Evan Romero sits in the conference room on the thirty-fourth floor of a downtown Denver building. If you look out the west-facing conference room windows, you can overlook the 16th Street Mall or gaze on the snow-capped Rockies.
“I don’t get this view every day,” Evan said. “But, I never thought I would have this view ever.”
Evan, a Denver native, grew up in southwest Denver in a single-parent household. Opportunity seemed out of reach, a distant gleam in the sky. Now he works as an auditor for Ernst and Young (EY), a global Big Four accounting firm.
“Evan really understands accounting,” University of Denver professor Jacqueline Eschenlohr said. “He has an innate ability to excel in this area.”
His path to EY, though, was muddled with uncertainty and obstacles that had to be overcome. From the time his parents divorced through his senior year of high school, he would embark on a path that could make college seem impossible.
Evan is a part of a growing workforce created, in part, by the Denver Scholarship Foundation (DSF). A recent Pell Institute study revealed every dollar invested in a student supported by DSF yields more than nine times that amount in the form of taxes returned to the Denver community.
Like many DSF Scholars, Evan is the first in his family to go to college. In fact, over 80 percent of all DSF Scholars are among the first to attend college.
His dad, Thomas, kept the family of five afloat on an electrician’s salary. But, when he and Mary divorced, life for Evan changed in many ways.
“We had a house, you know?” Evan said. “We didn’t have much, but we had more than some people.”
Evan and his siblings spent many mornings figuring just how to get to and from school and what to eat that day.
“We were forced to grow up a little bit,” Evan said. “My mom didn’t have time for everything,” Evan said. “So we would have to figure out if we had to take the bus to school or get a ride. Sometimes we didn’t know what we would eat.”
As stress built, Evan fell in with the wrong group of friends who distracted him from what he needed to be doing. As his personal struggles continued to mount, his future began to fade. Micah Sturr, then a teacher at Southwest Early College (SWEC), became aware of Evan’s distractions and urged him to regain focus.
“If it weren’t for my teachers at Southwest Early College I wouldn’t have made it,” Evan said. “I was never a bad student. I just became negatively influenced.”
After Sturr’s urging, Evan realized that he had the opportunity to use school as a medium to create change. He visited a DSF College Advisor at SWEC who helped him navigate the complicated college applications and financial aid process.
“My mom used to tell me ‘shoot for the moon, and if you miss you’ll land amongst the stars,’” Evan said. “That’s what I had to regain.”
With help from DSF and his teachers and mentors at SWEC, Evan enrolled at the University of Denver and began taking general business courses. He soon began to show an adept ability at accounting, which his professors began to notice.
“I noticed Evan really understanding accounting,” Eschenlohr said. “I urged him to major in accounting because he has an innate ability.”
Evan took his professor’s advice and began studying accounting where he became a top student. His ability in accounting coupled with personal characteristics pushed him to the top of his class.
“Evan is very gracious and he works terrifically in group settings,” Eschenlohr said. “He shares the limelight.”
Nearing the end of college life, Evan began exploring career opportunities. Eschenlohr encouraged Evan to attend a DU career fair specifically for accounting students. Evan met with representatives from the Big Four accounting firms, eventually interviewing for a position with all four.
“EY reached out to me in a special way,” Evan said, “and I’ve always liked EY.”
After some considerable thought, Evan accepted EY’s offer, and currently works in the Assurance service line as a business auditor. “It’s not my dream job, but it’s the first step,” Evan said. “It’s for my family – to show everyone that it is possible.”
At 22-years old, Evan’s goal is to be selfless. His career and his dream job is to be able to give back to all those who helped along the way. He wants to contribute to his community and be an example to those like him.
His path, a winding path full of the lowest lows and some of the highest highs, is not complete. But, because of his hard work and support from a teacher in Denver Public Schools, a professor at DU, and an advisor with DSF, Evan is making a difference in Denver, proving that anything is possible.