee Community College. Little did he know, that meeting was the start of an academic journey that would end in receiving his high school diploma and associate degree at the same time.
Nicolas’s older sister was involved in Upward Bound, a Waubonsee program for East Aurora and West Aurora high school students that provides support and motivation to graduate and pursue a college degree. Thanks to his sister’s encouragement to get involved in Upward Bound as early as possible, Nicolas got in touch with Chassie, and enrolled in the program as a freshman.
“The college visits were the most impactful part of Upward Bound for me,” Nicolas said. “It really opened my eyes to different cultures [of schools], how expensive it can be if it’s out of state, and overall, it just helped me wind down what choices I wanted in life.”
His determination refined by Upward Bound, Nicolas expressed to Chassie his desire to graduate early from college and get started in his career. He knew he wanted to work with numbers, possibly in finance, and was eager to get started on his educational journey beyond high school. Chassie recommended Nicolas enroll in Waubonsee’s Quick Path program, which he did during his senior year.
The Quick Path program allows motivated students to earn their associatedegree in one year, transferring to their four-year university of choice in less time with less debt.
“The Quick Path program was rigorous, but the professors never gave us anything we couldn’t handle,” Nicolas said. “I’m so glad I was able to do it.”
While navigating QuickPath, Chassie connected Nicolas to another Waubonsee resource: TRIUMPH, a student-focused action program aimed at supporting male students of color while they navigate college.
Nicolas was paired with a mentor, and the two met a few times each month to discuss challenges, goals and everything in between.
“Having a mentor during that time in my life calmed me,” Nicolas said. “TRIUMPH is like a brotherhood. We’re helping each other power through our challenges and get to where we want to be.”
Though the COVID-19 pandemic impacted much of Nicolas’s senior year, he was able to graduate in 2020 with his high school diploma in one hand and his associate degree in the other.
After obtaining his Associate in Arts Degree from Waubonsee, Nicolas transferred to Aurora University. He graduated in two years with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Finance and a minor in Spanish. Upon graduation, he landed a career as a payroll compliance auditor.
Now successfully working in his chosen field while his peers are still in school, Nicolas says he credits his involvement in Upward Bound, Quick Path and TRIUMPH to getting him where he is today.
“Graduating two years early was surreal,” he said. “The fact that I was able to do that, thanks to Chassie and her other co-workers, was really great. It was a great opportunity.”