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North High School Student Graduates with $65K in Scholarships with Support from WIOA Program

Sep. 22, 2020

Jaelyn Rainwater and Téa Villareal, DPS Equity and Engagement Summer Interns

All students within Denver Public schools have the potential to reach great success, but even high-performing students need support to achieve their dreams.

Winta Gonye moved to the U.S. from Ethiopia with her family when she was 7 years old to escape war and violence, and today she is a class of 2020 Denver Public Schools graduate from North High School. She worked hard in school, taking AP classes and college courses through University of Colorado Denver and Community College of Denver, graduating with a 4.2 GPA. Despite concerns that she would not be able to pay for college, she is now enrolled in her first year at the University of Denver (DU) on a full-ride scholarship studying international relations.

Her hard work and dedication is mostly what drove her achievements, but Winta said her relationship with Youth Self-Sufficiency Program Specialist Noemy Rodriguez has played an important role in keeping her motivated. Noemy supports youth at North High School as part of the Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act (WIOA) program within Family and Community Engagement, which helps to remove barriers to a youth’s academic and career success. Noemy helped Winta achieve the $65,000 worth of scholarships that have made it possible for her to go to DU.

“I would say that she was the best advisor I’ve ever had, she was amazing,” Winta said. “She always met my needs and she was always on top of everything.”

Winta introduced herself to Noemy in January of her senior year after hearing about the WIOA program through friends. In the beginning, Winta was looking for an internship, but her schedule was too full — instead, she developed a strong mentoring relationship with Noemy, who helped her tell her story to prospective colleges and apply for a myriad of scholarships and financial aid. Winta was amazed at the amount of funding and support that was out there, and her concerns about paying for college started to fade.

“I always share those resources with my students,” Noemy said. “College can be as cheap or as expensive as you want.” 

The WIOA program provides DPS youth a world of opportunity in employment and college and career support. WIOA helps youth prepare for college and job applications including support with resumes, cover letters, interview preparation, personal statements, and more. WIOA counselors, like Noemy, build relationships with their students and their students’ teachers by listening and providing an environment where students can talk to them comfortably, relate to them and feel safe. Counselors with WIOA continue to keep in contact with their students after graduation through their first year of college to ensure their success.

Winta describes Noemy as someone that she could always talk to knowing she would receive support. Noemy saw how driven and passionate Winta was and helped through all of the hardships she faced, such as time management and financial struggles. Noemy saw tremendous growth within Winta on a personal level while working with her on her personal statements and is so proud of all that Winta has accomplished.

“As women of color, we need to be strong for those around us,” Noemy said.

Winta Gonye described her high school experience at North as amazing. She had great friends and was always surrounded by support. She was a part of the Student Board of Education all four years of her journey at North to approach behavioral issues in a non-confrontational and peaceful way. As a high-achieving student and with the support from the WIOA program, Winta was able to accomplish her dreams. Winta offered some advice for how other students can too.

“Find someone to help you, through high school and with college,” she said.

For Winta, that person was Noemy.