GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) – Usually when people think of a college student, they think of an 18-year-old fresh out of high school. But at Colorado Mesa University, non-traditional students 25 and older make up a decent percentage of the student population.
Some students believe they cannot manage school along with work, which may prevent older non-traditional students from returning to school and completing their education. But CMU works with these students to take part-time classes and work around their work schedule. With grants if they need financial assistance.
“The beauty of Colorado Mesa University is that we have Western Colorado Community College as part of us,” said assistant vice president of enrollment management Kim Medina. “So we actually have 118 undergraduate programs. Certificate, two-year associate programs, four-year diplomas, masters and doctorates. So we can meet any student on the West Slope with what they are looking for. Some students may have chosen a different path right out of high school and that’s okay, we welcome them all back.
Braedon Christensen went to CMU in 2016 but didn’t feel like it was his thing at the time, so he left and joined the retail workforce.
“Just following the idea that I’m supposed to go to school because that’s what I’m supposed to do,” Braedon said. “You have to have a genuine desire to do something, a desire to improve. Once you get there, you’ll start to notice that you’re much more motivated.
About four years ago, Braedon was living with his brother near Orchard Mesa and noticed he was eating non-nutritious frozen food. So he started experimenting with his mother’s old recipes and found he was starting to get good.
“That’s when I got a brochure that said hello, there’s a culinary university here,” Braedon said. “I went to visit it and now I work in a restaurant in town.”
Her sister was a waitress at El Bistro and mentioned to the owner that her brother was in cooking school. The next thing he knew, Braedon was offered a job.
“It helps to perceive where you want to see yourself in five years,” Braedon said. “Education is very valuable in our society and it can lead to better career and lifestyle. It all depends on what you are ok with, what you want for yourself and what that you are ready to sacrifice at the same time.
Braedon credits Chief Wayne Smith who advised on the next step in the future regarding the possibility of combining the majors.
“What I’m looking at eventually is exploring psychology and graduating from it and describing how food affects our mind, our daily tasks and connecting it,” Braedon said.
“I think it’s great for the students to work a bit, to practice what they’ve learned in school when they go to work,” Wayne said. “By taking the things they learn at work and applying them in school, it enriches our curriculum. One of the things we appreciate is the diversity of the student population, because they can learn a lot from each other and age is part of this diversity. We really welcome non-traditional students here, those over 25 who have worked. They have a lot to offer our young students, and our young students enjoy having them in the classroom. »
Wayne Smith is an Associate Technical Professor of Culinary Arts at WCCC and CMU. He founded the culinary program over 20 years ago.
“It’s very different to go to school when it’s for what you love,” Wayne said. “I’m so lucky because I teach cooking and all my students want to be here.”
CMU offers an initiative specifically for older students called the “Finish What You Started” grant for students who started in college, but life may have gotten in the way and they had to leave school to work or have children. But now want to come back and finish. They are also offering a Displaced Worker Scholarship for students who may have been displaced throughout the Covid pandemic and need retraining or upscaling.
There is a “COSI” website that represents the Colorado Scholarship Initiative, which allows students to connect with someone who can guide them through the admissions and registration process and they stay with them until they graduate.
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