By Mike McKibbin
LEADVILLE — Earning a college degree or certificate before graduating from high school was not unusual at Friday’s Colorado Mountain College commencement ceremony in Leadville.
The college’s concurrent enrollment program helped a record number of high school students in Lake and Chaffee counties earn either associate degrees in arts, science or business, or certificates in culinary arts or welding.
Thanks to the Colorado Concurrent Enrollment Programs Act, or CEPA, high school students can start college with advanced standing in commonly required classes like English, math, speech, foreign language, computer science and psychology. CMC takes that even further by offering career technical courses like welding and culinary arts. The course content, quality and rigor are equal to the same courses taught at CMC.
“These students have also received generous support from the Leadville Trail 100 Legacy Foundation which provides support with course fees and textbook purchases,” said Rachel Pokrandt, vice president and campus dean for Leadville and Chaffee County.
“And this is all possible because of the strong partnership we have with Lake County High School and the support they provide their students to make these programs possible,” Pokrandt added. “We are also quite pleased to have concurrent enrollment students from Chaffee County High School earning welding certificates this year, as well.”
Taking free concurrent enrollment classes helps students graduate from college early, saving time and money.
Ruth Velasquez is a senior at Lake County High School and graduated from CMC this week with an Associate of Arts in business. She started the program as a sophomore and took online classes, then took classes at the Breckenridge, Dillon, Leadville and Edwards campuses so she could finish by the end of her senior high school year.
“My dad wasn’t too happy about me driving 30-45 minutes away,” Velasquez said. “But he and my mom always wanted me to get my degree.”
With her associate degree in hand, Velasquez plans to pursue a Bachelor of Arts in entrepreneurship at Colorado State University, then wants to earn a master’s degree.
“I grew up in our family business in Leadville, so my goal is to open a food industry business in honor of my parents,” Velasquez said. “Maybe a restaurant or coffee shop.
“I wouldn’t have done this without the support of my family and friends,” she said. “Every word, every action really motivated me to do better than good, to go big.”
Getting a jump on college and career
At this year’s graduation, a record number of high school students in Lake and Chaffee counties earned the following CMC degrees and certificates:
Lake County High School students earning associate degrees:
- Sandra Gonzales, Associate of Science
- Abigail Reigel, Associate of Arts
- Damian Medina, Associate of Arts and Associate of Science
- Emma Dallas, Associate of Science
- Ruth Velasquez, Associate of Arts
- Ariel Benney, Associate of Arts
- Patricia Galaviz, junior year: Associate of Science; senior year: Associate of Arts
Lake County High School students earning a basic culinary certificate:
- Nicole Gurrola
- Yoana Hernandez-Aparicio
- Matthew Koch
- Tierra Medina
- Karen Ramirez
- Tania Rascon
Lake County High School students earning a welding certificate:
- Matthew Espinoza
- German Leanos
- Lorenzo Aparicio-Puebla
- Uriel Bujanda
- Hunter Byers
- John Cayetano
- Marcos Pizana
- Isaac Reyes
- Irvin Rios Morales
- Arturo Rodriguez
- Kevin Romo
- Peleg Wadsworth