More than 80 community members received bachelor’s degrees, associate degrees, high school equivalency diplomas or certificates at the winter 2019 graduation at Colorado Mountain College Rifle Dec. 13.
The commencement speaker was Ricardo Hernandez, who since emigrating from Mexico has seen a career spanning semi-pro football to public radio to law enforcement, banking and teaching. He currently works at Alpine Bank and teaches salsa dancing, as well as the Intercambio language-exchange class at CMC.
He arrived in the United States to play semi-pro football in California for the San Francisco Forty Niners developmental team.
After playing for three years, he moved to Aspen to care for his ill uncle. Within a few months, he became the producer, and then host for the first bilingual radio show in Aspen, and worked for KAJX public radio for almost a decade.
Hernandez graduated from the National Polytechnic Institute in Mexico City, and later from the Colorado Sheriff College, and his two children are CMC alumni.
He said, “Education is important because it’s the way we can create a better society – more tolerant, more peaceful and financially stable. This is the only way to become better human beings.”
Good luck follows hard work
Hernandez has worked as a deputy in the Garfield County jail and currently works at Alpine Bank, and teaches salsa dancing at the community center in Glenwood Springs.
He was there during the early days of CMC’s Intercambio program in Glenwood, in which native Spanish and English speakers come together to help each build the skills and confidence to speak another language. Still passionate about teaching, 20 years and hundreds of students later, he still assists with the class.
Among the advice Hernandez has for graduating students is “be someone that everybody wants to work with. Only if you work harder, you will have good luck.”
He shared advice that he once received from his own father, who was also a football player. In the same manner a coach would speak to his players, his father said, “You graduate today, and you will start a game that lasts for the rest of your life. You will be the quarterback. Behind you is a great and powerful backfield; their names are Faith, Hope and Charity. And you will be counting on a great line, named Loyalty, Devotion, Commitment, Respect for Yourself and Others, Learning and Good Conduct.
“In time, take your knowledge, your experiences, your defeats, and wrap them in your arm like a football. Jump onto the field and see what you can accomplish,” he said.
An on-campus graduation ceremony for EMT students was also held Saturday, Dec. 14.