Steamboat Springs The graduation ceremony for Colorado Mountain College students Friday night celebrated each student's achievements in academics and life and the journey that lies ahead of them.
"All of us are going to go on to climb our own particular mountains," said Ayako Doue, valedictorian. "We all have safety ropes now from our education at CMC."
Doue said she came to Steamboat Springs from Japan and spoke very little English when she arrived.
The caring and dedicated faculty at CMC, she said, is what allowed her to stand in front of a crowd and speak as well as excel in the area of mathematics. Doue graduated with an associate in science degree.
"CMC is not the biggest school," she said, " but it is the friendliest."
The small community school gave many students a springboard to continue to excel in their future endeavors.
"I begin to realize what I've achieved and what lies ahead," Kandra Sharp said. "I've learned many things inside and outside the classroom."
Taking the opportunity to go to school where teachers and students know each other on a first-name basis is one of the advantages students said they had at CMC.
"I love CMC. The faculty and staff are great. It lets you establish yourself," said Daniel Williams, student government president. Williams said although he is graduating, he plans to come back to take more classes at CMC next semester.
Mike Mead said as a competitive freestyle skier attending CMC allowed him to continue his pursuit of skiing while going to school. He said he receiving enough individual one-on-one time with his professors to do well in his classes. He said if he would have gone to a larger university, he thinks his grades would have suffered because the large-school professors probably wouldn't have had as much time to help him with his studies. Williams said he is going to transfer to the University of Colorado to continue his education over the next two years.
"It kind of eases you into real college," he said.
Although the education Williams received will help him get on his way, he said the friends he made will be lifelong.
"The people in this town are something special," he said. The love for the mountains, he said, is a common bond between many of his friendships.
As an upperclassmen, Williams said he thinks entering a large four-year university will be a challenge he has been prepared for. The intimate class settings and individual attention received by professors is something students are glad they got to experience for their first two years in college.
"The professors are awesome," Jason Hawker said. He said he looks forward to starting a fly fishing shop and furthering his education in business at Metro State.
He said the experience of living in Steamboat as a means for discovering what he wanted to pursue in life was an avenue he felt lucky to take.
The collective experience of going to college at CMC gives students an idea of what they want to do with their future. In addition to people who graduated with associate's degrees, students who finished professional or business-related associate programs graduated with their classmates.
Dan Schaffrick, student services counselor at CMC, said many students who graduate from an occupational program stay in the local area for work. He said that about two-thirds of the students who graduate are students who will continue their education at a four-year university.
"This gives them the opportunity to build skills and gain self-confidence before going on to a university setting," he said.
Schaffrick said he feels by the time students finish their second year, he is just getting to know them and establish relationships. He said he is quite proud of the students but sad to see them go.
"It's amazing how much are students grow in a period of two years." The lessons learned, however, are waiting to be tested in the years ahead.
"It's the journey that matters," said David Markle, professor at CMC. "The arriving part shouldn't be the focus."