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By Donna Gray

For Nick Sanferrare, it’s been a long and winding road to his chosen career, one that brought him to Colorado Mountain College twice.

This May, he will be one of the first two CMC graduates to receive an Associate of Applied Science in criminal justice. He plans to become a parole officer. But the pathway to that degree led him to a first unsuccessful term at CMC, then marriage, a family and a stint in the Army.

Nick Sanferrare greets CMC Spring Valley commencement speaker Bob Chapman, CEO of Barry-Wehmiller Companies, and CMC President Carrie Besnette Hauser at Saturday’s ceremony for area students receiving associate degrees and certificates. Sanferrare was one of the first two CMC graduates to receive an Associate of Applied Science in criminal justice. Photo Charles Engelbert

In 2011, Sanferrare enrolled in the veterinary technology program at Spring Valley. He admits now that he was not quite ready for college at the time. “When I first went to college, I partied a lot,” he said.

But he also developed a strong bond with Colorado Mountain College. He volunteered as a student ambassador, spoke to prospective students and took them on tours around the campus, said his then-supervisor, Vicky Valentine, coordinator of enrollment services at Spring Valley. “He liked CMC enough that he was willing to sell it to other visiting students,” she said. “He talked about his experience at CMC.” He liked it enough that he came back a second time.

After an honorable discharge from the Army, Sanferrare decided he wanted to go back to college, especially since the G.I. Bill would pay for his education. He enrolled in CMC’s Colorado Law Enforcement Training Academy. And he volunteered again as a student ambassador. “He was so interested in the (police academy), he did so much better,” Valentine said.

Stu Curry, director of CMC’s CLETA program, was instrumental in starting the criminal justice associate degree, which opened for enrollment last semester. It offers students another pathway for those wishing to become a police officer or to work in the criminal justice field. Curry explained that students have to be 21 to enroll in the police academy. The criminal justice associate degree is open to younger students, who can take general studies courses and then transition into the police academy certificate program (CLETA) to complete their degrees.

There are now 20 students enrolled in the associate degree program, both new students and CLETA graduates, and two students are graduating with the criminal justice degree this spring. Tyler Churches was able to earn his criminal justice degree remotely, while living in Gypsum. He remains enrolled at Colorado Mountain College Vail Valley at Edwards to work on his Bachelor of Applied Science in leadership and management.

CLETA’s Curry pointed out that many police departments – such as Rifle – now require their officers to have a degree. The criminal justice degree “helps them be effective in their role,” he said. “They see the value of having a degree. It opens more pathways to be successful.”

Sanferrare chose parole work over becoming a police officer because it is an “eight-to-five, Monday through Friday” job that will allow him to spend time with his 4-year-old son. Police work, he said, involves a changing schedule. He said he’s confident he will be working for the Department of Corrections in either Colorado Springs or Canon City.

Although Sanferrare had something of a rocky start at CMC, he found the strength of character needed to put him firmly on the path to a promising career. “When I had my little boy, I decided I had to figure it out, and I did,” he said.