GREELEY, Colo. — On the University of Northern Colorado's (UNC) campus, change is everywhere – from the changing leaves to the students on campus, who are looking to overcome challenges and find bright futures.
"It was either now or never," said Luca Lovato, a new student at UNC.
He just started his first fall semester, but the road to get here was a challenging one.
After serving six years in the Air Force, he went chasing after his dreams even when it put him in a difficult position.
"It's a bit of an interesting story," he said. "I think there actually was a half a week where I didn't eat at all."
Lovato said for the first time in his life, he knew what it felt like to be starving and homeless.
"Living out of my car, trying to make that dream come true," he said.
Lovato was trying to build up his photography business.
"But, then I just wasn't getting any gigs," he said. "I don't think I even made money, I was upside down the entire time."
It was a challenge he didn't know how to overcome.
"I didn't make it," said Lovato. "I went chasing after a dream and it didn't work out."
His mental health started waning and he became suicidal.
"You start to lose your ambition," he said. "You start to wonder where you are, why you're doing this."
He was at his lowest point until a friend offered him a warm place to stay and reminded him he had options.
"No feat of greatness was ever accomplished alone," he said. "Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. Asking for help is helping to establish a foundation to build upon."
Soon after, he found out he could take advantage of his military education benefits.
Luca got accepted into the Aims-2-UNC program, which helps students transition from community college to UNC.
He's already earned his associate's degree in business and now is going for his bachelor's.
"I proved a lot of people wrong and I proved myself wrong," he said.
Any hurdle that comes at him now is a reminder, he can overcome anything.
"I aspire to be in a position to where I can help other people," said Lovato. "I discovered that I can do so much."
Now, he wants to pay it forward to help the next person who needs a little hope.
"It's not that the situation gets better. It's that you get better," he said. "You get stronger."
Besides the classes he's enrolled in now, Lovato said he's excited to start an internship at the Colorado VA as a licensed peer specialist.
He's hoping he can help other veterans out there who may be struggling.
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