As a single mother of two kids and with a full-time job, Lorena Martinez had little time for college classes. As a teenager, she had dropped out of Battle Mountain High School, but then completed her GED at Colorado Mountain College. She continued at CMC and was slowly chipping away at a nursing degree, completing a nursing assistant certificate in the process. A 21-year resident of the Vail Valley, she had earned resident alien status, enabling her to work to support her family. She was taking one or two classes each semester, but eventually the load got to be too great and she dropped out. “That was so hard for me,” she said of the daily burden of work, school and family life.
Time passed, her life circumstances changed and she thought about returning to school. She had married, her first two children were older and more independent, and she was feeling like she had the support needed to refocus on her career goals. Last fall she went by the Edwards campus to register. That’s when she learned about the Finish What You Started campaign.
In celebration of CMC’s 50th anniversary, the College is offering half-priced tuition to former students who have not yet completed a 2-year or higher degree. The scholarship also requires that a student be out of school for at least a year. Eligible students can slash the cost of a credit hour to as low as $31 per hour for lower level courses, now through the fall 2017 semester.
Lorena is still only able to take 1 class per semester, but she will be able to stretch her education dollars much further in pursuit of that nursing degree. She eventually would like to be a pediatrics or obstetrics nurse. “It is how I have always seen myself, helping people, and I want to work with kids,” she said. In addition to working toward her degree, Lorena is studying for her U.S. citizenship exam which she will take in the spring.
With all the responsibilities of family life, work and school, Lorena is very busy. “My husband Ricardo is helping me and encouraging me, and my kids are proud of me,” she said. She is happy to be back in school and getting a much-needed break on tuition costs. She hopes to get accepted into the nursing program in 2018 and complete her associate’s degree in 2020. “It is never too late. I think everything is possible if you work for it,” she said. “I see myself someday being a nurse and I will be so proud.”