Sticking to her Roots, Denver Native, DU Grad, Grows Next Generation
Susana Cordova realized a DU degree could help her strengthen her beloved community
Getting ahead in life meant getting out of the community. At least that’s what everyone told Susana Cordova when they urged her to leave her Latino Denver neighborhood behind.
An education was her chance to rise up, they said. To be more than a secretary or a factory worker like her parents. College could be her escape.
Then, as a first-generation freshman at the University of Denver, Susana Cordova (MA ’88) cracked open the blue cover of a Chicano poetry journal. As she read, she realized everyone had been wrong.
“It was a life-changing experience for me,” says Cordova, then an English major still searching for a career to pursue. “Getting educated was a way to invest in myself—my actual real identity—and give back to my community.”
Thirty years later, Cordova is giving more than ever.
As deputy superintendent at Denver Public Schools, she now leads the district that raised her. She’s spent the last three decades serving as a teacher, principal and administrator.
“I really have deep roots here,” Cordova says. “I can totally see myself in our students. I know I am where I am because of the incredible educational opportunities that I was fortunate enough to receive.”
She remembers the mentors, caring teachers and scholarships—lucky breaks, as she calls them—that allowed her to attend college. Now she works to ensure that every student in her district has the same opportunity to thrive, regardless of race, gender or culture.
From experience, she knows it’s possible.
“I never would have thought, growing up, that I would be sitting where I am,” Cordova says. “And I certainly feel that the quality of the education that I got at DU, the ability to grow my thinking skills and experience around language and culture, really positioned me in a very different way than I would have been positioned before.”