By Bill Knief
Daniela and Joshua Sisneros are an interesting couple. I met Daniela some years back when she was an administrative assistant while pursuing her associate’s degree at UNM-Taos, and I hadn’t met Joshua until a couple of weeks ago when they spent a few busy days in Taos checking in with friends and family.
They had just gotten married the week before, and needed to get back to Albuquerque right away because they were in the process of moving into a house that they had recently purchased 20 minutes from the UNM campus. Nevertheless, they agreed to stop by my office to talk about their educational plans and career paths. It quickly became clear that although they each had quite different learning styles, both had already gone a long way toward realizing their life and career goals.
Daniela went to Taos High, played the clarinet, took AP classes, twirled a baton and studied flamenco dance. In 2008 she began taking her basic core courses at UNM-Taos, and in 2010 she transferred to UNM. By 2012 she had her bachelor’s degree with a double major in speech language pathology and Spanish. She applied and was accepted into UNM graduate school, and calculates that by 2015 she will have her master’s in speech language pathology. She is 24 years old.
“I remember thinking in high school that some of the teachers were really hard on us, real sticklers,” she said. “But now I see that they were preparing us. I changed my mind about five times about what career I wanted to pursue. I took child psychology classes at UNM-Taos, and then my aunt, Sonya Silva Baca, who is a social worker, recommended that I check out occupational or speech therapy. I dove into speech therapy and loved it.
“My advice to high school students is to be as well rounded as possible, because college builds on that. You get a broader perspective on life in general. I’m glad that I was able to experience college. I think it really helps you grow as a person. There are so many options out there. Money is always an issue, of course, but I made it all the way through my bachelor’s degree without having to take out a loan. UNM-Taos was a good place for me to start because classes were small and instructors were able to give you that one-on-one time that you need. It made an easier transition from high school to the larger university.
Joshua is a bit older and has a career in the nursing profession. His educational path was more complicated than Daniela’s; he went to four different schools before getting his bachelor’s degree.
“I went to TVI for one semester, then UNM, and then I slacked off. I really wasn’t ready for it. I dropped out a semester and lost my scholarship,” he said. “I took a class here and there at CNM, then moved to Taos and started a family, and that’s when I realized that I had to buckle down. I said to myself that I’ve got to do something, be a role model.
“I went to UNM-Taos for four semesters while working full time as a phlebotomist at Holy Cross Hospital. The teachers were readily available, supportive and flexible to my needs. It felt more like a friendship with my professors. You kind of build a bond with them. I took advantage of the resources that were available. I went to class, did my homework, went to CASA tutoring a lot for statistics, math, and algebra, and managed my time. It took me three tries to pass statistics, and Diana Boyd did an amazing job. She is a great professor.”
“It ended up that I went to a bachelor program at Adams State and all my credits transferred without a problem. It was nice that the curriculum here met up with the needs of multiple colleges.
“The thing about college is that a lot of people, myself included, think it’s such a big word. When I graduated from high school I said I’m going to go to college, but I don’t think I’m going to finish. But if I can do it, anyone can do it. I have issues with comprehension and reading. I went to special ed classes when I was in school. But once I got to college and buckled down, I saw that I could do the work. I had to do it a different way, but I could do it. Then one day you’re up on the stage and you’re getting a degree. You look back and realize you’ve come a long way.”