UNM-Taos and the commitment to complete

By Bill Knief

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Last week two UNM-Taos National Honor Society students, Tammy Kuykendall and Nathan Resa, stopped by to talk about a new project called C-4 that they would be rolling out during Transfer Day. That’s the day students that have just about finished a certificate or degree at UNM-Taos meet with representatives of colleges and universities to talk about transferring to four year institutions.

Preparing students to move up the ladder of higher education is a key component in our community college mission, and Transfer Day has become a festive occasion under the direction of academic advisor Jenny Miranda that attracts recruiters from across New Mexico and even out of state. With the current emphasis throughout the country on completion—that is, finishing up with enough credits in a particular field of study to graduate with a degree or certificate—the C-4 program seemed like a good idea.

“C-4 stands for Community College Completion Corps,” explained Kuykendall, one of the founding members of the UNM-Taos chapter of Phi Theta Kappa honor society. “It’s a national program sponsored by PTK, but any college student can participate. We ask them to sign a pledge that they will complete their academic goals. Then we post the pledges in a permanent place on campus, and when the student has successfully completed, we stamp the pledge. It will be on permanent display, so students can say they made it this far. They met their goals. It’s also an incentive for the children of graduates. They can view the display and say, ‘If mom or dad can do it, so can I’. It’s multigenerational.”

C-4 participants commit to college completion. They agree to work with advisors on course selection, use college support networks, serve as role models for other students and reach out to at least one other student to help them succeed.

Nathan Reza, who was also a member of last spring’s first cohort of PTK members at UNM-Taos, feels that PTK and projects like the C-4 initiative help students maintain the high level of expectation and personal commitment they need to meet their personal college goals, although he admits that this can be a lengthy process.

“I’m 32 years old, and just this fall began my sophomore year. I have lived in Taos since fourth grade. I went to the old Arroyo Seco school and graduated from Taos High. I waited 13 years to get back into school, but the delay helped me to mature more.

“In order to be successful you have to be dedicated. I went through many different types of jobs, always trying out new things, taking initiative and opening the doors to new areas. I finally found myself wanting to be an entrepreneur, working with sound engineering and any type of media. I knew if I started here and got some of my basics, I could get a certificate while I was at it, and then transfer to a bigger school. So I went to New Student Orientation and met Nicole Romero, and she showed me that I qualified for CAMP (the College Assistance Migrant Program) for support. I really didn’t expect that, and it was a stepping stone to building a foundation for myself. What I have learned from being a part of the honor society is that you need to want the best, expect the best and go for the best. That organization helps you to do that.”

Tammy Kuykendall has a similar perspective. “I drive 90 miles a day round trip from Tres Piedras (to attend UNM-Taos) but it has been worth it. I was really disappointed when I was younger not to be able to go on to college after high school. I started working, got married and had two boys and felt that that was my place. But I want to let people know that it doesn’t matter how old you are; you can still commit to complete. I love school and I think I am better off now because I enjoy those classes, even the ones that are a struggle. It helps me stay on my game, keep that discipline and try to do my best.

“The Kuykendall Sawmill in Tres Piedras goes back five generations, and sawmilling is an education in itself. But going to school keeps me active and I can set small goals for myself and accomplish them. I’m quite a bit older than some of the other students, but they just embraced me from the start, and the teachers have been very supportive. It’s a positive part of my life.”

About The Bill Knief