By Sumiko Martinez on January 28, 2016

Welcome to the final installment of StepUpUtah’s Education and Success series! If you missed the first three posts, you can check out Part I here, Part II here, and Part III here. Keep reading for this week’s profiles.

Lexi Coon
Lives in: South Jordan, Utah
Attended: Salt Lake Community College, University of Utah
Degree: B.S. in Communication (2015)

Lexi infographic

Dancer, communicator, full-time hustler. After graduating from the University of Utah in 2015, Lexi is doing some serious hustling as she teaches ballet three nights a week, works in her in-home salon, and keeps up with her full time job working on Explanation of Insurance Benefits at Intermountain Healthcare. Her definition of success revolves around time and money management. Lexi says that “being able to balance your finances and time with work, family, and friends” is important to her.

On how college helped Lexi achieve success:

Lexi’s experience is a testament to the fact that college teaches you a lot more than what you study. She says that her success in balancing so many efforts comes from the time management she learned in college. She worked during college, so she learned quickly how to balance multiple jobs with her educational work. She also says,

“Majoring in communication helped me to learn how to communicate better with all ages in different scenarios, which has been helpful in being a better ballet teacher.”

Clearly, she is putting that education to work: Lexi finds fulfillment in teaching ballet to dancers aged 3 – 18.

On financial aid and success:

Lexi’s college experience was made possible with some help from financial aid. By participating in concurrent enrollment during high school, she was able to get a jump start on earning college credits. She completed a year’s worth of college for a tiny fraction of the cost and then finished up her Associate’s Degree from Salt Lake Community College with the help of some scholarship and grant money. When she transferred to the University of Utah to complete her Bachelor’s degree in Communication, she again received scholarships and grants to help to pay for college. She says that “only having to pay tuition for one year at the  University of Utah really helped a lot” to set her up for a low-debt, successful post-college life.

Lexi’s advice to students:

Good planning can help you to make the most of your time and put you on the path to success. Sometimes students spend a lot of time switching majors and taking unnecessary classes, so Lexi’s advice is, “Figure out what you want to go into before you start, so you can make the most out of your time and you won’t get burnt out and you can finish in a decent amount of time.”


Rainey Tadehara
Lives in: Salt Lake City, Utah
Attended: Salt Lake Community College (concurrent enrollment), Snow College, Weber State University, and  DATC
Degrees: B.A. in Philosophy (2014)

Rainey infographic

Philosopher. Political provocateur.  All-around cool person (and, full disclosure, the author’s cousin). Rainey measures success not solely in terms of a work life, but also home life. But being a philosopher, she also points out that the way you define “work life” is very important! Ultimately, Rainey says, “You need work to be successful in other areas of your life. I’d say that a successful life is when you’re able to work in order to play.” She is currently working at Jaybird, a Bluetooth product company. Rainey notes, “My degree hasn’t necessarily helped me in my career. I could be a lot farther into a career and making a lot more money, but I don’t regret for a moment what I learned. If anything, I regret not giving things my all.”

On college education and success:
Rainey laughs. “I wouldn’t say that I’m successful yet, but I would say that I’m getting there. It’s helped me be successful in other areas of my life that a lot of people don’t even think of. I feel that my philosophy degree has given me success by giving me confidence in my ability to think. Even if my work doesn’t agree with why I’m doing things the way I do them, I know why I’m doing them and I am happy with that.”

Rainey’s experience with financial aid and success: As a student who has both worked to pay her own way in college and received financial aid, Rainey found that financial arrangements profoundly impacted her educational experience.

“[When I was receiving financial aid] I was able to dedicate time to my studies rather than having to worry about balancing school with work. When I was working and going to school, I focused on working. I knew that I was either going to get the homework done or I wasn’t. When I had financial aid, I was able to plan out my day, take a breath, and actually enjoy studying, which helped me learn way more. I was willing to learn. When I received scholarships through my department, it also made me want to try harder because I felt like they wanted to invest in me, which was really important for my education.”

Advice for students: Rainey’s advice is all about making the right connections with other people and with your own passion for learning. “First – look into the professors. The professor makes or breaks the class for me. What helped me get through college the most was taking classes I enjoyed. You can talk to your advisors and work your way through the requirements. Take classes that you know you’re going to enjoy that you want to learn from.”

Sumiko Martinez is a Community Outreach Officer with the Utah Higher Education Assistance Authority (UHEAA). Learn more about Sumiko at, and connect with her on Twitter @SumikoMartinez.