CMC Team Honored for Outdoor Leadership
Dark Skies Studies Bring Best in Class
By Carrie Click, Colorado Mountain College
“For these students, competing in The Wright Collegiate Challenge meant jumping into the deep end and figuring it out,” said Chuck Sullivan, the organization’s executive director. “These students got their hands dirty and innovated. In these outdoor industry entrepreneurs, we are seeing the industry’s next generation workforce. The future looks bright.”
A team of Colorado Mountain College Leadville outdoor education and leadership students captured top honors with its Best-in-Class award for a 12-week light pollution project and collaboration with San Luis Valley Great Outdoors (SLVGO).
Now in its third year, The Wright Collegiate Challenge culminated with a virtual event on April 19. Ten teams from three Colorado colleges partnered with leading businesses and nonprofit organizations to address current-day challenges within the outdoor recreation industry.
CMC’s team, dubbed Team Astraios (the Greek Titan god of the stars and planets), centered on one of SLVGO’s goals – to create the world’s largest dark-sky reserve right in the San Luis Valley. The dark-sky movement is a worldwide campaign focused on reducing light pollution.
CMC’s team – composed of Ruben Hansen, Christian Bueng, Maggie Patch, Colin Appleby, Grady Whitson and faculty advisor Liz Walker – analyzed existing dark-sky reserves in locations from Scotland to Utah and learned to measure and mitigate types of light pollution and how that light affects others. The student’s work will contribute to SLVGO’s efforts in garnering official dark-sky reserve designation.
“The Wright Challenge has been a unique opportunity for us as students to help provide Colorado’s outdoor industry with sustainable growth and equitable access through complex problem solving and critical thinking,” said team member Appleby, a CMC Leadville outdoor recreation leadership student. “This experience pushed us to work as a team in order to create an innovative solution for the modern world.”
“Colorado Mountain College has a long and extensive history of educating future outdoor industry leaders,” said CMC President Dr. Carrie Besnette Hauser. “Our participation in The Wright Challenge makes a direct connection between our students and industry leaders such as San Luis Valley Great Outdoors. I’m thrilled our team did so well with their dark-sky project and look forward to continued collaborations with the outdoor industry.”
In addition to CMC’s team, Colorado Mesa University’s outdoor industry studies program, and Western Colorado University’s outdoor industry MBA program competed for Best in Class, People’s Choice and Most Engaged Team awards.
The Wright Challenge students who receive awards receive prize packages from their participating challenge partners. CMC Leadville’s team members are also eligible for $1,000 scholarships to Western Colorado University’s outdoor MBA program.
“Our office is a proud partner in The Wright Collegiate Challenge,” said Nathan Fey, Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry Office executive director. “One of our main areas of focus is advancing education and workforce development opportunities, and this challenge highlights the real work our academic partners dedicate toward shaping the skill sets of those entering into the outdoor recreation workforce.”
Colorado Mountain College offers certificates and degrees in a variety of outdoor study programs at its campuses in Leadville, Steamboat Springs, Summit County, Spring Valley at Glenwood Springs and Vail Valley at Edwards.
Help To Pay for College
Affordable education is a top priority for Colorado Mountain College Leadville students. Even with one of the lowest tuition rates in the state of Colorado, we understand that finances can be an intimidating barrier for education. CMC is committed to making college affordable and accessible.
“CMC is extremely considerate when it comes to finances,” says Grisel Saucedo Cisneros, a 19-year-old student working towards an Associate of Science degree, “It’s really affordable and there are a tremendous amount of scholarship opportunities that will help cover the already affordable courses. They also have great Financial Aid Specialists who are always willing to help you when needed.”
Financial Aid Specialists are available both on-campus and online to help students navigate the financial aid process. It’s their job to make sure that students have access to all financial aid funds they are eligible for.
“College is an investment, but that doesn’t mean you need to drown in student debt to get a quality education,” says Monica Martinez, Financial Aid Specialist at Colorado Mountain College Leadville, “All students have different needs and we believe that you shouldn’t be denied the opportunity to achieve your goals because of your financial situation.”
FAFSA and CASFA
All students considering financial aid must fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine eligibility based on income. The United States government and the state of Colorado offer students a variety of types of financial support, including grants that do not have to be paid back. FAFSA must be completed annually. The application opens on October 1 each year.
The US Department of Education will send a Student Aid Report (SAR). The CMC financial aid office uses the information to calculate a financial aid package. Students will be notified via their CMC email when financial aid awards are available to view, accept, or reject on Financial Aid Self-Service through Basecamp.
State aid is available for qualified students, including those without lawful immigration status. The Colorado Department of Higher Education (CDHE) has a new application to apply for state financial aid for the upcoming 2021-2022 school year. Students ineligible to complete the FAFSA due to their immigration status should complete the Colorado Application for State Financial Aid (CASFA). By submitting the CASFA, students are considered for state financial aid and other scholarships.
“Do not be discouraged to speak up about your situation,” says Kenya Garcia Chavez, an 18-year-old student from Leadville, CO, “It may be difficult but CMC has so many opportunities for everyone. I had a lot of guidance and support.”
400+ Scholarships and 1 Application
The Colorado Mountain College Foundation offers and administers over 400 scholarships. All CMC Foundation scholarships use the same online application. Upon submitting, students are automatically matched with all eligible scholarships.
“Going into my first semester I filled out ONE application through the CMC web page and received three generous scholarships,” says Luke Plummer, Ecosystems Science and Management student from Seymour, IN, “I was awarded the Natural Resource Management Scholarship, the CMC Freshman Student Scholarship, and the CMC Cross Country Housing Scholarship.”
Current scholarship opportunities vary based on campus, specific programs, certifications, academic experience, housing, age and many other factors. Scholarships are made possible through generous donations and benefactors have the opportunity to thank their donors upon accepting their awards.
“I was thrilled to learn that I was selected for the Outdoor Recreation Industry Scholarship,” says Ember Penas, an 18-year-old Outdoor Recreation Leadership student from Garland, NE, “My donors have lightened my financial burden which allows me to focus more on the most important aspect of school, learning. Their generosity has inspired me to help others and give back to the community. I hope one day I will be able to help students achieve their goals just as they have helped me.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has created a larger need for financial assistance in many mountain communities. In response, CMC has developed scholarship funds to help alleviate academic costs and get students and life-long learners back in the classroom.
CMC and the Colorado Opportunity Scholarship Initiative (COSI) are granting $150,000 in scholarships this year to displaced workers in our mountain communities through the CMC Responds – Back to Work scholarship.
The Finish What You Started scholarship helps individuals who have earned college credits, but have not finished their degree, finance an associate’s degree. Interested students can make an appointment with a CMC Academic Advisor to determine how many credits they need to graduate and if they qualify.
Beyond the typical types of financial aid, like federal grants, scholarships and work-study programs, CMC has additional funds available for students with specific needs.
The No Barriers Fund provides assistance for unexpected or emergency financial barriers that prevent Colorado Mountain College students from completing their certificates or degrees. Though not a requirement, recipients of these funds are encouraged to pay back some or all of the money they receive, if and when they can, to pay-it-forward to other students.
The Ayuda Fund is an emergency fund that helps students pay for expenses related to the disruption of campus operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Expenses can include food, housing, course materials, technology, health care, employment readiness, and child-care expenses.
Work Study Awards
In addition to scholarships, students may be awarded financial assistance in the form of Work-Study. Work-Study eligibility is based on financial need determined by the FAFSA application and the amount varies. Some students may end up having multiple Work-Study jobs, gaining experience in a variety of professional roles.
Jessica Fisher, a 29-year-old Business Administration student from Kalamazoo, MI, worked as the Outdoor Gear Room Assistant and the following year as an Administrative Assistant.
“As an Administrative Assistant, I enjoyed how the position gave me the flexibility to solve problems on my own and contribute ideas that were considered in projects,” says Jessica, who was also the recipient of the Adult Learner Scholarship.
Students granted Work-Study assistance are invited to apply for on-campus jobs and community service positions. Students can work up to 20 hours per week and are paid an hourly rate up to the amount of their Work-Study award.
Jonathan Rogers, a 23-year-old Outdoor Recreation Leadership student from Centennial, CO, currently works as the Senior Resident Assistant (SRA) in the Mountain View Residence Hall. Since Fall 2019, he has been the recipient of the Altitude Housing Scholarship, the COSI CTE Plus Scholarship, the Outdoor Recreation Industry Scholarship and an RA Scholarship.
“Working as an RA provides great experience for many of the interpersonal skills that are important in the workplace,” says Johnathan, who is projected to graduate May 2021, “Beyond experience, working on campus is letting me build stronger connections to people who can support me in finding work after my education.”
For more information about Financial Aid at Colorado Mountain College Leadville, visit coloradomtn.edu/financial-aid or connect with Monica Martinez, Financial Aid Specialist.
CMC Graduation Video – Class of 2021 – Congratulations!