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With an education, the world opens up

By Bill Knief

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We call it graduation because it celebrates the completion of a degree or certificate. We call it commencement because it sometimes signifies the first step in an entirely new journey. Call it what you will, it is happening Friday, May 14 at 6 pm at the Bataan Building on Civic Plaza Drive, when UNM-Taos recognizes its 2010 graduates.

Isaiah Pacheco isn’t graduating—yet—but he has some strong opinions about education. He is in his second semester now at UNM-Taos after graduating from Cyber Magnet, a branch of Taos High. He is the first person in his family to attend college and his plan is to complete the nursing program here before going to law school. “Education,” he says, “is absolutely paramount to me. I’m in it for the long haul. It literally gives you a different dimension of thinking. It’s hardly worth living life if you can’t fully grasp what’s going on around you.”

“I have this love for Taos that I realize a lot of people my age don’t have,” he explained. “I was so happy to be able to start at UNM-Taos because I would have had an incredibly hard time adjusting to anywhere else.”

Nikki Moyer is graduating Friday with a BA in Elementary Education. She is a mother of four and the Financial Aid Officer at UNM-Taos, and she says it took five or six years for her to finish her degree.

“I started classes right out of high school but it wasn’t for me then. But a few years later they brought the education program to UNM-Taos and it was perfect timing. With the help of my mom, my family and my friends I was able to go to school full time. I am thankful to all of them that they have supported me. If I could take my mom and my kids up there with me on the stage to get my diploma I would, because I feel like I wouldn’t have done it without them and their support. I totally did it for my kids. It’s better for us and it will be better for our future.”

Like most students, Arseñio Arellano’s education plan has changed over the years.

“I am getting a certificate in Culinary Arts, but now I am probably going to do something with a Bachelor’s in Mathematics with a minor in Computer Science. I attended Taos High but when I was a junior I just felt it was a waste of time. I just wasn’t making any progress so I dropped out. I was working at the Ski Valley and I was making money and having a blast. I took my GED tests and passed them the first time. I started at UNM-Taos the next fall so I could get the lottery scholarship—I didn’t want to pass that up. It’s better to keep it fresh and keep it going. Why not get it done, get it behind you? Nowadays, the economy and the job market are pretty bad out there, so you need to have a significant resume.”

Enrique Gonzales, who is a kindergarten teacher at Ranchos Elementary, will be getting his Master’s in Administrative Leadership. He credits the discipline and focus he gained at New Mexico Military Academy as factors in his academic success, and feels that he can serve as a role model for his young students.

“We want to show that it’s not just something you do for 12 years and you’re done. Education is a continuing learning process and something they need to value. I speak to my kids about how it provides options. As we’ve seen with our financial situation how jobs are being lost, I think many people are starting to look back and say you know what, maybe I need to go back to school. It’s never too late to start.

“My wife (Patricia Gonzales, UNM-Taos Enrollment Office Director, who also holds a master’s degree) and I speak constantly about how there is a difference between having a job and having a career. Once you get that education you recognize the benefits of having a career.

“The world opens up.”

One last thought: the Literacy Center is moving the week of May 17 from its location on Salazar Road to the Administration building at 115 Civic Plaza Drive. Those interested in GED, ESL and Adult education should contact Judy Hofer at 758-5904.

About The Bill Knief