Already the first high school graduate in her family, Nichole Lemus is now a college grad
RANGELY I Graduating from college is a milestone event for any student.
For Nichole Lemus, it was historic.
Lemus, who went through Saturday’s commencement ceremony at Colorado Northwestern Community College, became the first member of her family to graduate from college. Not only that, but Lemus, 23, was the first member of her family to graduate from high school.
After completing her studies and going through graduation, while at the same time looking for a job and preparing for her impending wedding, Lemus’ schedule has finally slowed down to the point she can begin to appreciate what she has accomplished.
“It feels great,” Lemus said, who went to high school in Montrose. “I don’t know if it seems real to me yet. I keep thinking I should be doing something, I should be studying or something.”
Next on the agenda for Lemus is finding a full-time job as a dental hygienist — she went through CNCC’s two-year dental hygiene program — and she’s engaged to be married July 10. Asked if her life seemed busy, Lemus said, “You’re tellin’ me. There’s a lot of stuff goin’ on.”
But Lemus is used to keeping busy. Even during her college days in Rangely, Lemus would return to Montrose every other weekend to work as a server at a Chili’s restaurant.
“When I was in high school, I was involved in a lot of activities,” Lemus said. “That’s how I handle stress. Sometimes I take on more than I can handle, but I like to be involved and stay busy.”
If Lemus needed motivation for pursuing her dream of becoming a college graduate, she had to look no further than her own family.
Her father was born in Mexico and didn’t advance past the sixth grade. Her mother, who was born and raised in Colorado, made it to 11th grade.
“Then she got pregnant with me when she was 15,” Lemus said. “She went to school about a year after that, but she didn’t finish high school.
“That really motivated me to want to have a better life, and they (her parents) gave me that opportunity,” Lemus said.
Lemus found out about CNCC from a friend. After attending Mesa State College in Grand Junction for two years, she came to Rangely.
“I had never heard of the place,” she said. “When I first got here, I was like, oh, my gosh. But it grew on me. I’m from a small town — not as small as Rangely — but I met a lot of great people here.”
Her time at CNCC — and away from home — was a growing experience.
“I learned about myself and about other people, too,” Lemus said. “It was just a great experience. If I could do it all again, I would.”
During her time at CNCC, she made an impact on those around her.
“Nichole is a very optimistic young lady and her smile is contagious,” said Tresa England, CNCC dean of student services/registrar. “Our goal is to make a difference in the lives of young people — Nichole made a difference in ours.”
Added Tim Gibbs, CNCC director of community/continuing education, “She’s just a special young lady. This is a true success story. She made Rangely her own, and she’s been extraordinary on campus. She’s been active in just about every single thing. She set the world on fire and she will continue to do so.”
Lemus was one of the commencement speakers for Saturday’s graduation. During her speech, she thanked her parents and other family members for their support.
“They never pushed me, they weren’t that type,” Lemus said of her parents. “But they’re happy and excited and proud I’ve graduated from college. They’re like, just do whatever you want to do now.”
The oldest of three children — she has two younger brothers — Lemus had about 40 or 50 family members in attendance Saturday, including her parents, her fiance, her brothers, aunts, uncles and cousins. Many of them had never been to Rangely before.
By overcoming obstacles and becoming a college graduate, Lemus hopes she can be an example or inspiration to others who come from a similar background.
“Just being able to prove to other people that it can be done,” she said. “To show them that getting a higher education does have its benefits.
“Now, I’m ready to start working.”