GREELEY, CO - MAY 13:A graduate leaves the stage after being recognized and receiving her diploma during the May 2022 Aims Community College Commencement ceremony in the Aims Welcome Center at Aims Community College in Greeley May 13, 2022. (Alex McIntyre/Staff Photographer)

By early Friday afternoon, 18-year-old Greeley resident Ethan Bonnell was a high school graduate and completed two years of college with an associate degree in hand from Aims Community College.

Later in the day, Jami Cifuentes, 35 and a mother of two, reached a milestone on her life’s “second act,” as she called it when she picked up a nursing degree from the college.

Bonnell and Cifuentes were among the 1,341 students who earned degrees or certificates from Aims this spring, capped off by the college’s 55th annual commencement ceremonies Friday. The ceremonies were for the first time in the new Miller Auditorium inside the also new Welcome Center building.

Cifuentes earned an Associate of Applied Science in nursing and is now a registered nurse.

“The content was challenging,” Cifuentes said of the Aims program. “It was a lot of information in a short time.”

Bonnell was one of 300 students to walk in an early-afternoon ceremony. Cifuentes was among the 207 students who participated in the second ceremony early Friday evening. Bonnell graduated with highest distinction, also known as summa cum laude, with an Associate of Science degree. Cifuentes graduated with great distinction, or magna cum laude.

The ceremonies will be available on the college’s YouTube channel next week, according to an Aims spokesperson.

Bonnell not only graduated from Aims, but he earned dual credit to also receive his high school diploma through Colorado Early Colleges in Fort Collins.

Colorado Early Colleges opened 10 years ago as a tuition free, open-enrollment public charter high school. The school’s program is designed to allow students to earn an associate degree, more than 60 hours of college credit and/or career credentials at no cost to families, according to the school’s website.

“It was a great opportunity to get two years of free college and a high school diploma,” said Bonnell, who plans to attend the University of Colorado Denver in the fall to study mechanical engineering.

“With high school, it’s your whole world,” Bonnell said of a more traditional in-high school path. “With Aims, I didn’t have to be there the all the time.”

Cifuentes, who moved from Denver to Greeley three years to begin the Aims program, also has her immediate future path set. In July, she’ll begin a nursing position in acute care at UCHealth Greeley Hospital. Cifuentes said she felt very gratified completing the rigorous Aims program while parenting her two children, ages 12 and 3.

“It’s not just my victory,” Cifuentes said. “It’s everyone who played a part in it.”

Photos: May 2022 Aims Community College Commencement Ceremony at Aims Welcome Center

Aims president and CEO Leah Bornstein and graduating students and campus leaders D.J. Boyce and Sara Sharpe led the ceremonies in the early afternoon and evening, respectively. The theme for the day was “The Road to Success Begins with an Open Door.”

Boyce was the master of ceremonies for the afternoon commencement. Sharpe served the same role at the evening graduation. She was one of 12 students recognized this year with a distinguished scholar academic excellence award.

Nursing student Jessica Riley received the outstanding nursing student leadership award for the year, and she was honored Friday with the President’s Medallion – recognizing her achievement in and out of the classroom.

“You made it,” Bornstein, the college’s sixth president, told the graduates at day’s first ceremony. “You’re sitting here and you’re sitting straight, hopefully.”

GREELEY, CO - MAY 13:Aims Community College President Leah Bornstein presents a new graduate with her diploma during the May 2022 Aims Community College Commencement ceremony in the Aims Welcome Center at Aims Community College in Greeley May 13, 2022. (Alex McIntyre/Staff Photographer)

The student speakers were Lucarrio Lovato and Ricardo Avalos Torres. Torres was one of seven students to a distinguished scholar emerging leader award for the academic year. Lovato, a U.S. military veteran like Boyce, spoke about the opportunity the Aims graduates have before them.

“This is not just a piece of paper,” he said of the degree. “It’s a stepping stone moving forward.”

Lovato mentioned fellow graduates and the challenges they faced in completing their Aims degrees, such as parents who juggled their family lives with school. Lovato pointed out those students will now “be able to improve their children’s lives,” having earned more education.

“Today is your victory,” Lovato said. “It is important, it is substantial.”

Greeley resident Abdirasak Omar, who is originally from Somalia, was among the graduates for whom Friday was an important and substantial accomplishment. After four years, Omar earned an accounting degree while working full time. He’s been in the U.S. and in Greeley for six years. He was joined at the ceremony by his mother and two brothers.

Omar plans to continue his education and work toward his bachelor’s degree later this year at the University of Northern Colorado. But the first half of his college work is finished.

“I’m really happy, really excited,” he said. “I’m done today.”

You are watching: Aims Community College celebrates 55th commencement in new Welcome Center. Info created by GBee English Center selection and synthesis along with other related topics.