Photo of Isela Saucedo

Colorado Mountain College graduate Isela Saucedo, right, is congratulated by Rachel Pokrandt, vice president and campus dean of CMC Leadville and Chaffee County, before receiving her diploma for her Associate of Arts degree at the college’s Climax Molybdenum Leadership Center during May 4’s commencement. Photo Andy Colwell

By Mike McKibbin

LEADVILLE – Isela Saucedo will make her family proud when she receives her Associate of Arts degree from Colorado Mountain College Leadville on Friday, May 4.

While across the country many students will bask in their families’ respect at graduation time, a much smaller number can say they will also be debt-free.

Saucedo has lived in Leadville since shortly after her birth in Vail. She started taking classes at Colorado Mountain College through the concurrent enrollment program before she graduated from Lake County High School in 2016.

After high school, she continued studying at CMC and held jobs at Lake County Vision, Elevated Eyewear and as a Spanish-language translator for Mountain Valley Developmental Services: All three jobs at the same time.

“As a first-generation Hispanic student, I wanted to prove that going to college and having a career is possible regardless of financial status or ethnicity,” Saucedo said. “I know I have made my parents proud, too, and I get a little emotional about that.”

After graduating from CMC, Saucedo plans to transfer to Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction and earn her bachelor’s degree in radiologic technology.

As she told a writer for the college’s ”Education at Elevation” blog, many scholarships and college resources made her free CMC education possible: the Leadville Lions Club, Philanthropic Educational Organization (P.E.O.), the Summit Foundation, Leadville Boom Days Committee, the Catholic Daughters, Ski Cooper, the Leadville Race Series and Colorado Mountain College. And CMC’s Richard C. Martin grant will help her to pay for her Colorado Mesa education over the next two years.

“I want to keep going, so I thought I’d get my bachelor’s degree, start a career and hopefully be debt-free,” Saucedo said.

She credited CMC’s staff for helping guide her through the past few years, ranging from buying textbooks to providing support and assurance.

“The TRIO program and scholarships were the biggest help,” Saucedo said.

While in high school, Saucedo took part in Upward Bound, a TRIO program that helps high school students progress to college. The federally funded TRIO programs help students who come from families that typically earn less than $36,000 a year and/or whose students are the first in their family to graduate from college.

The TRIO Upward Bound programs at CMC’s Leadville, Rifle and Vail Valley at Edwards campuses support 120 high school students, and another 375 CMC students throughout most of the college’s district are with TRIO’s Student Support Services program.

“My parents inspired me to go further with my education and build a better future,” she said. “And I wanted to demonstrate to my sisters how to get beyond barriers and reach goals.”

Over the past few months, Saucedo said she “just gradually came to the realization that wow, I’m really doing this. Every sentence in a textbook and everything else really does build to something. So all the plans worked out in the end. I’m happy and satisfied and I have to say, all in all, it wasn’t a bad journey.”