Commencement Feature: Jennifer Price breaks the cycle – and her own limitations

Jennifer Price has faced walls in her life, from single parenthood, putting herself through school as a first-generation student and struggling to find a sense of belonging. As she graduates from UCCS as the owner of her own yoga business, she is breaking down those walls – and building a bright future for herself and her family.

Ever since she was 16, Jennifer Price has been breaking down walls in her life. And when she graduates from UCCS with her MBA this December, she will break something even bigger: a generational cycle of poverty.

But more important is what she is building. Yoga brick by yoga brick, Price is building her own bright future.

Breaking the Cycle

Price grew up in a poor family in Spokane, Washington and emancipated herself from an unhealthy home environment when she was 16 years old.

“I’ve lived on my own since I was 16,” Price said. “I had my own apartment. I supported myself – I did reception work at a car dealership. I graduated from high school. I wanted to be a paralegal, and I was accepted to Syracuse University…And then I got pregnant with my oldest daughter.”

Price’s business, Yoga Worldwide, launched virtually due to COVID-19 – but in the future, it will be a space of inclusivity and belonging.

As she juggled supporting herself and her daughter as a single parent, Price also realized that a career as a paralegal wasn’t right for her. She dropped out of college, instead working as a full-charge bookkeeper. But she still had a hunger to earn her degree.

“At this point I had been married, had another child, and then gotten divorced,” Price said. “I was a single parent raising and supporting my kids. It was a really trying time for me.”

Yet Price succeeded in graduating from the University of Phoenix with a bachelor’s degree in business and human resources. She used the degree to start a career in the insurance business, working for Travelers Insurance, where she was quickly promoted to a manager.

In 2012, Price met her future husband, a writer who lived in Colorado Springs. She and her daughters, Kiarra and Leondra, moved to the Springs in 2014.

When Price hit a wall in her career after relocating, she knew that she and her family were finally on stable enough footing for her to earn her MBA at UCCS. And when she graduates, Price will be the first in her family to have earned a high school diploma – not to mention an advanced degree.

“I’ve been so emotional about graduating from UCCS,” Price said. “My grandmother started her family at 16, which was the lineage for me. I wanted more for my own kids. It was really important for me to break that cycle.”

Laying the Foundation

Even before graduating from UCCS with her MBA, Price’s business classes have paid off. After earning a promotion this September, she’s been managing a team of insurance agents – and pouring her passion for helping others into the work.

“The reason that I’ve pursued the degrees I have is that I want other people to see their own potential,” Price said. “That’s something I’ve always struggled with, in my own life. And it’s my passion project: helping people to see their worth, to see what they’re capable of, and helping them to reaching their goals.”

Price practices Tree Pose.

“Earning my degree is only going to continue to open doors for me to reach those people.”

By all accounts, Price is thriving in her new role. And at the same time, she is laying the foundation for her own business: a company called Yoga Worldwide.

Price began practicing yoga years ago. The practice quickly became a passion – and even while juggling a full-time job and her MBA, she graduated from yoga teacher training in July 2019.

“Even though I had a million other things going on and I really didn’t have room on my plate for anything else, I knew it was right,” Price said. “I felt like I was home, and I felt like I belonged. And that’s something I’ve never really felt in my life. I couldn’t ignore it.”

Now, Price is focused on bringing together the core principles of business and yoga to create a space where anyone is welcome.

“My yoga business is bringing yoga to people who may feel like they don’t belong,” Price said. “Because I’ve always been the girl who doesn’t look like she belongs in a yoga class.”

For Price, the practice of yoga doesn’t just bring physical benefits – it can bring emotional and spiritual healing to entire communities.

“When you step on your mat and move through the practice of yoga, it allows you to connect with yourself – not just in your body, but in your soul,” Price says. “It allows you to connect with pieces of you that maybe you’ve forgotten, or maybe you’re struggling with, or maybe places that need healing. I think that yoga can bring a person strength that they didn’t know existed. I know it did for me.”

Though Yoga Worldwide launched virtually due to COVID-19, Price knows that between the skills she learned at UCCS and her own determination, she can continue to make the company successful – and inclusive.

“I want to create a community where no matter what someone looks like, no matter their background or the challenges they have faced physically, mentally or emotionally, everybody is welcome,” Price said. “That’s the gift I want to give to people – the gift of finding themselves and finding their place.”

Building a Bright Future

As Price builds a business, she is also building a bright future for herself and her two daughters.

When Price shared that her oldest daughter Kiarra had just been accepted to UCCS, she smiled through tears.

“For me to see her accepted to college…” Price paused. “It means I broke the cycle.”

“There’s no feeling like that, to give my daughters a better life than I have had,” she continued. “Both of my kids want to be doctors. And the fact that it wasn’t a question just broke me open. It wasn’t a question of if they were going to college – it was a question of what to study and where.”

“I was able to show both of my daughters where hard work can get you in life,” Price said. “They were able to see not only the struggle, but the success, and to want the success for themselves.”

“And that’s it. That’s what I set out to do.”

Price will be one of a record-setting 1,100 graduates from the summer and fall semesters at UCCS. She will celebrate her achievement during the 2020 fall commencement ceremony on Dec. 18. Congratulations to Jen and the Class of 2020!