Summit High ’14 grad Joel Gomez looks to find the solution to success
April 27, 2017
Since arriving to Summit County in 2010, Joel Gomez has been working through solving the formula for success.
Recognizing the inadequacies of the education framework in his home of Chihuahua, Mexico, combined with the growing violence and corruption there, the decision to leave wasn't a difficult one. Gomez moved in part to improve his English, but facing challenges learning the new tongue, he relied on the universal language of math to make the transition smoother.
"When I moved here I didn't speak much English, so it was kind of nice to explore the math world," said Gomez. "Some of the concepts are different, but most of it is the same. So I felt very comfortable with math."
His diligence with his studies led to proficiency in speaking and writing, but he never lost sight of his love of numbers and growing interest in science following graduation in 2014. Now nearing completion of his associate's degree at Colorado Mountain College, the 20-year-old has his brain fully trained on becoming a mechanical engineer. Gomez wants to work in energy and sustainability, helping make improvements to everyday tools, devices and systems.
Covering the cost of school and saving up for the next phase of his academic career — even at the lower-cost local community college network — still hasn't been totally seamless. It's taken working full-time most of the way, shifting from jobs in retail and car service to a summer landscaping gig to settle on a solution. This winter, the Summit Cove resident segued to shoveling snow at townhomes throughout the county. All the while, Gomez has methodically continued making strides at CMC.
"I try to juggle things and balance, and sometimes I give up some stuff," he said. "I need to figure out the system and how it works. I don't do well on all aspects of doing homework, but I try to do things that are not going to impact my grades."
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The 80-hour weeks mowing lawns and trimming hedges is finally paying off, though, as he approaches graduating in May with honors. Gomez has already been accepted to the Colorado School of Mines in Golden for the next two or three years of schooling, and will move to the metro area to start in August.
"Obviously, Joel is really intelligent, but he's worked really hard to get where he's at," said Jenn Besser, a career counselor at CMC. "He has encountered a lot of barriers that many of the students at CMC do, working at least part-time, maybe full-time, and also trying to do school. I think being able to use his resources and continue to be encouraged … he kept at it, and that perseverance was big."
The path wasn't necessarily what Gomez expected upon finishing up at Summit High, but today he's thankful for its fortuitous result. Early into his time at CMC, he talked to four-year programs about what courses he should take beforehand to set himself up well for what's next, and most of his credits will now transfer and he'll be that much closer to his bachelor's degree once there. On top of that, he'll enter the School of Mines with no school debt.
Gomez is quick to credit Summit County and programs within the public school system for assisting him in getting there. The place helped him learn and maintain a strong work ethic and is ultimately where he'd like to end up living as an adult.
Playing basketball, baseball and picking up skiing while in high school easily granted friends and positive influences, as well as challenged him physically and mentally. The mentor-based pre-collegiate program for first-generation post-secondary enrollees also put him on the right course academically, even after attending a university out of the county right away didn't immediately pan out.
"I loved it at the high school," said Gomez. "Things were awesome, and it was just extra help. I'm very grateful that we didn't pick any place else. I mean, it's a hard place to live and everything is very expensive. But I think the community up here in Summit County is outstanding."
Gomez frontloaded his time at CMC with math and science, of course, saving his most difficult classes — English — for last. But after completing his last few finals next week, it's off to find the answer to the life's next equation.