Trinidad State News

Six hard workers complete rigorous GED program at Trinidad State

Valley Campus / June 13, 2015 / By Margaret Sanderson


On June 13 six students joined the ranks of GED graduates at the Trinidad State Valley Campus in Alamosa.  Considering that 75 students have worked toward their GED at the college this year, this is a notable feat.  About 18 months ago the GED study materials and tests changed nationwide and became much more difficult.  Work is being done to fine tune the program to make it more realistic and equitable.  Meanwhile, those who have completed recently can be extra proud of their accomplishment.

Debbie Ulibarri, Trinidad State Dean of Arts and Sciences and speaker for the graduation, is also a Trinidad State GED graduate.  “Back in 1992 I was 38 and working in accounting at an electronics plant in Raton, New Mexico, when it shut down,” said Ulibarri.  “I was the only one in my family that didn’t graduate from high school.  When I learned from my first unemployment meeting that I could go to school to get other training, I joined five others from Raton and we drove to Trinidad to start classes.”  Going back to school was frightening for Ulibarri who said she had a habit of putting up hurdles for herself thinking ‘I can’t do this.’  But now she is glad the plant closed because she “has been handed one opportunity after another.”

For seventeen year-old Courtney Babcock, public school did not work well, nor did an alternative program that she tried, but a friend told her about the GED program at Trinidad State in Alamosa.  “Coming here made it ten times easier,” said Babcock, “It was so nice and so relaxing.  I had a lot of support from my family.”  The ability to read people’s moods has always come easy for Courtney which has sparked her interest in psychology.  Babcock now plans to begin her college career at Trinidad State.

Troy Bratton did not attend the graduation, but did share his story.   A neck injury caused the 49-year-old Bratton to return to school for his GED to prepare himself to retrain for a job that requires less of him physically.  “This program is great,” said Bratton.  “Without it I wouldn’t have gotten my GED.  I couldn’t have done it without these people.  I not only didn’t want to let myself down, but I didn’t want to let them down either.  I’d like to be a counselor,” he continued.  “There’s a lot of problems with drugs here in the Valley and I want to help.”

Twenty-three year-old Cory Cockkerham said it took forever to get his GED.  He tried several times but needed a paying job.  He came to the program at Trinidad State from Community Corrections.  Completing his GED was one big step toward getting his life back on track.  His sense of humor was evident when the students were asked to share at the graduation.  He said, “Thanks to the teachers for keeping my seat warm and thanks to my girlfriend for making me come here today!”

Seventeen year-old Nicholas Long-Henke was commended for achieving his college level score of 170 on his reading test.  Long-Henke attended public schools until 8th grade when he was “kicked out for behavioral problems.”  He continued his schooling at the Rocky Mountain Youth Center in Alamosa until one of his instructors suggested the GED program at Trinidad State.  He plans to attend ITT Technical Institute in Denver and study Graphic Art and Software Development.

Because Abreeza Reiersen, 34, moved a lot as a kid, she did not have enough credits to graduate high school when she was a teenager.  She had always wanted to earn her GED but having kids and working kept her from pursuing her education.  A victim of domestic violence, she was seven months pregnant when she signed up for the Trinidad State GED program after receiving help from the Adelante Program, a “self-sufficiency and transitional living program for families experiencing homelessness in the San Luis Valley.”  She wants to get a degree in Business Management and eventually become a food service trainer.  If the opportunity presents itself, she would love to return to McDonald’s after she completes her degree.  Reiersen’s quest to complete her GED was complicated by a foot injury that has already required six surgeries and will require one more.  Her college education will begin at Trinidad State in Alamosa.

Twenty-six year-old Elizabeth Thornhill was the first student this school year to earn her GED at Trinidad State.  In fact, she has already completed one semester at Adams State University where she is studying art.  Painting since she was 16, acrylics are her favorite art medium.

Each graduate was awarded two $250 scholarships to be used at Trinidad State for the upcoming fall and spring semesters.

Ulibarri applauded the students for reaching this milestone and said, “Earning your GED is not an end.  It’s a beginning.  Education is so important because it provides you with opportunities for a better life.  Build on today’s success and continue to persevere.  The rewards for continuing your education will be even greater.”