CMC Rifle celebrates grit, graduates and their stories at December commencement

Colorado Mountain College Rifle students, family members and friends gathered at the Clough Auditorium on Dec. 10 as about 40 graduates received degrees, certificates and high school equivalency diplomas and recognition of participation in CMC's high school concurrent enrollment program.
Courtesy/Ben Suddendorf

Graduates at Colorado Mountain College Rifle’s commencement ceremony each stepped up to the podium the morning of Dec. 10 to mark a milestone.  

CMC Rifle students, their families and friends gathered at the campus’s Clough Auditorium to acknowledge and celebrate the accomplishment of earning degrees, certificates and high school equivalency diplomas, a Monday news release states 

Rifle City Manager and former Rifle police chief Tommy Klein was the keynote speaker. Aurelio Rubio was the graduate speaker.

“Aurelio Rubio reminded the audience how much hard work, perseverance and grit it can take to live, work and graduate from college in western Colorado,” the release states.

Law enforcement, criminal justice

Rubio started school with CMC around 2008. He typifies the CMC student whose life leads him elsewhere, only to return to continue his education, the release states.

“I stopped attending after entering military service,” he said in the release. “I served with the 10th Mountain Division as both an infantryman and a mortarman. I became a wildland firefighter for a few years throughout my military service.”

After earning certification at the Colorado Law Enforcement Training Academy at CMC’s Spring Valley campus, graduate speaker Aurelio Rubio earned an associate degree in criminal justice at CMC Rifle. Rubio is also an active participant in the Common Grands veterans’ group at the Rifle campus.
Courtesy/Ben Suddendorf

Back at CMC, Rubio enrolled in the college’s Colorado Law Enforcement Training Academy where he graduated with a CLETA certificate and took a job with the New Castle Police Department.  

Rubio continued taking classes in Rifle and at the Dec. 10 commencement ceremony, he graduated with an Associate of Applied Science degree in criminal justice.  

As a veteran, Rubio has been involved with Common Grounds, a veterans’ networking group that meets regularly at the Rifle campus. 

‘I am a graduate!’

For Nicole Gray, earning her Associate of Arts degree marks a significant turning point in her life and one she started in 2016. Newly divorced then, she needed a new start. 

“I felt beaten and broken-hearted,” she said in the release, noting that she was facing challenges in going to college. “I had barriers. I was a single mother, a first-generation college student and I was an untraditional student.”

Nicole Gray graduated from CMC Rifle with an Associate of Arts degree during December’s commencement ceremony. Gray said it took perseverance and resiliency to earn her academic degree.
Courtesy/Ben Suddendorf

Fortunately, at CMC Rifle, Gray met Gethze Hammond, a college navigator and a TRIO coordinator at the time at the Rifle campus. Hammond introduced Gray to TRIO, a federally funded program that motivates and supports students in reaching their educational goals, the release states. 

“I was welcomed, encouraged and uplifted,” Gray said. “Ms. Hammond supported my dream of someday holding an academic degree.” 

Gray credits Hammond and Jennifer Boone, CMC Rifle assistant dean of student affairs, with helping her “push through periods of freezing up with anxiety,” to earn her degree. 

“I did it for myself,” she said. “I am a graduate. After many semesters, tears, perseverance and resilience, I have a degree.” 

“Accomplishing this degree has meant everything for Nicole’s self-esteem,” Boone added. “It has shown her that she can rise above her fears and accomplish her dreams.”

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