By Mike McKibbin

Photo of CMC graduate Jesus Salgado at the podium.

Student speaker Jesus Salgado addressed his classmates at Colorado Mountain College Rifle’s graduation ceremony May 5, 2017. The ceremony, held at the Rifle Garfield County Airport’s Atlantic Aviation hangar to accommodate the large audience, honored 270 graduating students. This was the largest graduating class ever at the campus, composing more than one-fourth of the college’s approximately 1,100 graduates this year. Photo Ed Kosmicki

A senior citizen and an immigrant, both first-generation students, and two applied engineering graduates were among the Colorado Mountain College Rifle class of 2017 to receive their degrees May 5 in the Atlantic Aviation hangar at the Rifle Garfield County Airport. Guest speaker was Carrie Morgridge, a nationally recognized philanthropist, author and CMC benefactor, of the Morgridge Family Foundation.

Realizing a dream

Marcy Sheppard is the first in her family to attend college and graduated with an associate in accounting degree at the age of 67.

“I have a friend who said I should be in the newspaper because I’m a senior citizen and I’m graduating,” Sheppard quipped with a chuckle.

Sheppard enrolled at CMC when she was 63, after she hurt her back at work, “and I was bored to death,” she said.

“I was never told in high school that higher education was important,” she said. “My family didn’t tell me that, either.”

After Sheppard dropped out of high school, she raised three boys as a single mother and earned her GED while living in Oregon. Now, she has graduated with a 3.5 GPA.

“In my first semester, I got straight As and I was amazed,” she recalled. “But the bar was set and it really bothered me if I got below an A, after that.”

Only eight classes short of a Bachelor of Applied Science degree in leadership and management, Sheppard wants to own a bookkeeping and tax service. She already has a few clients.

“I can see that is going to happen and never in my life did I think I could accomplish that,” she said.

Sheppard hopes her 10 grandchildren and two great grandchildren are encouraged by her accomplishment.

“I hope it impresses upon them how important education is. It’s everything.”

First a nurse, then a surgeon

Jesus Salgado — who was 12 when he left Mexico with his family in 2006 — is a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals student. The federal program allows qualified undocumented immigrants who entered the country as minors to receive a renewable two-year exemption from deportation and eligibility for a work permit. For Salgado, it allowed him to stay in the U.S., study and work. He received an Associate of Science degree in biology and has been accepted into CMC’s nursing program.

“I want to be a surgeon,” Salgado said. “In two years, I’ll be a nurse, then I’ll apply for medical school. I’ve always been fascinated with the complex and beautiful human body. And being a doctor seems like a noble profession, to want to help make people’s lives better.”

At CMC, professors “shared their knowledge, and that’s something you can’t put a price on,” he said. “They helped give me a reason to continue, along with God, my mom and my sisters.”

Salgado was the student speaker at graduation and shared part of his story with his fellow graduates.

“No matter the circumstances, you can dream.”

Engineer grads moving on

Crissi Boe is already a Colorado Mountain College alumna, with an associate degree in applied engineering technician. May 5 she received her Bachelor of Applied Science in leadership and management, and is already working for the Colorado Department of Transportation.

Boe took college classes while in high school and started her current program several years ago, along with her mother, Barbara Boe. Both earned 4.0 GPAs and were on the President’s List for several semesters. Barbara Boe is on track to graduate from CMC next year.

Crissi Boe was an intern at the CDOT Glenwood Springs office and recently started working there as a design technician, a solid first step toward becoming a professional engineer.

Boe credited CMC for giving her the drive to continue.

“Our whole class pushed each other and it gave me a better understanding of what to expect and how to adapt to changes,” she said.

Angie Fletcher earned an associate degree in chemistry from CMC in December and has been taking courses in the aerospace engineering program at the University of Colorado Boulder since January. She participated in CMC’s Rifle graduation ceremony.

Fletcher started taking CMC classes in 2014, when she “needed something new, a change of pace. So, I decided to chase my childhood dream of becoming an engineer,” she said.

Fletcher called CMC “a good stepping stone.”

“I had a big gap between high school and college,” said the 2000 Rifle High School graduate. “CMC made it much easier to stick to my studies and work through my goals to see it through.”