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CMC graduates one of its largest classes ever

Despite COVID-19 pandemic, hundreds of students earn degrees and certificates

Colorado Mountain College students, from left, Juliana Garcia, Kallie Bumgardner, McKayla McKissack, Christian Vasquez and Camilla Bates and Spanish faculty during graduation on May 8.
Submitted / Charles Engelbert

Commencement at Colorado Mountain College is always a special day, but this year was different, the college said in a news release.

And, not different because students wore masks or because they had to physically distance. Different, in that commencement was not just a fleeting moment of joy. It was a triumphant celebration for hundreds of students who overcame hardship after hardship to get to this point.

Many students took advantage of more flexible class offerings and the CMC Responds initiative, which included waiving tuition, books and fees for the summer 2020 semester to help those affected by the pandemic.



Graduates of Colorado Mountain College Rifle line up before the start of the spring 2021 commencement ceremony on May 8.
Submitted / Charles Engelbert

“Life sometimes takes its turns unexpectedly, but it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish,” Dr. Carrie Besnette Hauser, president & CEO of Colorado Mountain College, said in the release. “I’m so proud of our students. They really turned a curveball of a year into a home run.”

Collegewide, hundreds of students crossed the graduation stage to earn a variety of associate degrees, bachelor’s degrees and certificates. A mix of tears and smiles dawned on students’ faces as they celebrated with family members and friends on Saturday at the Rifle campus.



Strong connection to her professors

Bianca Godina of Silt considered enrolling at other colleges after graduating from high school but chose to stay close to home at CMC. It ended up being the perfect choice as she graduated on Saturday with an associate of arts in communications.

“It was really important for me to make a connection with my professors because I learn better that way,” she said in the release. “I like to ask questions, so the small class size at CMC Rifle made it easier.”

Bianca Godina and her pup pose for a picture after the CMC Rifle commencement ceremony on May 8. Godina graduated with an Associate of Arts in Communication.
Submitted / Charles Engelbert

Economics played a role as well. While working two jobs, Godina was able to receive scholarships and grants, which helped her purchase her first computer.

A first-generation Latino student, Godina said, “I never felt judged and was always supported by my teachers, the faculty and staff.”

Over the course of the past year, Godina has served as a campus peer mentor, further expanding that experience of acceptance and support for her fellow Rifle students. She is also a member of the Phi Theta Kappa honor society and will finish out her studies at CMC with a 3.9-grade point average.

A college where she felt supported

MaDonna McAllister, 54, of Parachute worked as a hairdresser for 20 years until she was offered a scholarship at CMC. Taking classes part-time, McAllister earned her associate of general studies degree.

Her biggest challenge, however, was dealing with past trauma as a survivor of domestic violence as a youth. McAllister left home early in life but managed to graduate high school at 17 in 1985.

“The abuse affected my language and my writing, so I had to work really hard on that,” she said in the release.

McAllister excelled at CMC Rifle, even finishing some semesters with a 4.0 GPA.

From left, MaDonna McAllister with Tinker Duclo, CMC Rifle vice president and campus dean on May 8. McAllister graduated with an Associate of General Studies.
Submitted / Charles Engelbert

“I made it through with help from some great instructors,” she said in the release. “A lot of others didn’t think I could do it, but I was always supported by everyone at CMC.”

“We have been cheering for MaDonna since she first walked through our doors in 2015,” Tinker Duclo, vice president and campus dean at CMC Rifle, said in the release. “Her unrelenting dedication and perseverance have earned her a college degree, and we are so pleased and proud to celebrate this accomplishment with her.”

Reporter Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or rerku@postindependent.com


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