Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Franziska Collier: Overcoming life's challenges thanks to Grossmont and Cuyamaca colleges

Franziska Collier
Franziska Collier has suffered through more than her fair share of bad breaks. Her three young children and Grossmont and Cuyamaca colleges keep her going.

“Outside of my kids, Grossmont and Cuyamaca College are my life right now,” said Collier, 41, an honors student with a GPA just shy of 4.0. “It keeps me involved. It keeps me motivated. It keeps me going.”

Her perseverance has led to numerous honors and awards from the Foundation for Grossmont & Cuyamaca Colleges, including the Betty D. Krueger Scholarship and the James Rodey Creative Writers Scholarship. The Betty D. Krueger Scholarship is awarded to an outstanding student who writes a compelling essay about the value of attending Grossmont or Cuyamaca College. The James Rodey Young Creative Writers Scholarship, named in memory of a former Grossmont College student, is awarded to a Grossmont College scholar excelling in creative writing.

Collier will be among those honored during a Jan. 12, 2019, scholarship awards ceremony and reception at Cuyamaca College.

Born and raised in the city of Leipzig in what was then East Germany, Collier first came to San Diego High School at the age of 16 through a scholarship program, then transferred to the San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts. She returned to Germany, but not before meeting the man who would become her first husband.
Collier earned a bachelor’s degree from Leipzig University in American studies with a focus on politics and a minor in journalism and theatre arts, married, returned in 1999 to San Diego. A Fulbright Scholar, she enrolled at the University of Arizona, commuting to school on a Greyhound bus every Sunday night and returning home every Friday.

Before long, however, she faced the first in a series of crises that began with Collier’s marriage falling apart. Not long after remarrying, her ex-husband took his own life. Then her second husband died of cancer. Suddenly, a single parent raising a toddler in a foreign country, Collier moved back to Germany to be with family. It didn’t last. She came back to San Diego to stay after just a few months and enrolled at San Diego City College while working as a model.

“School has always been my safe place,” she said. “My security blanket. My home.”

Interested in a law enforcement career, Collier enrolled at Grossmont College’s Administration of Justice program and, after completing the curriculum, landed a job with the U.S. Border Patrol. Bad luck followed her.
While completing a training program in 2011, Collier fell on her back while climbing a rope, damaging a disc and suffering severe nerve injuries and head trauma. She spent three hours a day in physical therapy for months. Now on disability and barely able to walk, Collier returned to her safe place: college. Collier also volunteers extensively with the Veterans of Foreign War, the Red Cross, and as a poll worker every election.At Grossmont College, Collier is focusing on creative writing and poetry. At Cuyamaca College, she’s excelling in the Ornamental Horticulture program, which captured several awards at the 2018 National Collegiate Landscape Competition at Alamance Community College in North Carolina. As president of the Cuyamaca College Botanical Society, Collier last year led a team that designed a Cuyamaca College Christmas tree at the Festival of Lights celebration in San Diego’s Balboa Park.

Her long-term plans: working as a sustainable landscape designer and writing for a horticulture-themed magazine. 

“To anyone who may be uncertain of what they want to do or where they are going, I would tell them that you could find your life here,” Collier said. “There are so many programs that let you explore what you’re good at and so many student organizations that can keep you engaged.”