The Friends of UNM-Taos

By Bill Knief

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I spent the better part of last Friday surrounded by community activists—not the self-styled ones that occasionally spew out hot gases and suffocating ash like an Icelandic volcano, but the genuine article: Taos citizens with a commitment to making a better future for us all.

The event was the launching of The Friends of UNM-Taos, a group organized around the simple proposition that local folks might like to share in the hard work and take personal pride in the successes of our community college.

More than 50 attendees including US Congressman Ben Ray Lujan, Representative Roberto “Bobby” Gonzales, Mayor Darren Cordova, former Mayor Eloy Jeantete and County Commissioner Dan Barrone came out to Klauer. But what was most impressive was the turnout of community members from all walks of life, and the comments of four UNM-Taos students that talked about what UNM-Taos and education in general meant to them. Here are some excerpts.

Lynn Marie Helvey had just returned from Seattle where she was presented the New Century Scholar Award as the top community college scholar in the state of New Mexico. She told the audience, “I’m incredibly grateful, not only to get this award, but also to be a student at UNM-Taos. This has been a nurturing place for me. There’s just no other way to put it.

“The best thing I got out of the trip to Seattle was meeting the other scholars from all over the country. It was astounding to me how open they were about their failures and obstacles as well as their successes. I learned from them that it is our failures that make us strong. We all have stories and we all have obstacles in our path, and by sharing our stories we help and inspire each other.

“The truth is I’m not that special, and I don’t mean that as a putdown; I like myself just fine. I mean that if I can achieve this, just about anyone can.

“UNM-Taos and the learning experience is accessible to everyone—and that’s a wonderful thing.”

Fred Garcia is a student and currently works in the Internet Technologies Department at UNM-Taos. He is the grandson of educator Enos Garcia. “I started thinking that in my grandfather’s time they would take the sheep up to the meadows, and they had one phone in Garcia, Colorado. They burned wood for heat and they had radio. It brought home the fact that we live in a technology era now, with cell phones, the internet, and we have projectors and smart boards in the classrooms. Here at UNM-Taos we are trying to keep up with what is going to be expected of students in the future. What I would like to pass on to my daughters is that they have an opportunity to get an education right here in Taos.”

Annette Arellano has involving herself in a variety of learning situations. “When I began at UNM-Taos I had no idea what was in store for me,” she reflected. “I only knew that I wanted to find a career where my own children could benefit from what I would learn. My youngest child is autistic and I chose human services as my future career. When I began writing for English and public speaking courses one professor recognized my abilities and encouraged me. I became one of the founders of our student newspaper, and then I did an internship at a local radio station and another at a local television station. Then I wrote articles for The Howl, our literary magazine and became the first student editor. In the Fall of 2009 I began working on my BA in Communication and Journalism. My skills continue to grow, my children have benefited immensely from my experiences and I am honored to be here at UNM-Taos. ”

Isaiah Pacheco has been with UNM-Taos since graduating from Taos Cyber Magnet in 2009. “Taos has always been a special place—a place that has been an exception to the rule. So it is no surprise that we also have an amazing place to learn. Education and knowledge are the most important things a person can gain in a lifetime. They give an entirely different dimension of thinking and it makes the difference between right and wrong clearer. With education you can live life fully. The instructors at UNM-Taos never hold your hand, but they will always hold you up when you lose your balance.

“The key to UNM-Taos’ greatness is its view that the community is the most important part in its survival and growth. Without any doubt I can say that UNM-Taos changes lives; it has made mine better.”

Another busy week at UNM-Taos: April 30 join us at the library, 115 Civic Plaza Drive, for El Dia De Los Libros/El Dia de Los Ninos featuring Roberto Mondragon. Call 737-6242 for details. And on Sunday, May 2, 11 a.m.-5 p.m., don’t miss the opening of the annual Art Exhibition at the Stables Gallery at the TCA. The show runs through May 14, but the reception with art, music, film and food is not to be missed. Call 737-6276 or 737-6256 for more information.

About The Bill Knief