The Sells-Wheeler Family By Natalia Sells

My name is Natalia Sells (Business Management, ‘18) and I am a second-generation Fort Lewis College alumna. My parents, Earlisa Sells (Student-Constructed Major, ‘06) and Leon Wheeler (Psychology, ‘06 and Student-Constructed Major, ‘07), started at FLC in 2004 when I was 10 years old.

Since we lived in Shiprock, New Mexico, my father commuted to Durango for his lecture classes every other day. Often, he would sleep in the family truck to save on gas and money. Sometimes he would take my siblings and me to the College, where he would reserve a corner window study hall room on the second floor of the Education Business Hall. I remember reading my book and looking out the window at the students changing classes. My younger sister, then three years old, sometimes sat with Dad in his lecture classes.

Prior to completing their degrees, my parents struggled to make ends meet. We witnessed firsthand how a college degree opens access to opportunities and financial stability. After graduating, my father worked as a history teacher at a local school and my mother’s pay grade increased. They were able to send us to a local college-prep high school, and through Dad’s job, we had health insurance. When they would go on their summer education trainings, we got to travel to different parts of the U.S.

After graduating from high school in 2014, I joined FLC as a full-time, ‘traditional’ student. With enough scholarships to afford my room and board, I was able to partake in campus culture. I graduated in 2018, debt-free, with my Business Administration degree and decided to pursue a career in higher education. My younger brother, Kyii Sells-Wheeler, started at FLC in Fall 2018, declaring a major in Engineering. After our dad, he is set to become the second man in our family to earn a bachelor’s degree. He has already been awarded multiple recognitions, like the Cobell Scholarship, Chief Manuelito Scholarship, and the American Indian Graduate Center Wells Fargo Scholarship.

Our family appreciates the affordability of Fort Lewis College and the opportunities higher education presents. Our parents’ story has made us appreciate the value of an education and how we can use it to help our own communities.