Sedillo fulfills her dream with degree

By Kortny Rolston

When Kassandra Sedillo graduates this month from the College of Natural Sciences with a degree in chemistry, the Denver native will have fulfilled a goal she set at age 12 during a science camp at Colorado State University. It was that week Sedillo decided she wanted to go to college – something no one else in her family had done – and that she would graduate from CSU. “I really loved the campus and the experience I had here,” said Sedillo, who is minoring in microbiology. “Everyone was very friendly and welcomed us on campus. I remember walking around and telling myself I would go here.” Her decision never wavered and over the next six years, getting into college kept her going as she and her siblings were shuffled between schools and families in foster care, “couch surfed” with her mother’s friends and, at times, were homeless. Her home life was in constant upheaval as her mother struggled with her meth addiction and to provide for Sedillo and her siblings. “I always liked school, especially math and science, and my teachers really encouraged me,” Sedillo said. “Everyone around me was doing drugs and having kids at 15 and 16. I didn’t want that. I learned from their mistakes.” Even after Sedillo arrived at CSU, she faced additional challenges. Without family or parental support, she connected with CSU’s Fostering Success program, which assists students who have come out of the foster system. “(Fostering Success) made sure I had what I needed,” Sedillo said. “My very first care package had sheets, bath towels and a shower caddy. I didn’t have any of those things. They become your family and help you succeed.” And succeed Sedillo has. She has maintained a strong academic record while helping to care for her younger siblings (two have lived with her) and to show them a life beyond drugs. She’s also conducted research for Tomislav Rovis, a professor in the Department of Chemistry. That experience helped her land a job at Gilead Sciences Inc. in Seattle where she will be helping to develop cancer drugs. “Kassandra is an amazing young woman. I had her in a class some three years ago and she’s been a member of my research group since then,” Rovis said. “She’s a pleasure to have in the lab and has taken to research well. Classroom success does not always translate to research success. Kassandra’s attitude and perseverance are her strengths.”