A long journey for CMC grad Kathy Summers
special to the daily
SUMMIT COUNTY – When Colorado Mountain College student Kathy Summers got a call from the graduation organizer at the Summit Campus, she thought it meant she might not graduate.
But Dr. Dawn Zoni was calling to let her know that she had been honored by faculty and staff as the student speaker and master of ceremonies. So her adventurous life changed course again, as it has many times.
Summers, a 22-year Summit County resident, had a long road to higher education, but when she did arrive at Colorado Mountain College, she excelled. She finished her requirements for her Associate of Arts degree in December and will start working this fall on her bachelor’s degree at the University of Denver. Her plan is to continue on and earn a master’s.
Her instructors at Colorado Mountain College say Summers is an inspiring, hard-working student who brings a sense of excitement and curiosity to class.
“Her story is very rich and inspirational to me because education was not at all a part of her life,” said Dr. Joyce Mosher, associate professor of English and humanities. “She’s a young woman who, without a lot of education, developed a lot of talents in herself. She came to us bringing all those riches.”
Summers grew up with adoptive parents in an affluent family in Huntington Beach, Calif. Almost inexplicably one day when she was enjoying a carefree life at age 16, her parents divorced. The “good kid” unexpectedly ended up in a youth halfway home, what she called “a scary place with juvenile offenders.” That short stay led to two months of living in her two-door coupe and working a full-time job while still a teenager. She never finished high school.
She later moved to Summit County and supported herself working in restaurants and bars, and traveled on extended bike or ski trips across the world. She biked across Indonesia for three months, and from Monaco to Morocco for another three months, as well as throughout Southeast Asia for another year. She camped alone on the beach in Mexico for a winter. She has skied in Japan, Chile, Argentina and France.
Her travel experiences molded her thinking, including when she observed children looking through a schoolyard fence in Laos. They were looking on longingly at the students who could afford to pay to attend school.
“I’ve been touched by various experiences while traveling, and those experiences have given me the courage to know I can accomplish anything,” Summers said.
She decided to go back to school for her GED (general equivalency diploma). Her friends in Summit County didn’t know what she called “her deep, dark secret” that she did not finish high school, so she drove to the Colorado Mountain College campus in Edwards for test-preparation classes. She stopped taking those classes because she did not want to tell her then-boyfriend, who is now her husband. She started classes again and received her GED.
“I had so much emotional baggage that I had carried all those years, and I was excited because I knew I could change the past,” Summers said.
In the fall of 2007, she started college at the CMC Summit Campus. With a limited academic background, she found college classes to be a challenge. To get through, she remembered the trials she had faced and overcome, such as riding a bike 200 miles in one day in up to 115-degree heat to make a plane flight.
“I’ve used those different things that were physically challenging to me in my life to say, ‘If I could do that, I can do this,'” said Summers, who at Colorado Mountain College became a member of Phi Theta Kappa, the national honor society for two-year colleges.
She has been accepted at the University of Denver, where she plans to study psychology with a minor in sociology. Attending DU will be another challenge, considering the commute from Summit County. She hopes to go into the field of social welfare and eventually have a private counseling practice.
On the graduation stage, the student speaker plans to express her appreciation to the supportive staff and faculty at the college. She said that without the support of others at key times through her life, her path could have looked much different.
“I could have ended up a lot less lucky and successful,” Summers said. “I feel like it’s important for me to give back to our community and to the global community.”
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