Beating the Odds
After graduating from Van Meter High School in 2014, Emily Junker set her sights on earning a college degree. She enrolled in classes on DMACC’s Ankeny Campus, jumping into her Liberal Arts studies with both feet.
But early in her first semester, she began to experience a series of health issues, the most alarming that she was sleeping more than 20 hours a day. Her inability to maintain a regular schedule made it nearly impossible to participate in her classes. After a series of doctor’s appointments and several meetings with her advisor, she made the decision to medically drop out.
It took Emily more than seven years to get a diagnosis of narcolepsy – a condition in which those with the ailment sleep significantly more than others. The diagnosis opened the door to effective treatment and encouraged Emily to give college a second try.
“It was pretty much decided that I would return to DMACC as soon as I got the diagnosis,” Emily says. She reenrolled in 2021 and is set to graduate in December 2022. “I remember just falling to the floor and crying because I could finally go back and finish my degree.”
It was those who helped her during her first semester back in 2014 that were fresh in her mind when the time came to resume her studies.
“I thought back to all the people who helped me the first go around,” she says. “They supported me and did everything they could to help me make it. I knew then that it was the place I was supposed to be. They have so many programs and so many ways to support students.”
She also has earned the support of the DMACC Foundation in the form of a scholarship.
“Scholarships have helped me immensely, because at this point, I am paying for my own college, and also because it makes you feel like someone believes in you,” Emily says. “You aren't the only person who's trying to better your future. You've got people on your team and people that really say, ‘Hey, we think you're worth it’ and that is really, really wonderful.”
DMACC is the Perfect Fit
At the top of the list for KaYing Yang in choosing a college was one-on-one access to professors and instructors. After visiting DMACC’s Ankeny Campus for a competition while she was in high school, KaYing knew it was the place for her.
“I always wanted to go to a community college,” she says.
“When I came here in high school, I really liked it but I lived closer to another community college so I wasn’t sure. But once I looked at the program for marketing and business and how much one-on-one with their teachers they get, that helped me make my decision.”
DMACC has been everything KaYing had hoped it would be. She is studying business and marketing with an eye toward transferring to a four-year school when her studies at DMACC are complete.
“I really, really enjoy the business program right now, and I really enjoy my teachers,” KaYing say. “One of the biggest things I enjoy at DMACC is that I can always go to my instructors for help and they'll always be there. I get that one on one. They always know my name. If you ask for help, they don't push you aside.”
KaYing has also been helped by a DMACC Foundation scholarship.
“The scholarship helped me a lot,” she says. “I am paying pretty much everything out of pocket so the scholarship helps with my bills, especially so I can focus on my studies without working. It has really helped me keep my head above water.”
Once she is done with her studies, KaYing has a clear vision of her next steps.
“I’ve learned at DMACC that I am a go-getter, and my career goal is to work in a Fortune 500 company as a marketer,” she says. “I want to do digital marketing or content marketing, hopefully for a fashion company.”
Family Steers Biswa to DMACC
Upon graduation from Des Moines Lincoln High School in 2019, Heman Biswa had his heart set on attending Iowa State University to study business. When it became clear that jumping right to a four-year university was not financially realistic for him, Heman turned to his family for advice.
“My brother advised me to give DMACC a look,” says Heman, who is studying Business Administration on the Ankeny Campus. “He reminded me of the opportunity my sister had at DMACC, and it seemed like a good place for me.”
Heman has been awarded a DMACC Foundation scholarship, which has been invaluable as he works toward a Spring 2023 graduation and eventual transfer to a four-year school.
“The scholarship has helped me a lot,” he says. “My income is zero because I am a full-time student. This has helped me to remain financially stable.”
His studies at DMACC have gone beyond basic business theory. He has learned a lot about himself and feels fortunate to be in such a supportive environment.
“I have gained confidence,” Heman says. “My professors are always willing to talk and to help me learn more about my career options and give advice on my future plans. I have learned that I don’t have to do it alone. I need other people and I have found those people at DMACC.”
After he’s done at DMACC, Heman looks forward to transferring to Iowa State. His hope is to apply the lessons he has learned on the Ankeny Campus to mentor others.
“I want to work in management,” Heman says. “That is my ultimate goal.”
An Eye for Fashion Leads Bontje to DMACC
Growing up in the small northwest Iowa town of Rock Rapids, Carley Bontje always had an interest in fashion. As she approached graduation from West Lyon High School in 2018, she put her love of all things fashion on hold to pursue a career in nursing at Iowa State University in Ames.
Just under two years into her nursing studies the COVID pandemic hit and changed everything for Carley.
“I decided to follow my passion,” she says. “DMACC had a fashion program that was appealing to me, and it was going to be very easy for me to go there and then transfer back to Iowa State.”
The opportunity to pursue her passion has been made easier with support from DMACC Foundation scholarships.
“They’ve seriously helped me,” Carley says. “They have allowed me to be able to take a breath and not spend all my time either in the classroom or working. I can spend more time on my homework and really exploring my studies.”
Carley has benefitted greatly from DMACC’s small class sizes on the Ankeny Campus. She has also gained a new appreciation for herself.
“I’ve learned that I am capable of earning a degree,” Carley says. “My first year at Iowa State, I struggled and worried I would never make it through any program. I’ve built a great foundation here at DMACC and that will help me in the rest of my academic journey.”
In the fall, Carley looks forward to continuing her studies at Iowa State. Upon earning her bachelor’s degree, she is excited to get into merchandising.
“I want to work for a company like Urban Outfitters or Anthropologie,” Carley says. “I am fascinated by design, but I also find the math behind the business very interesting. I am excited for the future.”
Google Search Sets Student on Career Path
It was a simple Google search that led Maralise Ramirez to DMACC’s Ankeny Campus. Interested in career in healthcare, she typed “nursing” into her Google search bar during her senior year at Des Moines Lincoln High School.
“DMACC came up and it looked very affordable and very good,” Maralise says with a smile. “It was kind of accidental, but I decided to take a chance on DMACC. And now I’m really glad I found it.”
Maralise’s passion for healthcare has been fueled by her history of being in and out of hospitals. She lives with an endocrine disorder and her life has been impacted for the better by nurses, physicians and other caregivers.
“They have always made it much easier for me,” Maralise says of her caregivers over the years. “Hospitals can be a scary thing, and no one knows that more than me. As a nurse, I want to change that and be to others what so many of my nurses were to me: a calming, caring presence.”
Maralise has benefitted from DMACC Foundation scholarships during her time in the nursing program, allowing her to immerse herself in her studies instead of worrying about finances. She says her time at DMACC has helped her find herself.
“The one big thing that I have learned here is that if I truly want something, I have the ability to get it,” Maralise says. “But if I don’t set my mind to it and do the work required, it isn’t going to happen.”
As she looks forward, Maralise is planning to earn her bachelor’s degree in nursing at the University of Iowa. From there, time will tell.
“My career goal is just to continue to learn as much as I can, and in the medical field, that is endless,” she says. “I don’t know where I will end up, whether it will be a clinic or a hospital or even doing research. Whatever calls me is what I will do.”