Raising a child as a single parent while completing an undergraduate degree is hard enough. But Danette French, who will receive her bachelor’s in environmental health this month, also found time to volunteer for the City of Fort Collins’ Healthy Homes program over the last year.
“Danette works hard to maintain a high grade-point average in our rigorous curriculum, and balances that with jobs and an internship,” says Erin Reichert, undergraduate and internship coordinator for the Department of Environmental and Radiological Health Sciences in the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. “In addition, she volunteers as a student ambassador, and of course somehow finds the time to raise her young daughter as a single parent. And through it all, she’s always smiling and encouraging those around her.”
A single mom to 4-year-old daughter Kinsley, French says that she chose Colorado State University because it has “one of the best environmental health programs in the country.”
She interned with TOLMAR pharmaceutical company and worked at the Larimer County Landfill while at CSU. Her volunteer work for the city took her into people’s homes, where she evaluated indoor air quality. Working at the Larimer County Landfill provided numerous opportunities for her to incorporate what she learned about environmental health in the classroom. When she subsequently took a waste management class at CSU, the professor kept turning to her to help the class.
CSU has also been a good place for a non-traditional student, French, 29, says. “I’ve heard at other campuses that it can be a challenge, because it is hard to relate to other students, and people feel like they don’t belong.”
Support services like CSU’s Adult Learner and Veterans Services have been invaluable. French also says scholarships have been a big help in reaching her goals. She received support from United Way’s WomenGive program, which helps fund daycare and preschool for Kinsley.
French is also a participant in Project Self-Sufficiency, a nonprofit that helps single parents realize financial independence.
“What they provide as a support system; it’s unmatched anywhere else,” says French. The program provided not only financial support but also emotional support. Her advisor through the program is also a single mom, and she’s been able to connect with other college students like herself.
“It’s been very hard,” she adds, reflecting back on the challenges she faced while completing her studies. “With my daughter being so young, some nights, I studied with her on my lap or I didn’t study at all.”
Her dream company to work for after graduation is one that makes a difference in everyday lives. “Workplace safety is a big thing, and making sure that we have companies that are responsible in resource management and sustainability,” French says.