Friday, September 13, 2019

Grossmont College student Caitlin Radigan is overcoming the odds

Caitlin Radigan 

Caitlin Radigan has overcome the kind of challenges she wouldn’t wish on anybody. An adolescence lost to drug abuse. Eight-hundred and ninety-one days in Juvenile Hall. Sexual assault as a young child. Foster care and group homes.

But the 26-year-old single mother has persevered. She is on track to graduate from Grossmont College in the spring of 2020 with an associate degree for transfer in business administration and plans to enroll at San Diego State University next fall.She was awarded the Albert and June Van Zanten Foster Youth Scholarship for fall 2019 by the Foundation for Grossmont & Cuyamaca Colleges. 

Radigan credits Grossmont College’s bevy of support with helping her reach her goals.

“No matter what your situation, whether you’re a parent, low-income or don’t know what you want to do, you will be provided with a team of people who will get you to where you need to go,” Radigan said. “Grossmont College will make it happen.”

Those Radigan has come into contact with at Grossmont College are just as impressed with her.

“Caitlin is a positive, motivated, determined and resilient young woman who has demonstrated this through her academic perseverance and as a single mother,” said Counselor Maite Valladolid-Guzman. “She also has a beautiful 2-year-old daughter who she brings into our appointments and workshops periodically. They truly brighten up our office every time they come and visit us.”

Born in San Diego and now residing in Spring Valley, Radigan lived a vagabond’s life as a child, attending eight elementary schools. “I grew up all over the western United States,” she said. “Oregon, Nevada, Washington, Arizona, California. It was a very unstable upbringing. I wouldn’t even be able to able to say ‘goodbye’ to my friends. I’d come home from school and see all our stuff packed up and my mom would say, ‘OK, we’re moving.’”

A one-time pupil in the Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) program in San Diego, Radigan dropped out of school in the eighth grade after she began hanging out with people who were more interested in feeding their desires. Over time, she was sent to live in group homes. She became addicted to drugs. “There was a time when I believed my life was a purposeless mistake,” she said.

Her future began to turn while she was incarcerated as a teen. Sitting in Juvenile Hall with nothing but time on her hands, Radigan studied for and passed her GED exam, then enrolled in a pair of online Cuyamaca College courses. After she was released from custody, Radigan took a class at Grossmont College, but soon fell back into her old habits.

“It wasn’t until I was pregnant with my now 2-year-old that I decided to come back to school and change my life,” Radigan said.

That was in 2017. Radigan was 24 years old and determined. Raising an infant daughter by herself, Radigan enrolled at Grossmont College, and to her surprise did well on a placement test. Almost as soon as she set on campus, she had found a system of support that had eluded her in the past - from the classified professionals who helped her fill out her financial aid form to the student hourly who took her on a tour of the college to the counselors who arranged for her to receive free meal tickets.

Radigan started by taking two online classes in each of her first two semesters, but she now goes to school full time, works full time caring for disabled veterans, and is raising her daughter as a single parent. She also surfs when she can. Her commitment and academic achievement – she’s a solid “B” student – has secured scholarships from The Foundation for Grossmont & Cuyamaca Colleges and Soroptimist International.

“Summer, fall, intersession, spring, I haven’t missed a semester since I got here,” Radigan said.

Her future plans?

“The future is uncertain for me as far as what I want to do for a career,” Radigan said. “But what I do know is I want to stay in school as long as I can. If that leads to a Ph.D., I’d love to do that. Being in college has brought me great joy and satisfaction. Education is the way that I am changing my life from where it was to being a better, more responsible citizen and being an example for my daughter.”