Student blazes own trail to success

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— When other high school students in the late 1970s were choosing their future colleges and careers, a high school counselor told Barbara Miles that she was not "college material."

And she believed him for almost 20 years.

Not until she admired the college from afar while cleaning houses in Steamboat did she ever ponder walking through the doors of an educational institution again.

But in 1998, Miles made it her mission to prove that counselor wrong when she enrolled for classes at Colorado Mountain College's Alpine Campus.

With the hard work and dedication it takes to return to school and start college for the first time, Miles has met her requirements and then some.

As of Tuesday, Miles discovered she received her second scholarship to the college of her choice for $5,000, followed by a scholarship for $2,000.

Because of her role as president of Phi Kappa Theta, the only nationally recognized community college honor society, Miles has been chosen as a nominee for the All-USA Academic Team.

Earning a 3.88 grade point average also earned Miles the Centennial ($2,000) and the Guistwhite ($5,000) scholarships.

While filling out 13 pages of paperwork for the All USA Academic Team, the attached Guistwhite scholarship looked promising, but Miles never dreamed she would get it, she said.

But it came a little easier when Dan Schaffrick, student adviser at CMC, and staff chose Miles for the Student of the Year Award at CMC and nominated her for the All USA Academic Team.

"No one deserves the honor more than she does," Schaffrick said.

The Centennial Scholarship already has been awarded to Miles, but she will not receive the award until the American Association of Community College's April conference in Chicago. This scholarship is in recognition of the 100th anniversary of community colleges in the country.

Miles reads once a week to Soda Creek first-graders as a part of her Phi Kappa Theta responsibilities and to fulfill her passion as an education advocate.

"I would like all kids to feel the way I do about school," Miles said, adding she also volunteers her time in substance-abuse prevention programs and with mental health professionals.

When former President Clinton proposed the America Reads Program a few years ago, Phi Kappa Theta adopted the tutoring program into its mission. The experience of reading to children for the past two years helped Miles realize her love of teaching, she said.

After graduation in May, Miles said she hopes to attend the University of Northern Colorado to study early elementary education with a minor in psychology.

"I just love kids. Hopefully I'll come back to Steamboat and work here," Miles said.

Schaffrick said he enjoys providing a little bit of encouragement and seeing students take full advantage of it.

"I'm enjoying this almost as much as she is," Schaffrick said.

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