Spring Valley, Rifle CMC grads turn their tassels

Adriana Cabrera Topete, left, from Basalt, earned a degree in early childhood education and received the outstanding associate degree student award at CMC Spring Valley. Cabrera currently works at Aspen School District's preschool. Photo by Ed Kosmicki

More than 1,350 students graduated from Colorado Mountain College over the weekend at campuses and locations throughout the college’s 12,000-square-mile district, including Spring Valley and Rifle.

“This fact should offer all of us hope and encouragement, because every one of these graduates has an enormous opportunity — and now the skills and education — to shape the future of our beloved mountain communities,” CMC President and CEO Carrie Besnette Hauser said in a prepared statement as two days’ worth of commencement exercises concluded.

Over 80% of CMC’s students are from the college’s 10-county district, she noted.

The Spring Valley campus near Glenwood Springs hosted four commencement ceremonies Friday and Saturday.

On Friday, graduates from the Colorado Law Enforcement Training Academy held an afternoon graduation ceremony, and Saturday morning began with a traditional pinning ceremony for nurses.

Later in the day, 345 graduates who have been attending CMC classes from Aspen to Glenwood Springs earned various other degrees and certificates.

Among them was Kallan Brumfield, who earned two Associate of Arts degrees in graphic design and digital media from CMC’s Isaacson School for Communication, Arts and Media. She also learned that she had won the campus’s outstanding student award.

“Kallan has been dedicated to her degree and studies before and during the pandemic,” said Erin Beaver, a professor of English. “She has taken a leadership role with the creative writing club, fostering connection among her peers through writing. Kallan will do great things beyond CMC.”

Two other students also received special recognition. Adriana “Adree” Cabrera Topete of Basalt learned she was selected as Spring Valley’s outstanding associate degree student. Graduating with a 3.9 grade point average, she earned an Associate of Arts degree in early childhood education.

Cabrera’s educational journey at CMC began in 1999 with ESL classes, and she now works at an Aspen School District preschool.

“Adree is an inspirational role model to teachers and fellow students alike,” Professor Barbara Jackman, CMC program chair of early childhood education programs, said during the ceremony. “Seeing her get this award makes me so proud of both her and CMC that her hard work, persistence and positivity are seen and rewarded.”

Rachael Jones received the outstanding bachelor’s degree student award in addition to her Bachelor of Arts in sustainability studies.

“Rachael is flat out the most talented and driven sustainability scientist in the graduating class,” said Kevin Hillmer-Pegram, sustainability studies professor at Spring Valley. “Basically, on her own, she secured prestigious internships and ongoing employment with local and national partners. With her at the helm, society might make it after all.”

New nurses

Graduates from CMC's Spring Valley nursing program at the May 7 nurse pinning commencement ceremony at the Spring Valley campus. Photo by Ed Kosmicki

More than 70 students graduated from CMC’s nursing program, having completed their studies at Breckenridge, Spring Valley and Steamboat Springs.

Collegewide, 50 students earned an Associate of Applied Science in nursing, while 21 students earned a Bachelor of Science in nursing.

The time-honored pinning ceremony tradition for nursing graduates invites students to select a special person to present their nursing pins and share in their achievements.

Spring Valley associate nursing graduate Noemi Bacia Garcia chose her 5-year-old daughter, and fellow graduate Katie Stark asked her mom to do the honors.

“My daughter represents everyone, my side of the family and my husband’s,” Garcia said.

Eva Reyes Castillo’s mother has also played a role in her daughter becoming a nurse.

“She went to college and was a nurse in Mexico,” said Reyes, who graduated with an associate degree in nursing with her Spring Valley classmates.

Now Reyes’s children are developing an interest in health care.

“My daughter says, ‘I want to grow up to be a nurse like you, Mommy,” Reyes said of her 6-year-old daughter, “but I think my (4-year-old) son will probably go into health care. He gets up early with me and watches my lesson videos.”

Reyes graduated from Glenwood Springs High School in 2010 and completed an associate degree in Spanish from CMC last August. Her goal is to work in community health care.

Sibling graduates

Saturday was also a busy day at the Rifle campus, where college degree and certificate graduates received their diplomas, as did more than 75 concurrent enrollment high school students and others earning high school equivalency and workforce diplomas.

A separate afternoon ceremony was held for fire science graduates.

Two sets of siblings walked in the processional to receive their degrees.

Nancy Espinosa and Jonathan Espinoza (Nancy’s last name was misspelled on her birth certificate) are from Silt. Both received bachelor’s degrees in business administration. Espinoza graduated last summer and his sister graduated this spring.

Sisters Katie and Lainey Rhinaman from Parachute didn’t plan on earning associate degrees together. “It just happened that way,” Katie said.

“CMC provided me with a very flexible schedule and many classes I can apply to my everyday life,” said Lainey, who volunteers with the CSU extension office, while Katie is a long-time substitute at Garfield 16 School District.

Katie, who earned an Associate of Arts in elementary education, is planning to finish her bachelor’s degree at CMC, while Lainey will be transferring to the University of Montana to pursue a degree in wildlife biology.

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