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Jerika Rosales Found Herself at Aims

Jerika Rosales’ educational journey has taken some twists and turns, but through exploration, she has finally found the path that’s right for her.

Jerika Rosales

Currently working on an associate of arts degree in psychology at Aims Community College, Jerika intends to transfer to Colorado State University (CSU) to study Music Therapy after she graduates from Aims in December 2024. The development of this path was anything but straightforward, but her experience at Aims allowed Jerika to explore different academic areas and activities.

She initially chose Aims because it was affordable and close to home. Once here, Jerika appreciated the support that she received. “It wasn't very intimidating,”  she said. “It was very open. It was easy to talk to people, and I got a lot of help. I really did. It felt like I could get it done with all these people wanting to help me with my education.”

Jerika has become an advocate for community college. She recalls telling someone that Aims offers the same general classes as many four-year universities at a lower cost and they transfer. This money savings allowed her to be flexible to try new things. “They gave me a lot of options,” she said. The lower cost of her education provided her the freedom to try different classes and areas of interest. “I felt like with four-year institutions, if I were to decide that I wanted to change a major, it would be expensive to just change to a different major. With Aims, I was able to change my mind.

Finding Inspiration and New Academic Avenues

Jerika is from Nebraska and attended Northeast Community College to study diversified manufacturing. "I was very technical and mechanical, so I liked the program," she said. She graduated from that program in 2017. 

When she moved to Colorado, Jerika desired to continue pursuing her education and applied to Aims to continue her study of industrial technology. That year cost her more because she was classified as an out-of-state student. Jerika received financial aid to get her set on this journey. "Aims helped me with scholarships. That helped pay for expenses that I couldn't pay for as a new student."

After some self-reflection, she decided to switch her focus, "I wanted to explore more of who I am and what I'm interested in," she said. "I started making choices I felt were best for me and was so happy."

She has always had a love for music. Jerika plays a few instruments, such as the piano and the clarinet. She is also learning how to play the ukulele. Instead of looking into the performance side of music, she pursued the technical aspects of the music industry. Jerika began learning about music and audio engineering at Aims. "I switched to audio production because I really loved music," she said. "The audio production degree was really fun." She struggled to find a job in the industry and took a year off. Jerika also felt that "something was missing."

She enjoyed Aims and wanted to come back for more and pursue psychology. "After graduating, I wanted to continue my education even more because I also like helping people and understanding how people are and why they do certain things," Jerika said. "I also wanted to understand myself at the same time."

Jerika decided to pursue becoming a music therapist after finding a pathway that merged many of her passions. She has always loved music but was concerned about it being a stable and profitable profession. One of the most influential people in her life, her grandfather, said, "Music majors didn't make enough money." This was hurtful, but Jerkia understood, "he was only looking out for me in terms of taking care of myself financially."

While in school, her grandpa's Parkinson's disease symptoms started to become more noticeable. As his health was declining, the family had a picnic and had a bonfire and camped together, just like old times when they were kids. Jerika felt like the event was a bittersweet goodbye and he passed away shortly after that. "I miss him to this day. He taught me so much about life and helped me understand patience and how to trust myself and what I deserve. An inspiration." 

The loss of her grandfather and his medical struggles drove Jerika to look into avenues, including exploration in the field of music therapy. In her research, she discovered how it can help people with neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's Disease. She feels this brought her full circle, "music is what I love and I can use it to help people who need it," she said. "The irony of how my grandpa told me not to pursue music and I'm now pursuing music to help individuals who had the same disease as him." 

Jerika's psychology degree from Aims when she transfers to CSU to get closer to her goal as a music therapist. She has also volunteered with Accentcare providing music therapy, "I plan to get as much experience and knowledge from volunteering there." 

She is an advocate for getting experience from volunteering through the campus experience as well as outside organizations.

Student Involvement and Engagement

While Jerika is still at Aims, she has increasingly become more active on campus. She first joined the Media Production Club to meet other students with similar interests, such as cinematography, video production/editing, audio recording, sound design, graphic design, animation, script writing, acting, directing and more. After enjoying being part of the group, Jerika eventually became the club's vice president. 

"When I first started as a student for Aims, I didn't think there would be student leaders," she admitted. She took it to the next level when she joined the Campus Activities Program (CAP) Board. Jerika's role was as a student programmer, concentrating on civic engagement.

Jerika appreciated the experience and friendships she made through these opportunities. "They took us on a retreat in Winter Park, which was great. We did all kinds of activities with our team and learned how to work together. We got to learn how to communicate with one another." This experience taught her an essential aspect of leadership. CAP members also got to travel to Washington, D.C., this spring.

"Just because you're a leader doesn't mean you're doing it yourself. It means that you can actually rely on others to do it with you. That's something that I really took from the whole thing; you're not alone."

One of the events Jerika organized and hosted was Indigenous Heritage: Past & Present in February 2024. Jerika worked with the  Indigenous Student Inclusion Group at Aims to develop the event. 

"I wanted to bring in Indigenous culture to Aims, and I didn't want it to be just traditional; I also wanted to bring in the current culture and awareness that people don't know about," she said. Attendees immersed themselves in cultural heritage through dance, storytelling, and a talk bringing awareness to murdered and missing Indigenous people. 

Another event she coordinated was a volunteer fair to connect students with non-profit and community organizations looking for people to get involved. Jerika feels the event was a win-win: students could contribute to the community and get professional experience through volunteering. "Students were engaged and interested in what the community had to offer. Our community received volunteers, and our students got to build on their resumes." She also advocates for students to volunteer with on-campus events and programs. "I know they have volunteerism for event planning, so that also gets them involved."

As the event encouraged people to get more involved, it connected with Jerika's mission to get people more involved. She recommends that students participate in on-campus activities and facilities. 

"If I met a new student, I would tell them about the clubs at Aims," she said. One of the examples she mentioned was the Aims Games Club. She explained, "They do a lot of board games and play Mario Kart. It's cool that they have students just come in and play games.

She also recommends hanging out at the Student Commons on the Greeley Campus to socialize and learn more about resources. "There's pool tables, we have TVs. They can watch movies or play video games in their downtime," she said. The Learning Commons is another amenity that expands the Aims experience on campus. "They can go upstairs, read some books. They can even rent out a laptop if they need one. We do have lots of resources," she said.

Jerika Rosales playing the uklele in the Aims Student Commons

"Trust the process. Don't be intimidated by how long it's going to take. What motivates me every day is that I want to be better. I want to be a better person than I was yesterday."

Pursuing Greatness and Thinking Ahead

Jerika looks forward to completing her degree at Aims and transferring to CSU. She will go far with all her work and forward-thinking attitude.