Changing Northern New Mexico Lives, Workforce

August 3, 2022


Photo by Scott Gerdes
A May 2022 High School Equivalency graduate takes time from the festivities to register at UNM-Taos.


Dallas Loretto knew he needed to make changes in his life and he knew adult education was the key to opening new doors. The door he opened led him to the Taos Education & Career Center (TECC) at UNM-Taos.

“TECC was a refuge where I could forget about my past and try to focus on making myself better; healthy spiritually, physically, emotionally. I wanted my life to have a positive influence,” he expressed. “TECC gave me the push I needed.” Since graduating, Loretto has enjoyed a rewarding career as a community health worker.

After dropping out of high school Heather LeDoux, mother of two, thought she’d missed her chance to fulfill her dream of becoming a nurse: “TECC gave me the opportunity to achieve it all.”

Over the last fiscal year, TECC increased the percentage of High School Equivalency (HSE) graduates by 132%. The New Mexico Higher Education Department Adult Education Division took notice and recently awarded TECC newly acquired funds to help continue their good work.

“In order to recognize your achievement and incentivize your continued efforts toward HSE completions, we would like to award you an additional $10,000 for the coming fiscal year. These funds come from a $50,000 recurring appropriation to Adult Education from New Mexico Sen. Jacob Candelaria to incentivize HSE completions with a ‘pay for completion’ model,” announced Amber Gallup Rodriguez, director of New Mexico Higher Education Department Adult Education Division. “This is the first time that we have been offered these funds and so this feels a bit experimental.” 

TECC Education and Development Manager Erin Clark noted that their enrollment numbers were strong before the pandemic and are starting to bounce back now that HSE is in-person again. 

“UNM-Taos' TECC adult education program is among the state's most successful adult education resources,” said UNM-Taos Chancellor Mary Gutierrez, Ph.D. “It is critical that we have effective alternatives to traditional education because our students have diverse needs and circumstances. Traditional high school cannot meet the needs of every student. TECC provides a means to high school equivalency for students who can demonstrate high school proficiency without graduating from a traditional high school. This equivalency makes a huge difference in earnings, employability, future education, and quality of life for TECC graduates. TECC also contributes to the workforce in Northern New Mexico.” 

The money may be used in the 2022-2023 fiscal/program year, in accordance with state procurement rules, for activities or purchases related to supporting and building UNM-Taos’ HSE preparation program (e.g., related software, technology that students need to succeed, advertising and outreach, tutoring, etc.).

“We're still considering how to use the funds,” Clark said, “but some options are professional development to strengthen instruction, and student excursions to build our learning community and increase our outreach.” 

“In the past, TECC has demonstrated innovation and has had opportunities extended by the state Higher Education Department to continue to innovate. The funds recently awarded to TECC will ensure that we continue to make every effort to meet the needs of TECC students,” Gutierrez added.