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Active-duty soldier, BCC student looks toward career
Over 50 graduates honored in Fort Riley Barton ceremony
Barton Community College at Fort Riley student and active-duty Soldier Niko Coldren pauses for a photo before the Fort Riley Education Services commencement ceremony Thursday afternoon in Manhattan.

Twenty-three-year-old active-duty soldier and Barton Community College at Fort Riley Barton student Niko Coldren graduated last Thursday at a ceremony in Manhattan alongside 53 of his peers and is ready to take the next step in his educational journey on his way to becoming a software engineer.

“Technology will only continue to become more integrated into our daily lives,” he said. “Being able to help create and build products that can help people is a great opportunity. I want to build important programs that can help improve people’s lives.”

Coldren credits his academic success to Barton’s ability to accommodate his life as a soldier while providing a fully supported staff that helped with everything from financial aid to advising.

“Barton is located on post, so it was very convenient for me as a barracks soldier to do schoolwork and meet with my counselor all while staying on post,” he said. “Barton’s classes transfer very well to other universities so I knew upon completion I would not have to retake classes.”

Barton has been educating on Fort Riley since 1989, so the staff has a very astute understanding of how the military functions, which helps guide students through complex scheduling and relocation. In addition, Barton’s LSEC program allows soldiers, their dependents, and any Department of Defense employees to earn an associate degree at no cost.

“While my active duty schedule was hectic and changed frequently, the professors at Barton helped me and were very understanding of my changing schedule,” he said. “Mrs. Harper, my academic advisor, was unbelievably helpful. She helped me plan my classes around deployment and two NTC rotations. Ultimately, my success in school was from my hard work and the support of the professors and faculty at Barton.”

Coldren plans to transfer to Kansas State University to obtain his computer science degree.

“Barton is very military friendly, and I recommend all soldiers to stop by and hear about classes,” he said. “I would also like to thank everyone at Barton for all their help in my success,” he said. “Especially Mrs. Harper, who went above and beyond to assist me and helped me take the right classes at the right time to help maintain a healthy work-life balance. Going to school as an active-duty soldier is difficult, but when you have a team behind you helping you succeed, it makes all the difference.”

Coldren was one of 53 students who chose to walk as part of the larger celebration Thursday afternoon. Ninety-three students completed associate in arts, associate in science, associate in general studies, and associate in applied science degrees at the Fort Riley campus in 2023-24. Visit for more information about Barton’s many programs and services to the public and Soldiers at its Fort Riley and Grandview Plaza campuses.