A quick but long side trip

Going above and beyond or the extra yard are clichés for doing something beyond expectations. But I’ve always thought every cliché stems from some truth. So maybe there should be a better, more positive, word than “cliché.”

This past month or so had me stepping outside my routine when it comes to writing stories. It was kind of a mixed bag of results. Yet I’m glad I did it. One of my best freelance clients is also a previous employer. Colorado Mountain College is a community college district in the state’s high country. They offer a handful of four-year bachelor degrees along with two-year associate degrees and various certifications.

They fill an important niche in higher education and serve the residents of a 12,000-square-mile area that includes three national forests, six wilderness areas and most of Colorado’s major ski resorts. It is also an area home to many people and families that struggle to pay for a college degree.

Colorado Mountain College Steamboat Springs graduates. Photo Mike McKibbin

At any rate, this is the time of year when CMC sends its graduates out into the “real world” and this year, between mid-April and the first weekend of May, I wrote five stories about eight graduates. That process involves playing phone and email tag, which sometimes means tracking down contact information. But that’s not that unusual, given my reporting background.

But I also drove 373 miles in 24 hours, going from Colorado’s Front Range to Leadville to Avon, then to Steamboat Springs and back to the Front Range. For someone like me, who works from home, it was a huge change and kind of a challenge. It had been some time since I had driven that many miles in such a short time, so it took a lot out of me. Check out the map below to see my route.

Denver to Leadville to Avon to Steamboat Springs to Denver

But in Leadville and Steamboat Springs, I witnessed the annual rite of passage for students of many ages, as degrees and certificates were conferred, tassels turned, hats tossed in the air and life’s journeys continued. That’s something I’ve always felt as a rejuvenation of sorts.

That these events happen in the spring  —  when everything renews again  — has always seemed to bring about a feeling of vigor and optimism. I’m glad I had a chance to witness these two ceremonies first hand.

Professionally, I was there to help photographers get shots of all the students I had written about beforehand. The experiences and impressions of graduates are always fun to learn about and write, too. It always amazes me what obstacles and challenges people overcome to reach a goal.

Kind of at the other end of the life perspective, the other day I attended a local senior citizen volunteer award event to take some photos for a different type of story. It was in some ways a good bookend to this strange trip we call life.

These engaged and active seniors were honored for what they do to help others, in all the different ways and means they contribute. I thought of all those recent graduates and wondered how many of them would follow in these footsteps, taking time out of their lives at some future point to help others.

It seems like a good way to live a life, right? And it’s been a very worthwhile  — and fun  —  story to write and tell over the years.

One thought on “A quick but long side trip

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