The Fighter Within: Why Pedro Arellano Won’t Give up on Education

CTU Alumni Success Story - Boxing GloveBy his own admission, Pedro Arellano has defied the expectations of almost everyone around him. Raised in a crime-ridden neighborhood, he could have easily become a statistic. No one, he says, expected him to be married - and he and his wife are approaching their 27th wedding anniversary. No one thought he’d graduate from a university. But Arellano is a fighter, and he’s never been one to let anything – least of all other people’s assumptions – stand in his way.  

Humble Beginnings

Arellano has long harbored a sense that he should pursue higher education. It was the kind of feeling that stayed with him as he grew up in a rough part of town and later as he embarked on a nearly 14-year career in the U.S. Army. Neither of his parents had gone to college and couldn’t advise him one way or the other. He was the first family member on his mother’s side, in fact, to graduate from high school. And while his father did have a niece who earned her bachelor’s degree, it took her nine years to do so. Arellano, in short, lacked more than just a road map to a successful college career. He lacked the keys to the car.

But Arellano has the sort of passion that defies odds. It’s the same drive that inspired him to enter the boxing ring, first as an interested kid, then as a soldier in the Army and now as a coach at a local nonprofit organization serving underprivileged youth and adults. It’s a passion that makes him teach the kids in his community how to take responsibility for their lives and to succeed at whatever they want to try. And it’s what eventually led him to Colorado Technical University.

In the Ring

Arellano began to pursue his Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice (BSCJ) with an emphasis on Human Services after he retired from the Army in 2000. It was a carefully considered choice, as he weighed potential careers like computer science before he found his true calling. His real passion, he says, is working with people and teaching them how to be better. His own life, after all, is a testament to that outlook.

So Arellano began pursuing his BS in Criminal Justice in earnest, working full-time while attending courses at the Colorado Springs campus as well as online.

Arellano is a firm believer that, when it comes to education, you get out of it what you put into it. His children, he says, were tremendous motivators for him to succeed. Although they are 24- and 27-years-old and have attended college themselves, they’re not too old to be immune from the example set by their parents. In fact, they can even help. Both Arellano’s daughter and son would critique his work, Arellano laughs, and offer feedback. “My kids are smarter than me, and that’s awesome!” he says.

If his children were motivators, then his wife, whom he’s known since he was 15 years old, was his supporter. She tirelessly cheered him on from the sidelines, he recalls, taking on his share of household duties so he could study, and counseling him when he doubted his ability. During his four-year college career, Arellano says, the classes got increasingly challenging, but he wouldn’t take back a single minute. He learned more than he could’ve imagined, he says, and there’s no way to overemphasize the value of education.


Having completed his BSCJ degree in March 2014, Arellano is looking forward to pursuing his master’s degree in social work. Success to him is both being self-sufficient and putting others’ needs ahead of one’s own. And so, just as his career will follow a socially-inclined path, his personal goals are centered on providing for his family. Education, after all, was his ticket out of a life of poverty that he didn’t want.
Ultimately, Arellano would like to create a legacy, both within his community and within his family. “You can’t quit,” he explains of his philosophy. “School is hard but not as hard as life. We’re not quitters.” And when it comes to endurance, he is the undisputed champion.

Image Credit: Flickr/Michael Glasgow

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