CASA GRANDE — With her new bachelor’s degree in business sustainability, Amber Bolling-Galuppo is looking forward to the future.
A 2018 graduate of Vista Grande High School, Bolling-Galuppo needed only three years to attain a bachelor’s degree from Arizona State University’s W.P. Carey School of Business. She graduated in May.
But the road to graduation included may challenges, and she said a program she entered in high school, College Success Arizona, helped ensure she stayed on track to graduate from college.
“I felt so many emotions when I graduated in May,” Bolling-Galuppo said. “I’m the first one in my family to graduate from college. My mom is a single mom, and I worked so hard on my education. I put so much into it to better myself and have a great life.”
Bolling-Galuppo was one of 36 graduating students from throughout Arizona celebrated by College Success Arizona this year.
Through College Success Arizona, students receive scholarships, mentoring and success coaches throughout their postsecondary education.
The program has a 73% graduation rate and a 90% freshman retention rate.
“My mentor was supportive and kept me on track,” Bolling-Galuppo said.
When the pandemic hit and college students were sent home from campuses to work remotely, the success coaches became a lifeline, she said.
“I finished my last year virtually, and it was tough to find a routine working from home,” she said. “When I lived on campus, I could go to the library or to tutoring. It was different at home. Everything became over the phone or Zoom, and I missed my friends. My coach, Gerardo, helped with that.”
Gerardo Valencia, a success adviser with College Success Arizona, said the program takes a holistic approach to working with each student individually, providing access to support and programs that increase graduation rates.
“We recognize that each student is an individual with a life,” he said. “Things happen that can prevent them from graduating and our goal is to make sure they graduate.”
Valencia said he understands the challenges first generation college students can face.
“One reason I got into this job is because I was a first generation college student. As an immigrant, I didn’t know English (as a child) and even in high school, I didn’t think college was possible. But I had a mentor who helped me find scholarships and I went on to graduate from the University of Arizona,” he said. “For me, it’s a good feeling to be that person who helps students and supports them.”
During the pandemic, the organization helped students access funding for living expenses when campuses were closed. They also provided support services and helped students overcome whatever challenges they were facing.
“They reached out and helped,” Bolling-Galuppo said. “It was awesome.”
College Success Arizona works with 14 rural high schools throughout Arizona, including Vista Grande High School and Casa Grande Union High School in Casa Grande.
Between the two high schools, 30 Casa Grande students have been involved in the program, Valencia said.
The organization runs several programs to ensure students graduate, including access to success advisers who work to create a community for students to help overcome feeling lost, alone or overwhelmed when they get to campus.
Success advisers use various resources to guide students to completion of educational goals. They also provide coaching and assistance for students when things go wrong and know the ins-and-outs of each campus to provide access to various resources.
Success advisers also help with finances, budgeting and career development.
Bolling-Galuppo said that knowing someone cared and understood when things went wrong helped keep her on track.
“They go above and beyond,” she said.
With her degree, Bolling-Galuppo hopes to make a difference in the business community.
“Many companies are looking to diversify their business by hiring someone who is passionate about sustainability,” she said.
She hopes for a career in which she can serve in a role that helps businesses improve sustainabilty, she said.
Bolling-Galuppo has worked as a search engine evaluator at Appen, a technology company that collects information about internet users’ habits and also interned at Elequa, a nonprofit organization that creates water filter experiments to teach children about water sustainability.
She hopes to eventually earn a master’s degree in business administration.
More information about College Success Arizona is online at www.collegesuccessarizona.org.