Student Success Story, Kristi Copez
May 05, 2015
Kristi Copez, a disabled veteran honorably discharged from the U.S. Navy, will graduate from Cuyahoga Community College in May 2015 with an Associate of Arts degree in peace studies and conflict resolution. It’s an accomplishment that required commitment.
As a non-traditional student, former high school dropout and grandmother who never planned to attend college, when she decided to buckle down, she soon became known by her mantra: “Keep showing up!”
The seed of her determination was planted when she enrolled in the Women in Transition (WIT)/Displaced Homemakers program in December 2006. Copez is a domestic abuse survivor and was briefly homeless.
She graduated from WIT and, in summer 2013, enrolled at Tri-C’s Eastern Campus. She said she received a lot of help getting started as a student.
A member of the Robert L. Lewis Academy of Scholars, Copez just completed a unique program for her social justice project. “The Justice Project — OPERATION: Ballroom Dancing Through Transition” is a five-week ballroom dance class for women who self-identify as survivors of trauma. Her project will be showcased along with other honor students’ at the 2015 Tri-C Student Success Symposium.
Copez enjoys being active in Cleveland’s cultural community. She offers weekly Detroit-style ballroom classes to adult learners and publishes a weekly dance-community newsletter. Copez also leads workshops for organizations and promotes wellness at retreats.
She is also on the executive board of Women of Hope, Inc., a non-profit organization that advocates for homeless female veterans in Northeast Ohio. It offers up to 24 months of supportive, transitional housing while empowering female veterans to attain stable independence. Copez is a fundraiser, public events coordinator, media and marketing chair, assistant secretary and advocate. But, as a veteran and survivor of military trauma, her most fulfilling position with Women of Hope is as a direct advisor.
Although she likes being involved in her community, Copez admits that, since enrolling at Tri-C, she’s found even more fulfillment in the academic and personal growth she has experienced. This is due, in large part, to accepting, directly after training, the role of co-moderator for the Sustained Dialogue Campus Network on the Metropolitan Campus.
Copez received her certificate in fundamentals of mediation off-campus from the Cleveland Mediation Center and is on track to earn the advanced mediation certificate.
She maintains a connection to WIT, too. She was mistress of ceremonies for the fall 2013 WIT graduation ceremony and the student speaker for the spring 2014 WIT graduation ceremony. She also was interviewed for the WIT promotional video.
Her connections to students, professors and advisors have been both challenging and exhilarating. The community and cultural awareness she has gained has boosted her confidence in her academic future and beyond.
Copez has been accepted to John Carroll University and Ursuline College in fall 2015 and is humbly contemplating her decision. She hopes to continue toward her goal of facilitating traumatic healing and becoming an advocate for women, especially those who’ve suffered in any capacity in the military.