This article was printed in the Vail Daily News. By Randy Wyrick.
BEAVER CREEK — Commencement is, by its very nature, the year’s most hopeful season. If commencements weren’t usually in the spring, then we’d have to move spring.
Colorado Mountain College kicked this spring’s season of hope Friday evening with its graduation ceremony in Beaver Creek’s Vilar Performing Arts Center.
WORDS TO THE WISE
CMC’s graduates range from 18 to sometimes 80. Their degrees range from sustainability studies to fire science, and most had to struggle to take their commencement walk.
As they make that longed-for stroll across the stage, CMC counselor Larry Dutmer read a quote they’d either written or selected, things like:
“Life is not about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.”
Or, “It wasn’t luck. It was my family. I’m thankful to have them by my side.”
And this: “The juice was worth the squeeze.”
‘MY FAVORITE DAY’
Dr. Kathryn Regjo is CMC’s new vice president and director of the Edwards campus. This was her first CMC commencement.
“This is my favorite day of the year,” she said. “It takes an entire and college community to make this happen.”
In addition to granting associate degrees and certificates, this year’s commencement also celebrates the third year CMC graduates earned bachelor’s degrees.
In fact, five students graduated Friday night with associate degrees before they graduate high school later this month. In other words, they finished their first two years of college before they even go to college.
Local high school students can take classes that earn them college credit through CMC. If they take enough of those and their grades are good, then they can earn an associate degree. Five did it: Raquel Carillo, Mike Ramunno, Fatima Blanco, Carly Volkmer and Rachel Marie-Weiss.
SUSTAINABLE LIVES; SUSTAINABLE WORLD
Nicole Maline gave this year’s graduate address. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in sustainability studies.
Maline said she was happily surprised when she learned she could earn her BA at CMC, one of the college’s initial four-year programs. She had been waiting 16 years to finish her bachelor’s, and when she found it, she knew she’d found a home.
“This was my perfect path,” Maline said.
She said her sustainable world would be built around diverse people who are paid a fair wage but still have enough time to raise a family.
Add some rooftop beehives and alternative energies, and the use of plastic is on the decline. It’s an economy where manufacturing is done responsibly and the wealth gap is growing smaller, she said.
“And all trade is fair trade,” Maline said. “That is what sustainability looks like to me.”
Small actions involving many people can make a difference, she said.
It could be something as simple as filtered water fountains where reusable water bottles can be refilled.
“They’re now all over the campus,” Maline said.
Fewer plastic bottles mean less waste and less empowering corporate interests that want to privatize water, “when it should be available for all people for free,” Maline said.
“The time is now for solutions,” Maline said. “This work is not unattainable. It can be our reality we must strive for it now.”
We should all strive for the triple bottom line: profits, planet and people.
“Love the bees, be kind to your neighbors and recycle more. You are capable of more than you know,” Maline said.
“Our theme this year is ‘The time is now.’ And indeed it is,” Maline said.
Student and faculty stars
At the ceremony Friday, the school recognized this year’s student and faculty stars:
Phi Theta Kappa finished their degrees with top academic marks. Kimberly Wynn was foremost among them. She was the top graduate. She earned a perfect 4.0 GPA.
Spanish teacher Carol Koch is the full-time Faculty Member of the Year.
Business professor Dr. Cynthia Bell is the adjunct Faculty Member of the Year.
Pat Hammon won this year’s Distinction in Service Award. She was a nurse in Vietnam and spearheads CMC’s home health care training program.
Time to turn their tassels
Cheers erupted for every graduate who crossed the stage. When the last one took that walk, Regjo returned to the podium.
“What I hear is an immense amount of gratitude and an immense amount of learning,” she said.
The graduates then stood, turned around to smile and wave at their families and friends, who were giving them a standing ovation that they, too, had earned.
They turned back around and faced the stage from their seats in the front of the Vilar Performing Arts Center to be pronounced college graduates.
They turned their tassels from right to left, cheered themselves and their families and strode confidently into the rest of their lives.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vail daily.com.