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From Hardship to Helping Hands

Discover Mistie Trefry's extraordinary journey from a challenging upbringing to academic success and her impactful work in non-profit organizations. Her story is a testament to resilience, determination, and the power of community support.

Portrait of Mistie Trefry with her academic degrees

Mistie Trefry was the first in her immediate family to attend college and the first in four generations to graduate. She grew up in eastern Washington and often heard college wasn’t for her. Having lived a difficult childhood and adolescence, Mistie also had to prioritize work over attending middle school to help support her family. She estimates she only attended school for two months in her eighth-grade year. “My counselor only passed me because she didn’t want me to be a 16-year-old eighth-grader.” 

Mistie started her ninth-grade year still working many hours to support her family. However, because of many absences, her principal didn’t allow her to return for the second semester, so Mistie made her first attempt at completing a GED. Not much time passed before Mistie quit that program to be able to work more hours. Due to more life circumstances, Mistie left her mother’s home and moved in with another family member, where she continued to work and tried to “live the life of a normal ninth-grader at the age of 17”. Mistie left Washington and moved to Arizona. There, she attempted to complete her tenth-grade year before tragedy struck back at home. Mistie felt she had to return to care for and support her younger siblings again, so she dropped out of high school and returned to eastern Washington. 

Two years later, Mistie completed a GED program and made several attempts at starting college. It was in 2008 that Mistie tried again at Aims Community College on the Greeley Campus. She was able to stay the course to receive an AA degree before transferring to UNC to pursue a BS in Business Administration and an MA in Higher Education and Student Affairs Leadership. 

While attending Aims, Mistie ran a photography business, worked in Aims’ recruiting office, and later transitioned into the admissions department as an admissions assistant. Mistie also started a student organization called Women in Transition Together (W.i.T.T.), which focused on helping women achieve their academic endeavors. In that organization, they learned that when women lift each other up instead of competing with one another, they succeed at a much greater rate. You can read more about that program here. Following the inception of W.i.T.T., Mistie began serving on the Board of Directors for a local nonprofit, Women2Women. 

Looking back, Mistie said, “My journey introduced me to the nonprofit sector, which has allowed me opportunities to grow in other areas, such as leadership, program development, outreach, fundraising, team building, and more . She uses these skills in a nonprofit, Operation North Star (ONS), a grassroots nonprofit in Weld County, which she co-founded with others. ONS aims to support children needing coats in schools with a population of 85% or higher on free and reduced lunch programs. The genesis of ONS was at an elementary school Mistie attended in eastern Washington. She and her husband still support it today by sending support for coats.

Mistie’s full-time, daily work is at a nonprofit serving single parents called Project Self-Sufficiency, which serves Larimer and Weld Counties in Northern Colorado. While the program is housed in Larimer County, they have program participants who currently attend Aims in Greeley and Loveland. Mistie enjoys her work and says, “I am grateful to be here at Project Self-Sufficiency to assist individuals as they navigate their academic and career pathways. 

If you are interested in finding out more about Project Self Sufficiency, visit the website here

Mistie is an incredible example of the numerous individuals who have found success at Aims Community College. She attributes it to many instructors, staff, and other students during her time here. Still, she deserves enormous applause, not only for enduring and not giving up but also for bringing others along with her on a journey to success.