Leaving campus doesn’t mean having to quit school: one student’s journey back to her community

Chelsee Bruggeling standing in a field.

When Chelsee Bruggeling moved away from her hometown of Brush, Colorado to go to college, she never guessed she’d one day come back to make a difference in her home community.

“When I started at CSU, I was an on-campus student,” Bruggeling said. She tried out a few different majors during that time, and also spent a lot of her time working a job. Ultimately, she said, “the financials of trying to work and trying to be a student, it wasn’t working for me.”

She needed to move back home to Brush, a community of fewer than 6,000 people in the eastern part of Colorado. But that didn’t mean she had to quit pursuing her degree. Bruggeling discovered that CSU offered an online human development and family studies (HDFS) bachelor’s program, and it turned out to be exactly right for her interests and schedule. “That’s when I made my transition to [being] an online student,” she said.

A well-suited program

“I’ve had to work throughout school,” Bruggeling said. “I couldn’t just not work. I’ve got to pay my own bills.” Since most online courses don’t have specific class meeting times, it made it easier for Bruggeling to work full time while studying.

As a first-generation student, Bruggeling also said she feels like a good role model for her sisters. “They can see me doing it. I’m still working; I’m still going to school. It’s possible to have an outside job but also focus on your education and make the two work for your best interest,” she said.

Not only was the online HDFS program a good fit for Bruggeling’s busy schedule, she also found it to be a good fit for her strengths and interests. “I’ve always been someone who liked to listen to other people. I like to help other people work through their problems,” she said. Within the program, Bruggeling chose a concentration in prevention and intervention sciences, which prepares students for careers in counseling, education, and social services.

Bruggeling has a particular interest in working with adolescent populations. “I feel like it’s a really important thing for me to focus on, because I feel a lot of people who go into human development and family studies want to focus on infants or toddlers. And I feel like adolescence is a challenging time period, so not as many people focus on it. But, for me, I saw that as a calling. Rather than avoid it, I wanted to go in with all my might and give it everything I had.”

Making a difference in the community

In her final semester, Bruggeling shifted to working her regular job at night so she could complete an internship at the Morgan County Department of Human Services.

“Throughout my internship, I’ve seen so many different aspects of the social services that the state has to provide, and it’s allowed me to decide that I really would like to be a social worker,” she said. “I’m confident that with the education I got at CSU I can be a good social worker, and I can actually make change for families.”

Having lived practically her entire life in Brush, she is invested in helping her local community, Bruggeling said.

“I’ve seen a whole other way that the Brush community works, the entire county, really. We want to make it a better community for everyone. We want the families who are struggling to get better, to make our community a better place,” she said. “With my degree and my education, it’s been so much easier to understand how I personally can actually have an impact, and I can change a family’s life as a caseworker or whatever it might be. I can actually do something to make their lives better.”

Hear Bruggeling discuss more about her experience studying online in the HDFS program in the video below.