Karla Berrum

“My parents told me, ‘Even if we have to work day and night, we will do it so you can go to college’”.


A Colorado native, Karla Berrum is the first in her family to finish high school, much less attend college. The child of Mexican immigrants, she understood the value of hard work as a student in the Denver Public Schools, while Christmas trips to her parents’ hometown took her to a place with no roads and few opportunities. “Other nearby towns did have roads,” she recalls, “but they were pretty bad.” These visits left an impression on Karla, who is now one of a growing number of women studying civil engineering at CU Denver. 

Meeting Melissa Rosas, the lead traffic engineer for the commuter rail project that links Union Station to DIA, also fueled Karla’s determination. “’She said, ‘If you like math, you’ll like civil engineering,’” Karla explains. “Well, I failed algebra, but that didn’t stop me,” she says. “I retook it, passed, and stayed on my path. One setback should not set back your whole life.”   

Karla credits scholarship support as the reason she chose CU Denver and the reason she has persisted. “Lots of people give up on school because it’s just so expensive,” she explains. “I wish I could tell them there is a way to get help paying for this, and that it will pay off.” Karla’s parents, who are committed to her education, agree. “My parents told me, ‘Even if we have to work day and night, we will do it so you can go to college,” she says.