Scholar overcame father’s death to succeed in college

Richard Maez was born and raised in Denver and attended Denver Public Schools from kindergarten through his graduation from John F. Kennedy High School. He always wanted to go to college but faced wave after wave of adversity. Through the insecurities and intimidations of applying for college as a first generation college student, through academic and social challenges at the University of Denver, and through personal obstacles that deeply affected his life, the Denver Scholarship Foundation has helped Richard stay the course.

In the fall of 2011, Richard entered DU as a freshman and successfully completed his first semester. But nothing could have prepared him for what he would face during his second semester.

Richard’s father had suffered a disabling work injury during the lad’s freshman year of high school. Richard and his family cared for his father for four years. Then, in March of 2012, two month’s into Richard’s second semester of college, his father died. Richard’s immediate reaction was that he did not want to continue his education.

“I had to miss two weeks of school and still come back and take finals,” he said. “That was a really tough time for me because I didn’t want to go back to school, but everyone was there for me. (DSF advisor Renae) Bruning was there for me, and even the DSF academic advisors at DU that I never met before were there to help me. That was the toughest time I’ve had to deal with in college.”

Richard persisted through this situation and continued his education. “You have one life to live so you can’t be negative or pessimistic about every single thing. Just enjoy life and what we do,” he said.

Richard Maez displaying school spirit with some University of Denver classmates

Richard was a hardworking, star student in high school, full of hopes and dreams of going to college. DSF Advisor Renae Bruning helped him turn his dreams into reality.

Richard applied to some of the nation’s most selective colleges, and was admitted to Stanford University. But he didn’t feel that Stanford was the place for him, he said, so ultimately he chose DU. He is interested in pursuing a career in education to have a direct influence on the lives of youths like him. He said he’d like to become a teacher or a university counselor, and spend time visiting high schools and working with low-income students to help them fulfill their college-going dreams.

“I love working with students, helping them realize their potential and reach their goals. So being a teacher, a counselor, a director of a program like the Leadership Seminar, is what I want to do.”

He volunteered at the Future Center at South High School during his freshman year at DU. There, he helped students apply for college, shared advice about how to cope with college life, and answered any questions they had.

Richard is the first in his family to go to college and he is the eldest of three siblings.

“I’ve tried to show my younger siblings that if you have goals and you try, then you can reach them. You can reach any goal.” His siblings ask Richard questions about college and he guides them but he also empowers them to seek out their resources that are available to them. “I talked to Ms. Bruning every single day of my senior year and that is how I got here, so I tell my siblings to not be afraid to ask for help and advice.”