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Along with her associate degree, Paola Batres also took home from Colorado Mountain College’s May 2019 graduation the David Allen Outstanding Student Award.

“Paola has experienced so much loss that many students would have given up,” said college counselor Debra Arnold. “She puts her heart and soul into everything she does, with a determination to succeed.”

Paoloa Ruby Batres

Paola Ruby Batres. left, receives the David Allen Outstanding Student Award from Abbie Kroesen, associate dean for Student Affairs at CMC Spring Valley during the Associate degree commencement on May 4. Photo Charles Engelbert

The award is given annually to students who have overcome obstacles, provided outstanding service to CMC or the local community, or achieved outstanding academic success. The college established a scholarship in honor of David Allen, who overcame a debilitating head injury and graduated in 1991.

Batres, who also goes by the name Ruby, experienced the death of her father and several years later, the death of her boyfriend and best friend. “She took her losses with grace and found the good in them,” said Kearstin Cameron, TRIO Student Support Services coordinator at Spring Valley.

Those losses caused Batres to turn from nursing to social work to be able to help people who’d been in similar situations. She has been accepted into Colorado Mesa University’s social work program next year.

Outstanding grads abound

Batres is also in good company with a group of 2018-19 graduates who are outstanding students in their own right.

Ben Schmidt jumped right into student life when he arrived at Colorado Mountain College. He served as president of the Student Government Association and was a student ambassador, helping new students get adjusted to college life. Last summer he completed an associate degree in outdoor education, and this spring he added a bachelor’s in sustainability studies and an associate degree in psychology.

John Carney has graduated with an Associate of Arts in outdoor education. Diving head first into the outdoor education program – including mountain orientation, snow orientation and interning in desert orientation – he also dove head first into his academics, accepting and overcoming the challenge given to him. “I had a fantastic experience at CMC,” he said. “I came with dyslexia and the professors were very understanding. They accommodated my learning skills and made it a very enjoyable experience.”

Haley Troxel’s math professor, Jason Vargas, said, “I have not encountered anyone so positive in algebra and calculus. I love to see students find themselves as learners … at math, no less.” Troxel has graduated with an associate degree in business and plans to continue at CMC to earn a bachelor’s degree. “I really do love school. It can be so stressful but it’s so nice to be part of a community,” she said.

Emma Ross moved to CMC from Niagara Falls, New York, knowing no one. Faculty and Student Affairs staff quickly took her under their wings. Ross has graduated with an associate degree in professional photography and was recognized as an outstanding student. “The photography program is absolutely amazing,” she said. “It’s not easy, but you don’t want it to be easy.”

Elmer Rogelio Bonilla has graduated with an Associate of Science and hopes to pursue a career in architecture. Aspen adjunct instructor Kerry Wirth, who is a personal friend, applauded Bonilla for his dedication and hard work. “His leadership style is like the wind beneath people’s wings, without expectation or a sense of being recognized,” Wirth said. She commended the many community service projects Bonilla has undertaken, including earning 135 Boy Scout merit badges on his journey to receiving the Eagle Scout rank while in high school.