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Over 5,000 students graduate from Front Range Community College in a historic ceremony

Over 4,000 graduates who completed their studies in the summer or fall of 2023 or spring of 2024

In the 56-year history of Front Range Community College, the school has traditionally held smaller graduation ceremonies at each campus. With a continued increase in enrollment, and seeing students attend classes at all three campuses in Longmont, Westminster and Ft. Collins, the school held the first-ever large ceremony at the Blue Arena in Loveland, CO. on May 9. 

Over 4,000 graduates who completed their studies in the summer or fall of 2023 or spring of 2024 earned more than 5,000 degrees and certificates. Of that number, about 900 of them heard their name called and were handed their diplomas in person. It was also the first year that people could listen to a live Spanish translation on their phones. 

“The college enhanced the ceremony this year to guarantee that every graduate enjoys a remarkable and significant celebration of their achievements,” said Jessica Peterson, communications director for FRCC. “We want to ensure that every FRCC student gets to have a truly memorable graduation experience.”

Some highlights from the graduating classes were: 

  • Youngest graduate: 17 
  • Oldest graduate: 77  
  • 37% of students are of color 
  • Graduates come from 13 countries (including the US)
  • 89 students are military veterans 
  • 24% eligible for federal Pell Grants (students who display exceptional financial need) 

Currently, 46% of the student population at FRCC are the first to attend college in their families. Programs like Gateway to College help students out of school or behind on their credits complete their high school diploma and earn college credits while on campus. According to Peterson, FRCC has seen a 20% increase in students who identify as Hispanic, Latino or Latinx since 2002. FRCC is seeking to become a federally designated Hispanic-Serving Institution

“This is so that we can do an excellent job of serving all students, especially those who have been historically underserved,” she said. 

For current CU Electrical Engineering student, Front Range graduate and commencement speaker Melissa Chavez, the day brought together the non-traditional aspect of the college experience. 

“A lot of our students have overcome obstacles in life to get to graduation, so I think our student speaker was a major highlight for the audience. Her story was heartfelt, powerful and very, very moving,” Peterson said. 

Chavez had never spoken in front of so many people. Looking at a sea of diverse faces from age to ethnicity, she had a hard time holding in the tears. 

“It wasn’t until after the ceremony that I understood how much more my story resonated with other people,” she said reflecting on her time at FRCC. “So many other graduates came to shake my hand and talk to me after. We come from all walks of life but create a community. 

Attendees of FRCC see it as a second family. Many of the students are already raising families, have been out of school for many years and working full-time jobs. Somewhere in their educational journey, including Chavez, they were told that school wasn’t for them. FRCC offered a “foot in the door,” she said for those who just need a bit of a push and some guidance. 

“What I was blown away by was our students’ hard work and resilience in the face of those challenges,” Peterson said. “Many of them work while in school and are raising families. Everyone at the event could feel the palpable and well-earned sense of pride from the graduates and their families. It filled the arena—and we hope that pride and excitement will stick with them as they start their next adventures.” 

No doubt the electricity in the room will help the graduates as they pursue further educational opportunities. 

“Going to college is taking a chance on oneself,” Chavez said. “Myself included, I have seen classmates go to school without the confidence that they leave school with.” 

President and CEO of the Boulder Chamber John Tayer was the keynote speaker looking to the graduates to be the next leaders, the communicators and forgers in  teamwork. 

“Our community needs more people like you,” Tayer said to the new graduates. 

The larger ceremony seemed to be well received. Future talks will determine if having one larger ceremony will continue.

“You could see how excited and proud the students were of their achievements,” Peterson said. “I could even hear some of them start howling when the keynote speaker was talking about our mascot, Apollo the wolf.”