“No one walks alone”: CMC students unite for graduation as they embark on new chapters
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Every seat was filled inside the Korbel Ballroom of The Steamboat Grand hotel, which brimmed with family, faculty and friends there to celebrate the group of tassel-capped students graduating from Colorado Mountain College Steamboat Springs.
Those receiving bachelor’s degrees wore black caps and gowns, while students with associate degrees donned blue regalia.
Among the latter group was Tayz Enriquez-Banuelos, who accentuated her outfit with a pair of ruby red high heels. More than 30 of her family members traveled from across Colorado to watch her accept her degree in the arts and give the associate graduate speech during the commencement ceremony.
In that speech, she recounted the arduous path she and her family trekked to allow her the opportunity to stand before the crowd in her cap and gown.
When her mother was 10, long before Enriquez-Banuelos was born, she and her eight siblings snuck into the U.S, with the help of smugglers. They stuffed the children under the seats of a van to hide them from border patrol officers.
It is a story her mother often told her growing up, one that has stayed with her as the family struggled to make ends meet in Kansas, then in Colorado. Helping to support her mom and siblings made it difficult for Enriquez-Banuelos to do well in school and cast doubt about her future.
“I remember working late nights with my mother, too tired or motivated for school,” she said in her speech.
She barely managed to graduate high school with a 1.7 GPA, but came to CMC determined to do better.
As Enriquez-Banuelos addressed the large crowd on Saturday, a gold cord shone around her shoulders, marking her as an honors recipient. She graduated from CMC with a 3.75 GPA. As she concluded her speech, she looked toward the rows of family members smiling back at her.
“I have achieved the goals I set and more,” she said.
Enriquez-Banuelos attributed some of that success to the tight-knit group of students at CMC, something fellow graduate Eric Ganshert echoed in his own graduation speech.
“No one is an outsider at CMC,” Ganshert said. “At CMC, no one walks alone.”
A Wisconsin native, Ganshert came to CMC to receive a bachelor’s in sustainability studies.
He recounted the unique experiences the Steamboat campus offers, from sunrise hikes to sunset happy hours. Ganshert also thanked the faculty for being so understanding about ditching class on powder days.
“Whatever we do now, we’ll have a piece of the Yampa Valley and CMC in our hearts,” he said in his speech.
The commencement ceremony’s keynote speaker, Dr. Angie Paccione, encouraged the graduates to go out into the world with newfound confidence and gusto, no matter the adversity they may face.
She herself managed to rise from an impoverished childhood to serve two terms in the Colorado House of Representatives and currently works as the executive director of the state’s Department of Higher Education.
“Now, it’s your time to choose how you will navigate your life,” she said. “It’s my hope you will choose to be inspired.”
Enriquez-Banuelos has already made her decision. She is moving on to the University of Colorado Boulder in the fall, where she plans to get a bachelor’s in fine arts.
Eventually, she wants to be a teacher and work in Mexico to inspire others to achieve their dreams.
After the ceremony, she posed for pictures outside the hotel with all of her family members. They praised her for her hard work, offering hugs and kisses on the cheek.
The realization of her accomplishment still had not sunk in.
“I can’t even begin to express how I feel,” she said.
For the moment, all she could do was smile.
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