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Close sisters graduate with class of 2006

Debra Crawford
Special to the Post Independent
Submitted PhotoJessica Hawkins, left, and her sister, Olivia, hold plaques for the David C. Allen Outstanding Student Award, which they received at CMC graduation for overcoming challenges to achieve their educations.
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Sisters forever graduate together. These are the words that friends and family of Jessica and Olivia Hawkins saw in the Colorado Mountain College graduation announcement on Saturday. Not only did these sisters grow up together, but they attended CMC, studied and competed for top grades against each other ” together.

While Jessica is on a fairly traditional student timeline, graduating at 21 with her associate of arts degree, her younger sister had to speed up to graduate this spring. At 18, Olivia got her associate in science degree using dual-credit courses to meet both high school and college graduation requirements simultaneously.

“They are two exceptional students,” says Olivia’s advisor, Mary Axelson. “It’s a teacher’s dream to have them in class because they are prepared, ready to ask questions and come with information, ideas and world views. Having both of them, together and separately, in history classes was a treat. Jessica and Olivia are phenomenal students.”



Grades won’t be final until the end of the semester, but Jessica is graduating with a nearly perfect grade point average, as is Olivia.

“Usually there was only a point of difference between their test grades,” Axelson says. “It went back and forth between the two of them, one higher and then the other; it was always a competition. But it wasn’t just the grades that mattered. The beauty is that they learn the material and understand what they learn. They enjoy the process.”



While Olivia struggled with age expectations, Jessica struggled with physical limitations and vision difficulties. However, limitations were never what their teachers saw.

“She is a very bright young woman and teachers adore her,” says Jessica’s advisor, Ida Burnaman. “She is the kind of student who makes teachers glad they went into teaching. We have even consoled one instructor because he never had either one of the girls. He missed out.

“Jessica is conscientious,” she adds. “She is a joy to work with, and if we could clone her, we would do it.”

The girls’ mother, Jean Hawkins, says she is really glad the girls, already close, have had this time together. “I think Jess really appreciated having Olivia on campus. Jess was a little quieter until Olivia got up there and introduced her to a new life. Jess doesn’t see well, and some people think she doesn’t see them, so Liv broke that barrier.”

Jessica says, “I love CMC. The teachers really make the whole college; I have endless things to say about the teachers. They bring their personal life to it, and I am glad I decided to go to CMC instead of doing online classes.

“I love learning,” she says. “I don’t always like studying and homework, but I love learning, and I am going to miss the classroom.”

She says she loves what she calls her “dream job” at the Glenwood Springs Community Center, where she is a cheerful face at the front desk. “I am totally happy and totally content and where I want to be. I may take classes online to get a communications degree eventually, but I don’t want to give up my job. It’s always changing and has great people.”

Olivia will change the sister act to head to school at Harding University in Searcy, Ark. She plans to study medicine and possibly have a double major in theater. She’s also been a highly visible presence onstage, most recently as one of the two actresses cast as Nancy in the Defiance Community Players production of “Oliver!”

Jessica says, “It will be really sad when Liv leaves. I am excited for her because she will have a lot of fun, but it takes a piece of me away. I will have to find something to do when she is gone. She is the spice to life “outgoing and funny and a lot of fun, and I love being with her.”

Olivia says, “How do I feel about my sis? She is a truly amazing, inspirational person. Jess has strength she exudes through everything she does. It doesn’t matter where you are; she is so encouraging and uplifting to be around. She is truly kind, and I am so proud of her.”

Debra Crawford is director of public relations for Colorado Mountain College.


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