Local artist and advocate Kristi Copez says Tri-C helped her exceed her own expectations
Every path to success starts with determination, a mission and a vision. For U.S. Navy veteran Kristi Copez, this path started in 2013 at the Eastern Campus of Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C®).
Though Copez didn’t believe she was “college material,” she used the strength and confidence gained during her military career to surpass her initial goal of earning a simple certificate. In just two years at Tri-C, the Robert L. Lewis Academy scholar graduated summa cum laude with an Associate of Arts degree. She simultaneously earned a League of Distinguished Leaders certificate, Fundamentals in Mediation certification from the Cleveland Mediation Center, and a Conflict Resolution and Peace Studies certificate.
Copez parlayed her experiences and Tri-C education into a Bachelor of Arts in studio art from Ursuline College and will finish her master’s degree in theological and pastoral studies in 2022.
Tri-C taught Copez the value of “showing up,” a phrase that has become her mantra. It’s how she learned to advocate for herself and for other women who have experienced trauma. “My own journey of recognizing resilience as a tool to show up no matter what is the example I use to inspire others to find ways to live a vigorous life despite the challenges that come with trauma and chronic illness.”
Copez took advantage of campus resources like TRIO, the Black American Council and the Women in Transition program to help her excel in her studies at Tri-C. To future students, she says: “Seek. Lift your eyes and ears to see, ask for and go beyond what you may believe you can achieve.”
In the years since graduation, Copez was named Tyrian Network Ohio’s 2017-2018 Artist of the Year and received Ursuline’s Sister Diana Stano Award for Excellence in Academics, Leadership and Service. She has facilitated and moderated workshops on non-violence and PTSD at Case Western Reserve University’s 17th Annual Social Justice Teach-In; the annual Embrace The Process Women’s Conference; and the 23rd Annual Women's Watch Vigil. And her work was published in the first edition of Black Local Artists of Cleveland — Kuumba magazine.
“I started off with a small goal and ended up earning and achieving much more than I ever imagined,” Copez said. “Tri-C created the foundation that allowed me to do that, despite disabling illnesses and other obstacles.”
She offers some final advice: “Keep showing up, and see what’s in store for you!”