Sights set on nursing prerequisites, associate degree, EMT certification – and more

By Kristin Carlson

Michelle Flores

A CMC Foundation scholarship is helping firefighter Michelle Flores  earn EMT and paramedic certifications.

In 2019, residents of the Salida School District voted to join the Colorado Mountain College taxing district, and voters within the larger CMC district voted similarly.

This year, the college awarded the first CMC Salida scholarships to three local students: Poppy Thorpe, Michelle Flores and Petra Fairman.

Thorpe, a graduate of Salida High School and mother of two, briefly attended CSU Pueblo but didn’t have a clear goal driving her forward. Now, she’s nearing completion of the prerequisites she needs to apply to CMC’s associate degree in nursing program.

Poppy Thorpe

With the help of a scholarship from the CMC Foundation, Poppy Thorpe is working to complete prerequisites to enter CMC’s associate degree in nursing program.

“Without this kind of help, it would have been hard to go back to school,” said Thorpe. “I’ve worked in health care for 19 years, but I was a mom first, so I always had to put school on the back burner. Having this program available in my mountain town makes it possible for me to pursue my goals. I’m just really appreciative of the opportunity to do this.”

Scholarship recipient Flores is a firefighter who also runs a not-for-profit clinic for first responders in Salida. She wanted to  take her EMS training to the next level with EMT and paramedic certifications, but didn’t see how she and her husband could stay afloat and keep their clinic operational if she returned to school.

No stranger to higher education, Flores had just completed a doctorate in acupuncture and oriental medicine (sometimes referred to as traditional Chinese medicine), and had the student debt to prove it, when she first met with program advisors at CMC. They suggested she apply to the CMC Foundation for funding, and she was awarded both the Zeke Pierce Memorial/Vail Rotary Club scholarship.

“Without support from the school, the Pierce family and the Vail Rotary Club, we wouldn’t have been able to do this,” Flores said. “The CMC program made it so I could thrive in school and keep the clinic going.

“As a paramedic, I’ll be a more valuable firefighter,” she said, noting that the supplemental education she will complete this December is also crucial to her future academic success. “I can’t write research papers and books on field medicine if I don’t do it myself.”

Fairman plans to pursue an associate degree from the college. Still exploring her educational and career options, she hopes to complete a degree in general studies to gain the educational framework she needs to build her future.

All three scholarship recipients expressed gratitude for the support they’ve received and gave special thanks to CMC staff for connecting them with opportunities to help achieve their goals. “I’m really impressed with this school, and I’ve been to a lot of schools,” said Flores.