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Karla James and her daughter Janelle Gebers both received degrees from Colorado Mountain College.Karla James finishes nursing program, while daughter Janelle Gebers earns veterinary technology degree

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado — Janelle Gebers has wanted to go into veterinary medicine since she was 6 years old.

She learned about Colorado Mountain College’s Vet-Tech Program at Spring Valley when she was in seventh-grade, and pretty much knew since then that it was where she wanted to pursue her dream.

What she didn’t know is that her mom, Karla James, would hear a calling to go back to school to pursue a nursing degree at the same time as her daughter headed off to college.

James, who had been working in a medical office in the Denver area, became interested in CMC’s nursing program when she took Gebers to an orientation session for vet tech students in Westminster.

“I kind of peeked over her shoulder to see if they had a nursing program, and they did,” James said. “I’d always thought about going back to school but it wasn’t the right time.”

[On May 1], mother and daughter turned their tassels together, along with about 100 other CMC Spring Valley graduates.

James, who has three older sons who were already out of the house, moved with Gebers to New Castle, where they have lived the last two years while earning their degrees at CMC.

On Friday, they were busy packing up to move back to Littleton after today’s graduation to start their new careers.

Gebers [received] her Associate in Applied Sciences degree in veterinary technology. At 19, she’s the youngest member of this year’s vet tech graduating class.

“This is the culmination and the start of the career I’ve always known I belong in,” she said.

“We sometimes bicker over which branch of medicine is the hardest,” Gebers said of she and her mother studying at CMC concurrently. “I said vet tech is harder because we have so many different species [of animals]. Nursing has its own difficulties, but I definitely think vet tech is harder.”

Vet techs are responsible for all facets of veterinary medicine except diagnosis, prescription and surgery, explained program director Dr. Jeff Myers. Since the college’s program began in 1970, more than 95 percent of its graduates have had careers in animal health or a closely related field.

Employment of veterinary technologists and technicians is projected to grow four times faster than any other occupation in Colorado, according to the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.

James said she had wanted to go into nursing for about the last eight years, but until Gebers graduated from high school it didn’t make sense.

“I’m single, and my kids are all out of the house, so it was just the right time,” she said

“I thought it might be kind of weird, but it felt natural, kind of a continuation since we live together,” James said of going off to college with her daughter.

She conceded that vet tech might be a tougher field of study than nursing.

“Vet tech students have more stuff to learn, more species to know all about,” she said.

James said her time at college and living in New Castle has been enjoyable.

“It’s a good program, and I liked living in a small community for a change,” she said. “I got involved in volunteering and it was just really fun.”

James and her fellow nursing graduates [had] a traditional pinning ceremony at 8 a.m. Saturday, where they [received] school pins before the graduation exercises.

A mother-son pair also [graduated] from CMC Spring Valley this morning, CMC spokeswoman Debbie Crawford said.

Valerie Curry from New Castle is one half of that pair. She also [received] her nursing degree and strives to become a family nurse practitioner. Curry currently works as a nurse at Heritage Park Care Center.

The ceremony for all Roaring Fork Campus spring graduates [was] from 10 a.m. to noon in the Spring Valley Student Services Center gymnasium.

Alexandra Yajko, chief executive officer of the Colorado Mountain College Foundation, [was] the featured speaker.

Longtime college supporters Jim Calaway and Bob Young, who earlier this year were among the college’s initial recipients of honorary associate degrees, [were] acknowledged at commencement exercises as well.

This article was reprinted from the May 1 edition of the Glenwood Springs Post Independent.