Three historic educational bills passed by the Johnson administration, which created what are now known as the TRIO programs, are still opening doors for students locally and nationwide. Colorado Mountain College is helping students via TRIO programs at five of its campus locations. Our public information staff recently explored how these programs are changing the lives of students in each of these communities. The article below highlights how CMC’s TRIO program is improving lives of residents in Leadville.

[LEADVILLE] – Fifty years after President Lyndon Johnson announced his War on Poverty, at least one front has demonstrated clear victories in improving economic success. And that front is higher education.

According to a Pew Research Center study released in February, college-educated workers are less likely to be unemployed and can expect to earn significantly more each year than their peers with high school diplomas alone. As this income gap grows, more than doubling since the passage of Johnson’s anti-poverty bill, higher education has become a critical weapon in the fight for economic opportunity.

Thanks to an Upward Bound grant, Colorado Mountain College’s campus in Leadville has been empowering disadvantaged high school students to finish school and succeed in college since 2007. And through Student Support Services grants, starting in 1998, the campus has been able to extend the dream of equal opportunity in education to students attending college, adding students from Chaffee County in the past few years.

Upward Bound helps high school students graduate, reach for college admittance
Extra guidance is especially important to students who would be the first in their families to attend college. High school graduate Cristian Ortega, who is now in his second semester at Colorado Mountain College in Leadville, is a case in point. Throughout his four years of high school, Upward Bound helped prepare him for a future he might not have otherwise imagined.

“I learned study habits and what college might be like,” he said. “We went on several college visits, and I got an idea of what I was looking for.”

Allen Burch, Colorado Mountain College’s Upward Bound coordinator in Lake County, reports that 78 percent of students in the CMC Upward Bound program enroll in college, topping the 70 percent statewide rate. The statistic is particularly impressive because Upward Bound students are typically identified as at high risk for dropping out of high school.

SSS program offers extra support for extraordinary students like Ian Morrison
By the time Ian Morrison turned 17, he had attended four different high schools and landed himself in a juvenile detention center. “If I had told people then that I would be going to college and earning academic honors, no one would have believed me,” he said.

But that’s exactly what he’s doing, with a little help from Student Support Services. “Before, I didn’t understand the idea that people could love learning; now it’s helped define who I am,” Morrison said. “CMC has been phenomenal in turning my life around.”

He made the dean’s list in fall 2011and spring 2012 and was inducted into Phi Theta Kappa, the national honor society of two-year colleges, in 2012.

“My major motivation now comes out of my past struggles,” said Morrison. “What are the statistics of a kid like me turning it around? It goes to show that anything is possible.”

Rocky start leads to solid future
Morrison’s GED scores revealed gifts in math and science, but pursuing a degree had fallen off his radar until he attended a college fair in Westminster with an ex-girlfriend. Talking with a CMC representative made him think that higher education might offer him a fresh start.

Morrison enrolled in CMC’s ski area operations program and soon transitioned into studying for an Associate of Science degree. From the start, the SSS program helped him assimilate and find his way. “I just feel so motivated and incorporated,” he said.

He is currently taking 22 credit hours and is driven to wrap up his associate degree and move on to Colorado State University to pursue a bachelor’s degree in engineering, with a minor in sustainability.

“I’m super ecstatic about CMC and the faculty,” Morrison said. “I don’t think I could have done what I’ve done here at any other school.”

A hand up, not a hand out, helps students reach, exceed their goal
Through Colorado Mountain College, Morrison also began volunteering. He has worked the CMC information booth at Front Range college fairs, sharing his experience with prospective students, and has served as a volunteer in local schools.

“I’ve always felt this compassion inside that I can have an effect on the people in my life and maybe even the world,” he said. “I really enjoy helping people, and CMC brought that out in me.”

As President Johnson envisioned all those years ago, giving promising students a hand up delivers far-reaching benefits – not just to the potential college graduates, but to the communities they enrich.

To learn more about CMC Leadville’s TRIO programs, contact Upward Bound coordinator Allen Burch at or Student Support Services coordinator Christine Londos at

Link to Pew Research Center study, “The Rising Cost of Not Going to College”:

Link to TRIO website: