Dannica Peterson’s college journey was not an easy one, but she’s certain that she’s on the right path and that SCTCC was instrumental in helping her make the right choices.
After graduating from high school in 2012, Dannica wanted to go to college, but her parents weren’t supportive. They didn’t think college was necessary, so they would provide no support. For students under age 24, filling out the FAFSA means also including parents’ income. When Dannica applied for financial aid to go to college, she was denied because of her parents’ income, and she couldn’t afford college without aid. She tried three years and each time she was denied financial aid.
So she worked at Menard’s to save money to pay out of pocket to attend the Nursing Assistant class here at SCTCC. After that, she was CNA for five years before realizing that nursing was not for her.
Taking stock of what her options were, she decided to check out the Minnesota School of Business to become a Veterinary Technician.
“That was one of the most upsetting college experiences I’ve ever had,” she said.
After a tour of MSB and getting excited about being a Vet Tech, the financial aid officer wouldn’t even meet with her. She left and cried in her car after that meeting.
“Maybe I don’t even need to go to college,” she tried to convince herself. Luckily, her inner voice told her to keep trying. “The next year I turned 24, and I filled out the FAFSA.”
Dannica immediately came to SCTCC, taking three classes the first year because she was nervous about being out of high school for so long. But she was able to do it.
She’d always been involved in the medical field, being a CNA and interested in the veterinary field. Dannica was working on an AA and taking a general biology class with instructor Jennifer Evens when she first heard about the STEM scholarship.
“I didn’t know I liked the science field or that I would even excel in it,” she said.
She did a little research and learned the Biology Transfer Pathway wasn’t that different from the AA degree she was already working on. So Dannica decided to apply for the STEM scholarship, a $33,000 scholarship that covers the cost of tuition, books, and some living expenses for the first two years at SCTCC and two years at St. Cloud State University. The eligible programs at SCTCC for the scholarship are Biology, Engineering, Math, and Computer Programming.
“I got the scholarship, and that’s when my path starting to take shape,” Dannica explained. “Science isn’t all about what you know and retain but more about what you want to learn, explore, and problem solve.”
The scholarship was a great way for Dannica to get into the STEM field and take some time to explore her career options. “It can fit nearly every person,” she explained.
While she started off with an interest in the medical field, she ended up taking more classes around environmental issues. When she transfers to St. Cloud State, she plans on getting a bachelor’s degree in Biology, Ecology, and Evolution. She may continue on to grad school and possibly further for her career trajectory. Right now, she’s interested in park management, either on a national or state level. She’s still deciding what career she wants to go into because there are so many interesting things.
“The more I learn, the more I want to learn. Everything I’ve done at SCTCC so far has led to many many more opportunities.”