ALAMOSA— Each year the Colorado Council on High School/College Relations selects one Colorado Recruiter of the Year from Colorado’s two and four-year colleges. The volunteer council, comprised of high school counselors and college admission’s staff, selects that individual and then presents that prestigious award during the banquet at their annual meeting.
When Mike Sisneros, Trinidad State’s outreach and recruitment specialist, was asked to attend the 2018 annual meeting at Cheyenne Mountain Resort in Colorado Springs Dec. 6 - 7, he thought he would simply be networking with other recruiters.
But because of a snowstorm and a commitment to give a campus tour to prospective students, Sisneros headed home to Alamosa early. The next morning, he met with his supervisor, David Hardman, Trinidad State director of student life/recruiting/outreach/conduct and Janine Pachelli, admissions coordinator, via teleconference.
Sitting alone on the Alamosa Campus Sisneros faced Hardman and Pachelli pictured on a large screen from the Trinidad Campus. Hardman began, “You left before the banquet. You missed the big surprise.” Sisneros had no idea what Hardman was talking about. “You won recruiter of the year for the state of Colorado,” added Hardman. Skeptical, Sisneros said,” Don’t be messing with me, David.” When the news sunk in, tears filled his eyes and he realized all his efforts were being appreciated – all those late nights, hotel stays, miles of driving and time away from family. “It touched me,” said Sisneros, “and I knew I was making a difference.”
He learned Adele Alfson, counselor at Center High School, had nominated him. She wrote about how dependable, knowledgeable, enthusiastic and pleasant Sisneros is. “He has an amazing rapport with both traditional and non-traditional students, parents, and community members,” she said.
Sisneros was raised in Antonito where he graduated high school in 1999, went directly to work as the lone night stockman at K-Mart in Alamosa.
The building was locked until 6 a.m. the following morning when his shift ended. “That was some of the loneliest times of my life,” said Sisneros, “and I would think to myself, ‘Is this what the rest of my life is going to be?’” During that time, he met a girl from San Luis, a beautiful girl. They were spending a lot of time together. She finished high school half a year early and immediately enrolled in college at Adams State. One day she asked Sisneros, “What are your plans for yourself?” He instinctively knew that if he didn’t go to college, he wouldn’t have a chance with this girl. “I didn’t even know how to go to school,” he said. “I went for her. It was one of the best things I ever did.”
When Sisneros started college, he had no idea what he wanted to do. He spent his first two years taking general education requirements because “those are required anyway.” It’s something he encourages students to do at Trinidad State. “Save money, start here,” he says knowing that four-year schools can cost as much as 40 percent more. While attending college, Sisneros learned he had a gift for writing and communication. He decided to major in English with an emphasis in communication and he minored in history. After graduation, he worked for several radio stations, as a program director and as an announcer.
His deep, rich-sounding baritone voice was a good fit for radio stations. But he wanted to do more. He wanted to use his degree to “help my people and when I say my people, I don’t mean brown or white, I mean the people in the Valley.”
At the time, he had been offered two jobs, one as an English teacher in San Luis and one as a recruiter for Trinidad State. It was a tough decision, but ultimately, he chose TSJC. “In a way I’m still teaching. I may not be teaching a subject, but I’m teaching students to believe in themselves,” said Sisneros (38) who started working at Trinidad State in 2012.
I remember my dad telling me, ‘If you want to go to school, you’re going to have to invest in yourself, son. No one’s going to give it to you. You’re going to have to go get it.” Both of his parents earned degrees from community colleges. “We weren’t rich by any means,” said Sisneros, “but we always had what we needed. I had a good childhood.”
“I tell my high school students, ‘Learn to advocate for yourselves. Get to know your counselor. Start taking college classes now, while you’re still in high school. You get college credit as well as high school credit for the same class (called concurrent enrollment) and the high school pays for it – except for your books,’” said Sisneros. Some high school students who have been taking classes are surprised to learn how close they are to a degree and industrious students can earn a certificate or a two-year degree by the time they graduate from high school.
Sisneros recruits, not only in the Valley, but in Northern New Mexico and Kansas as well. He attends career fairs where he talks, not only to traditional students moving immediately on from high school to college, but to older non-traditional students who may want to make a career change.
“I love what I do,” said Sisneros, “and I’m proud that my efforts have benefitted Trinidad State. I appreciate the recognition I have received and I’m grateful to the Colorado Counsel for selecting me, all the high school counselors I work with and especially to Adele Alfson for nominating me. Community colleges are beautiful little gems if people use that resource.”
Mike Sisneros can be reached at (719)580-7083.