November 3, 2021 by Tori Stanek
CWC Alumna Becomes a Business Owner, finds success with film and photography
Erendira "Abbey" Morales always enjoyed holding a camera and it was while working on a television show in high school that jump-started her passion for photography and film. Morales’ passion eventually led her to Central Wyoming College which ultimately gave her the skills to open her own business. While Morales now has a master’s degree in communications and owns her own business, Morales Photo & Film, she attributes much of her success to her first college.
“CWC gave me the skills to be a professional videographer and photographer, and the courage to start my own business,” Morales said. “I am so grateful for everything I learned there and the connections I developed.”
Morales grew up in Cody and toured CWC in hopes of finding a community college close to home. She and her family were amazed by the opportunities the school offered journalism students.
“No other school in Wyoming has Wyoming PBS, or a similar video production facility, right on campus,” Morales said. “From day one we were able to learn from industry professionals, work with cameras, and hone our skills.”
Professor of Television and Communication Amanda Nicholoff was equally excited to work with Morales.
“Abbey was the kind of student every instructor dreams about,” Nicholoff said. “She came to CWC with a ton of journalism skills that she picked up at Cody High School so I had fun creating advanced work to challenge her, whenever I could.”
The hands-on approach to learning came as a pleasant surprise to Morales, who expected a lot of theoretical preparatory work.
“At other schools, students have to wait until their junior or senior year for hands-on experience or seek out internships on their own,” Morales said.
Morales graduated in 2016 with an associate’s in broadcast journalism. She transferred to the University of Wyoming and earned a bachelor’s in communication and journalism and a master's in communication in 2018 and 2020, respectively. Leaving CWC after two years was difficult for Morales and her peers.
“When my friends and I graduated from CWC, we always told each other that if CWC had four-year degrees, we would have stayed there,” she said.
A team of passionate and knowledgeable instructors, kind fellow students, and fun weekly events all added value to her college days.
I was so lucky to have instructors who were experts in their field. They instilled in me a confidence to pursue any dream and the skills to succeed in those dreams. ”
Associate Professor of Film Jeremy Nielsen said Morales brought a lot to the program.
“Abbey was consistently one of our strongest students, both in the classroom and on set,” Nielsen said. “Her work ethic is only surpassed by her positive impact on any project she is part of.”
Nicholoff also noticed Morales’ ability to make a difference, both in class and in the field.
“Her leadership and human relations skills set her up to be an amazing entrepreneur in the media industry,” she said.
Associate Professor of Communication Maygen Cassity said Morales was the kind of student every instructor hopes to get in class because she had a great attitude and was eager to learn and succeed.
After she completed her master’s degree, Morales worked as a marketing and communications specialist for a nonprofit before she opened Morales Photo & Film, in March 2021. Opening her own business always appealed to Morales.
“It allows me to be my own boss, do what I love, and push my creativity,” she said.
Morales Photo & Film offers wedding film and portrait services, and Morales strives to make the most of her clients’ experiences.
“When I'm working with clients, I hope they're comfortable and empowered,” Morales said. “Wedding films are a way for the newlyweds to relive their best day. A senior portrait session should be an empowering few hours and result in timeless photos they can look back on in 10 years.”
The business allows Morales to use her artistry to the benefit of everyone around her.
“It is a way for me to give back to my community, empower individuals and couples, but the business also allows me to be creative in ways a normal job wouldn't let me,” she said. Now she advises others to pursue similar pathways.
“I encourage all high school seniors to start out at a community college and then transfer to a university,” Morales said. “CWC is an incredible place.”