By Carrie Click

There’s no question in Monica Sanchez’s mind that she chose the right college.

“Leadville is the right choice,” she told her fellow students, Colorado Mountain College employees and Leadville community members when she spoke at the campus’s 50th anniversary celebration in late March.

Photo of Monica Sanchez

Monica Sanchez graduated from CMC Leadville with an Associate of Arts degree on May 5. Because of her outstanding efforts at CMC Leadville, in late March, she was a featured speaker at the campus’s 50th anniversary celebration. Photo Katie Girtman

Sanchez graduated from CMC on May 5, at the Climax Molybdenum Leadership Center gymnasium. She has earned an Associate of Arts degree and plans to transfer to Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction to major in social work.

“I’d like to get a bachelor’s and a master’s as well,” she said. “I want to go into child welfare.”

Sanchez admits she wasn’t sure what direction to go when she graduated from high school. Originally from southern California, she moved to Gypsum with her family. But a personal letter from CMC President Carrie Besnette Hauser that offered a $1,000 scholarship to every graduating high school senior in the college’s six-county district, plus some additional schools in the adjoining service area, convinced Sanchez to give Colorado Mountain College Leadville a try.

“CMC has given me great connections and I’ve met great people,” she said. Sanchez has been a residence hall advisor and has worked part time as an administrative technician at Leadville’s campus while going to college. Starting in July, she plans to serve with FEMA Corps in Baltimore, Md.

From near and far

Gavin Laing is graduating from high school at the same time he receives an Associate of Arts degree from Colorado Mountain College. Photo Katie Girtman

At graduation, Sanchez was joined by other students who have come from near and far to excel at CMC Leadville. Will Carey came from New Jersey to graduate with an Associate in General Studies in outdoor recreation leadership and an Associate of Arts in outdoor education. An Eagle Scout and EMT, Carey plans on enlisting in the armed forces this fall.

And close to home, Lake County High School senior Gavin Laing is another success story. Thanks to taking concurrent enrollment courses, Laing graduates from high school at the same time as he receives an Associate of Arts degree from Colorado Mountain College. On both the Dean’s and President’s Lists at the college, he is also one of 240 students out of 2,000 in the U.S. who has received a coveted Daniels Scholarship to continue his studies.

A powerful message

Before the commencement ceremony at CMC Leadville, graduation speaker Erik Weihenmayer, right with his service dog Uri, met with students about to receive Associate of General Studies degrees in outdoor recreation leadership. Next to Weihenmayer is Nick Swerdlin, Ryan May (with gray bow tie) and Matthew Burns (with gold sash). Photo Katie Girtman

Graduating during Colorado Mountain College’s 50th anniversary year is a significant milestone, so joining these and graduates from both Chaffee County and Leadville was commencement speaker Erik Weihenmayer, adventurer, author and motivational speaker.

As the only blind person to summit Mount Everest, Weihenmayer is well equipped to give graduates a well-deserved sendoff. His recently released book, “No Barriers” has also been selected as the college’s Common Reader for 2017-18.