Christina Montrose: Phoenix Scholarship

OVERCOMING GRIEF TO ASSIST OTHERS IN NEED

Christina Montrose has overcome many challenges in her life. She grew up in a household with an alcoholic father who insisted college was a waste of time and money.

Even though she was enrolled in honors classes and edited the yearbook at Bellingham High School in Washington, Christina chose not to attend college after graduation. She briefly attended Northern Arizona University in her 20s, but quit after a close friend took his life.

After marrying her husband Don, they both decided they would go back to school – with Christina waiting until their children were in elementary school. Don earned his degree but tragically died from heart failure at the age of 37 in 2012. At the time, their daughter Dominique was just four years old and son Dante was only one.

Her heart shattered and the young family’s income cut by 75 percent, Christina gave every ounce of the energy she could summon to parenting two grieving young children. She also decided to downsize and cut expenses to make ends meet.

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“Over the last seven years, we’ve traded possessions for experiences and I’ve tried to show my children how to live life to the fullest potential possible,” explains Christina. “We don’t have a large house or a fancy car, but we have traveled, lived and learned together, always trying to find joy through our pain.”

One day, while Dominique and Dante were both at school, Christina decided it was time for her to ardently pursue her college degree. If nothing else, she wanted to serve as a strong example for her beloved children. She enrolled at Ventura College with an eye towards earning a business administration degree – with a focus on non-profit organization management.

“I want them to know that no matter how old you are, you’re never too old to accomplish your goals,” explains Christina, who also works part time and devotes time and energy to school PTA, Ventura Adult Center and Girl Scout Leader duties. “There are days when we all want me to quit so that I can focus my full energy on them instead of studying, but we have all agreed that education is important, as is following through on your commitments.”

Seven years have passed since Don’s untimely death, and today, Christina views her education as “an integral part of us rebuilding our lives together.” Equally important has been the San Buenaventura Women’s Club and Stan Weisel Phoenix Scholarships she received from the Ventura College Foundation.

“I intend to finish my degree and show my children that hard work will always pay off, no matter what your age,” says Christina. “My children see how hard I work and know that a college education is a path to a better life.”

On track to graduate in the spring of 2020, Christina plans to then launch a non-profit organization that helps teenagers and young adults who are grieving the loss of a family member.

“Widows from my community post that most teenagers and young adults often have to grieve alone, which increases their vulnerability and reduces their resilience,” says Christina. “I’m inspired to start a not-for-profit organization capable of supporting bereaved teenagers and young adults through group sessions, online therapy options and Outward Bound-style travel opportunities that focus on grief and healing.”

Christina knows none of this would be possible without the assistance of the Ventura College Foundation’s programs, scholarships and donors.

“The Foundation scholarships that I receive allow me to focus on school and my children without having to worry so much about work in that mix as well,” explains Christina. “I’m able to pursue my education and still enjoy time with my children thanks to the Foundation. The flexibility of online classes, flexible schedules, the scholarship financial assistance – it has all allowed me to keep being a mom as my main priority.”