Colorado Mountain College celebrates graduates with first public event since the COVID-19 pandemic
Colorado Mountain College celebrated graduation for over 100 students across the Breckenridge and Dillon campuses on Friday.
Hundreds of family members and friends gathered at the Breckenridge Riverwalk Center for the main graduation, and about 50 attended the nursing graduation at the Breckenridge campus. This marked the first graduation to allow an unlimited number of in-person guests since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic .
“It really is inspiring to join such an exceptional group of students who are working very hard to change our communities and ultimately change our world,” U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse said during his keynote address. “A world that has not necessarily been kind to all of you over the past few years.”
The topic of the pandemic lingered in speeches throughout the day, as most of this year’s graduates spent the majority of their education under its shadow.
“I thought I had it all figured out. Then, COVID hit,” student speaker Itzel Annie Delgado Lara said. “It completely derailed me.”
In her speech, she addressed the challenges of growing up in an immigrant family, the cost of exams and the hours spent studying late into the night.
“All of us shared a collective experience over the last three years. We have worked so hard to get here,” she said.
At the nursing program’s graduation, following a moment of silence for those who died from COVID-19, college President Carrie Besnette Hauser said, “I want to thank all of you students and graduates from the bottom of my heart — and the hearts of everyone at the college for choosing to enter this field at such a critical point in our history. You’ve started and continued your nursing studies at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Colorado Mountain College sent 13 nurses off into a high-demand industry after they finished their studies almost entirely in the shadow of the pandemic.
“To get all those curveballs thrown at them, and to still be completely dedicated to a nursing career, I think says a lot about them,” Hauser added after the ceremony.
This graduating class of nurses even spent part of their clinical rotation in a COVID-19 ward.
“No prior class has ever had to do that,” she said.
Faculty and students made goodbyes to some educators, many of whom spent more than a decade — and in some cases, four decades — at the school.
English and communications professor Joyce Mosher has been a faculty member for 47 years. In her departing note published by the college, she said, “I am grateful to have met thousands of arts and humanities students, sharing in their adventures of growing and learning.”
Associate professor Bill Painter will retire this month after 21 years of teaching chemistry and biology to “countless students.”
Another near two-decade veteran, Sharon Aguiar, an English as a second language professor, will retire later this month following 19 years at the college.
Margaret Gilmon, a nursing professor for 12 years and a practicing nurse for 43, also plans to “put away her stethoscope.” She encouraged each graduate to picture positive things: their roles as nurses, or the things that make them happy. For Gilmon, that’s skiing.
Each nursing student who was graduating selected a special person to apply their graduate pin. Some chose parents. Some chose significant others. Others chose their children.
The pinning ceremony is a school tradition and one of the final rites of passage before students embark on their post-graduate journeys.
Over 200 students participated in Colorado Mountain College’s first unrestricted graduation since the onset of the pandemic. Last year, students could bring a limited number of guests in the college’s effort to celebrate its students while managing the spread of COVID-19.
Since last summer, the Summit County campuses have graduated 12 students with associate degrees in nursing, and 10 students with Bachelors of Science in Nursing degrees.
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