Students celebrate success at CMC Rifle campus graduation

[RIFLE, Colo.] – Ida Vasquez attended high school as a teenager but didn’t finish. For 25 years she longed to return to school and earn her general equivalency diploma, or GED, but four kids and a full-time job made her goal seem like an impossible dream.

“I work nights as an auditor and sleep during the day, like a vampire,” she laughed. Going to school seemed impossible, but Vasquez was determined. Once she made up her mind, and garnered the support of the faculty at Colorado Mountain College’s Rifle campus, she became unstoppable. “I’d come in with two hours of sleep some days,” she said, “but I never missed a class.

“I think I graduated in six months from start to finish,” she said. “My teachers kept saying I needed to give myself a break.” But Vasquez didn’t want a break; she wanted to earn her GED. “I’ve always thought that anything worth doing is worth the pain, and this is one of the best things I’ve done in my life.”

Vasquez credits her Rifle Learning Lab instructors, especially Leslie Getty and Janice Merchant, for bolstering her confidence every step of the way. “I didn’t have faith in myself, but having somebody trusting you and telling you you’re smart makes a big difference.

“I’m so proud I’ve done this,” she said. “Life is hard, but when you have to push that extra mile, you appreciate things more.”

Vasquez and her family celebrated her accomplishment at the CMC Rifle commencement ceremony on Friday, May 2. “Now I want to go back and earn my associate degree,” she said.

First-generation student Quezada graduated with associate degree – and no debt

Ricardo Quezada started taking classes at Colorado Mountain College in 2010. “I wanted to get myself adjusted to college, and it kind of progressed from there,” he said. At first, he wanted to study environmental science, but every year he found himself taking more classes geared toward a career in medicine.

Like many students at CMC, Quezada held down a job while attending classes. “You have to make some sacrifices to make time for all of it – work, school and homework,” he said. Quezada worked nearly full time at a tree farm while taking an average of nine to 12 credit hours each semester.

Not only did he graduate this spring with his Associate of Arts degree, he plans to complete his Associate of Science next fall. “I’ll finish both my A.A. and my A.S. without any debt,” he said.

When Quezada started taking classes, cost was a big factor. “The prices of the classes were great, and it was close to home,” he said. “I liked the idea of finishing a degree without any debt.”

Quezada will be the first in his family to graduate from college, what is sometimes referred to as a first-generation student. “I’ve gotten a lot of support from my family and from the staff at CMC,” he said. “You won’t get the same response at a big university. I wouldn’t have had the same one-on-one contact with my professors.”

He said he hopes to become a radiologist or work in a medical lab. “All these four years have been amazing,” he said. “I’ve got no regrets.”

In addition to honoring students earning associate degrees, certificates of occupational proficiency and GED certificates, Rifle’s 2014 graduation exercises also celebrate the second year of Colorado Mountain College awarding bachelor’s degrees.

Graduation was held on Friday, May 2, at 7 p.m. in the Clough Auditorium on campus.

Full-time campus Faculty of the Year Bob Von Achen, an English and literature instructor who holds a Ph.D. in medieval literature from Oxford University, is this year’s commencement speaker.

For more information, call CMC’s Rifle campus at 625-1871.