Life has presented Cristi Cota with many obstacles that have impeded her pursuit of a higher education, but those struggles never shattered Cotaâ€™s dreams.
In fact, on Monday, the mother of three from Gardnerville will graduate from Western Nevada College with two degrees and the comfort of seeing her education pay off in employment.
Ten years removed from her high school graduation, Cota began taking classes at WNC in 2011, learning from the outset that many people were in her corner as she pursued her education.
â€œFrom my classmates to instructors, and co-workers to supervisors at the library, Iâ€™ve never felt like going back to school as an adult was a mistake,â€ Cota said. â€œThe atmosphere on campus and online has been very supportive, and Iâ€™ve enjoyed all aspects of my education. I donâ€™t know that I would have had the same experience anywhere else, and Iâ€™m glad I made the decision to continue my education at WNC.â€
There have been many events along the way that could have forced Cota to alter or forsake her goals in education. Since enrolling, she has lost her mother in a rollover car accident and her stepmother to cancer. She also became a guardian to her father after he was injured at work, and at one time was the guardian for three of her brothers. Adding to the pace of the frenzied household was her husband, Marc, enrolling in the nursing program at WNC after fulfilling two years of education requirements.
â€œTo say itâ€™s been a struggle is an understatement, but having the support of my instructors through all life has thrown at me has made a huge difference in my life and my education,â€ Cota said. â€œIâ€™ve been able to maintain a 4.0 and attend all of my own three boysâ€™ school and sporting events through it all. Iâ€™m proud of my degrees, even more so since Iâ€™ve had to work so hard at completing them.â€
With the demands of motherhood and working, the availability and convenience of WNCâ€™s classes online eased Cotaâ€™s pursuit of accounting and business degrees.
â€œA lot of my courses have been online, which I have absolutely loved,â€ Cota said. â€œTheyâ€™ve given me the freedom of raising my family while doing school at the times I choose to. The ability to take as few or as many courses as I can handle each semester has made earning my degree an achievable goal.
â€œBoth online and on campus, Iâ€™ve always been able to get questions answered, and all of my instructors have worked well with me when any issues came up.â€
Cota started at WNC with a schedule focused on business classes, but through taking other courses, she discovered another subject of interest.
â€œWhen I found I had an aptitude for understanding accounting, I added that as a degree program as well,â€ she said. â€œFinding an appreciation for accounting through my studies has been a welcome surprise, and Iâ€™m excited to work in a field that I enjoy.â€
Yes, Cota has already transitioned from student to professional employee before officially graduating.
â€œMy current employer values my WNC education, as well as my 4.0 GPA on top of raising a family,â€ she said. â€œIâ€™m lucky to have come across the job opening from the WNC site when I did, and Iâ€™m already using my education daily at work. WNC has given me the tools I need to succeed in my field, and Iâ€™m thankful I found employment so quickly.â€
Despite the demands of schooling and commitments to her family, Cota still found the time for invaluable work experience in Joe Dini Library.
â€œThat is an experience I will always treasure,â€ Cota said. â€œIt gave me the opportunity to gain recent work experience, and a glowing letter of recommendation from one of the librarians was a big part of my landing employment in the accounting field.â€
Cota wonâ€™t be forgotten by library staff at Joe Dini either.
â€œAll the library staff who worked with her had glowing statements about her performance,â€ said WNC Public Services Librarian Valerie Andersen.
â€œCrista Cota was one of the best student assistants the library has ever had! She was reliable, conscientious, calm (even during hectic times), smart and did an excellent job. She was an exemplary student employee” always friendly and smiling.â€
Prior to enrolling at WNC, Cota worked for a bank and learned that she needed more education for advancement.
â€œNow my employment opportunities have opened up, and instead of settling for someone that will hire me, I get to choose where I want to work; I love that distinction,â€ she said.