By Mike McKibbin
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Overcoming obstacles and finding a direction in life were the messages from two commencement speakers at Saturday’s Colorado Mountain College Steamboat Springs graduation ceremony at The Steamboat Grand.
They were among more than 1,000 students receiving degrees and certificates from Colorado Mountain College this week, at 10 different graduation ceremonies held throughout the CMC district.
Tayz (pronounced TIE-ez) N. Enriquez-Banuelos earned her Associate of Arts degree and was the associate degree speaker.
In one of her applications to a college where she can continue her education in studio art, Enriquez-Banuelos wrote about expressing herself through her chosen field.
“When I was very young, drawing became an outlet and made me feel close to my father, who was imprisoned when I was two,” she wrote. “Art brought color to some of my darkest times, and has always inspired me.”
She also described the challenges of growing up in a single-parent family, losing their home more than once and helping care for younger siblings.
“These challenges have molded me into the independent, motivated, passionate woman I am today, who will be the first in her family to attend and graduate from college, proving that no matter what challenges you face, it is possible to achieve your dreams,” she wrote. “I hope my hard work and dedication will motivate my siblings to achieve their dreams and financially take care of my mother.”
While growing up in Greeley, Enriquez-Banuelos learned about CMC. She said in a recent interview, “The mountains drew me here. I was very scared to leave my mom and my family, but I also knew I needed to detach a little bit.”
Enriquez-Banuelos credited the federal TRIO Student Support Services program for offering a helping hand when she enrolled at CMC. To show her gratitude, she painted two wall murals in the TRIO office at the CMC Steamboat Springs campus.
“My mural consists of mountains because it shows the beauty that Steamboat Springs carries and the peace the mountains contain,” she wrote in her art school application. “I incorporated an elephant because elephants are full of wisdom. They symbolize strength, honor and tenacity. The Hindus praise the elephant because it is the god of luck, protection and fortune. Elephants are big and strong; they can overcome any obstacle. My message is that no matter the color of your skin, disability you may have, where you come from, and whether or not you are financially stable, you can achieve everything you desire.”
With her associate degree, Enriquez-Banuelos plans to transfer to a college where she can finish her bachelor’s degree in studio art with a minor in ethnic studies and be certified as an art teacher.
Sustainability grads earn certification, too
Eric Ganshert received a Bachelor of Arts in sustainability studies and was the bachelor’s commencement speaker on Saturday. He moved to Steamboat Springs from Wisconsin, where he had studied international studies and political science at the University of Wisconsin.
“In the sustainability program we learn that the concept includes economic, environmental and social equity aspects. After my first year, I knew it was for me.”
During his time at CMC Ganshert also completed an internship with the White River and Medicine Bow – Routt National Forests.
“It helped me see more practical ways to implement my interest and skills in public service,” he said. “And the (CMC) outdoor education classes make school not seem like school because you’re out on rivers and camping in the desert.”
Ganshert hopes to continue his career in a role with the Forest Service.
Three other graduates earning Bachelor of Arts in sustainability studies are CMC’s first to earn an International Society of Sustainability Professionals’ ISSP-SA certificate. They took and passed the society’s Sustainability Associate exam as an optional component of their Careers and Professional Skills in Sustainability elective course.
Students earning both their sustainability degrees and ISSP-SA certificates were Bri Davidson, Jenna Hendrickson and Kyle Stepanek, who also earned an Associate of Arts in environmental studies. Professor Tina Evans earned the certificate, as well. She plans to pursue the ISSP’s higher-level certified sustainability professional (ISSP-CSP) credential.