CMC students enjoy a day to give back |

CMC students enjoy a day to give back

Carrie Click
Special to the Post Independent
At left, CMC TRIO staff member and Mountain Valley Horse Rescue volunteer Heather O’Malley reassures Blondie, a Belgian draft horse at Mountain Valley Horse Rescue, after giving her shots to treat an eye infection. The fly mask protects the horse’s sensitive eyes. During February’s annual National TRIO Day of Service, Colorado Mountain College students (left to right) Alyssa Lowry, Kadia Soulemane, Ryan Kowalik and Maura Reed from Colorado Mountain College Leadville volunteered at the horse rescue, at one of several events where local TRIO students gave back to their communities.
Carrie Click photo | Provided

TRIO Fact sheet

• TRIO is a set of federally funded college-based educational programs intended to motivate and support students who come from families that typically earn less than $36,000 a year and/or whose students are the first in their family to graduate from college. Program participants must meet specific eligibility requirements set forth by the U.S. Department of Education.

• More than 820,000 students nationwide are enrolled in a TRIO program.

• The program began with the Educational Opportunity Act in 1964 and originally consisted of three programs, hence “TRIO.” Now TRIO involves eight educational support projects.

• Upward Bound was the first of TRIO’s programs, offering support for high school students to progress to college.

• The Student Support Services (SSS) program provides opportunities for academic development, assists students with basic college requirements and serves to motivate students towards the successful completion of their postsecondary education.

• Regionally, approximately 375 college students are enrolled in TRIO Student Support Services programs at Colorado Mountain College. The college offers TRIO SSS programs at the following CMC locations: Breckenridge, Dillon, Glenwood Springs, Spring Valley, Carbondale, Leadville, Buena Vista, Rifle, Steamboat Springs and Vail Valley at Edwards.

• Additionally, the TRIO Upward Bound programs at Rifle, Leadville and Vail Valley support 120 high school students.

More information from TRIO executive director at Colorado Mountain College, Laurie Lawrence, at or 970-947-8455.

Source: Colorado Mountain College TRIO programs

Blondie the draft horse was peering through a fly mask to protect her infected eye as it healed. The rescued Belgian was being given shots for her severe eye infection, and about 15 Colorado Mountain College students were on hand, ready to calm her with pets and words of encouragement.

Feb. 24 was the National TRIO Day of Service, and Mountain Valley Horse Rescue in McCoy was buzzing with Colorado Mountain College students enrolled in TRIO, a federally funded program that provides support services to students nationwide. TRIO Day is a time for students who are benefiting from the program’s financial aid assistance, academic tutoring and other support to give back to their communities.

CMC hosts two different TRIO programs: Upward Bound, which supports high school students who want to go to college, and Student Support Services, or SSS, for students enrolled in college.

Mucking stalls, cleaning troughs

Every year TRIO students sign up to volunteer on the annual service day, helping out at nonprofits such as the horse rescue, Habitat for Humanity or other community-based organizations.

The list to help out at Mountain Valley Horse Rescue always fills fast, said Heather O’Malley.

“The rescue is such a popular TRIO Day project,” she said. In addition to serving as a volunteer at the rescue, O’Malley is the director of Upward Bound of Eagle and Lake Counties, a TRIO program for high school students that helps them graduate from high school and go to college.

Though O’Malley usually works with high school students, on National TRIO Day she was glad to have the help of college-age students enrolled in the SSS program — and more. TRIO students, family and other supporters from Eagle, Routt, Lake, Summit and Garfield counties enthusiastically mucked pens, cleaned water troughs, groomed horses and spent the day hanging out with their new four-legged friends. The horses come in all shapes and sizes — from minis to drafts, young and old. The oldest horse on the 115-acre property is 46-year-old Sinclair.

“All of these horses have stories,” O’Malley said. They come from Eagle, Routt, Park and Garfield counties. Several have come from as far away as South Dakota.

Resiliency: A shared trait

These horses, like the TRIO students volunteering to care for them, are resilient, said O’Malley. “I see these students get drawn to a certain horse.

“Both of them have overcome something to be here.”

SSS student Gloria Chairez was busy raking a horse pen at Mountain Valley. She will graduate this May from Colorado Mountain College Vail Valley in Edwards with two associate degrees, in business and history. She is continuing on to earn her Bachelor of Science in business administration and isn’t stopping there.

“I want to become an immigration attorney,” she said. “I see people struggle and I want to make a difference.”

For more information about Colorado Mountain College’s TRIO programs, visit or call Laurie Lawrence at 970-947-8455. For more information about Mountain Valley, visit

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