Gabriel C. Baca—University of New Mexico-Los Alamos program manager for Adult Basic Education, Community Education, and Customized Training—visited Kiwanis recently to provide a summary of the many opportunities that UNM-LA offers to prospective students.
Baca, who joined UNM-LA last December, is a relative newcomer, and he lives in Chamita, just north of Española. However, he has a special reason to feel an affinity to Los Alamos. His father graduated from Los Alamos High School in 1958.
Baca was born in Burlingame, Calif., but his family moved to New Mexico when he was 10. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Spanish with a music minor from UNM, and a master’s degree in secondary education with a specialty in English as a Second Language.
He is part of the 2015-2016 Leadership Los Alamos class.
He is married and has two children—twins, both of them sophomores at LAHS.
In a quick overview of the programs he leads, he noted that Adult Basic Education (ABE) offers English as a Second Language and High School Equivalency preparation. UNM-LA’s Community Education Program, detailed in a 16-page magazine-style catalogue, offers enrichment classes, professional development classes (customized training), and youth programs.
Commenting in more detail, he noted that the English as a Second Language program draws its students, primarily, from Los Alamos National Laboratory. They speak more than 10 different first languages—from Polish to Arabic. He also noted that UNM-LA is helping with English classes in Bernalillo, and 100 percent of the students in the UNM-LA classes there are Spanish speakers.
The university’s High School Equivalency preparation classes are offered not only at UNM-LA, but also at the Los Alamos County Detention Center (where a couple of long-term inmates really wanted to get a high school degree), at San Ildefonso Pueblo (which sent out an invitation to people in other pueblos to join them), at Delancey Street (which asked for and will receive a teacher because it wants all of its participants to leave with a diploma), at Bernalillo, and at Jemez Pueblo. These preparation classes are doubly important because students seeking a high school degree (from a non-classroom site) now have options, and some involve on-line-only tests.
UNM-LA’s Community Education enrichment classes are a feast for those seeking new experiences and expertise. They include art classes (digital photography, drawing, painting, etc.), fly fishing, personal finance, and yoga. Baca invited people to visit the university website to see a list of still more classes. Go to http://losalamos.unm.edu/community-education/ .
Customized training available at UNM-LA includes computer applications, customer service, conflict resolution, technical writing, or, he emphasized, “a program customized to your needs.”
UNM-LA offers programs for children too. Baca said, “We’re hoping they expose students to our campus.” These programs are: “Children’s College (grades 1-3),” “Youth College (grades 4-6),” and “Teen College (grades 7-10).”
Since December, Baca said, UNM-LA has made many improvements. For example, it has:
- increased the duration of classes (expanding the high-school-equivalency classes to two hours per night, four days a week);
- opened a new computer lab with Smart Board in the Adult Learning Center;
- improved classroom conditions (providing better lighting, for example);
- enhanced the Delancey Street program;
- and standardized schedules, which now follow the school district calendar.
In the near future, he said, UNM-LA wants to provide “greater connection for Adult Basic Education students,” increase marketing presence, create new Community Education classes that respond to stated needs of the community, add more community events on the campus, and add more volunteer tutors to assist in High School Equivalency preparation classes.
Baca asked Kiwanis members to consider volunteering as tutors—especially for students working on their English skills. “You don’t have to be a teacher,” he said. The students are asking for people with whom they can interact.
“We really want people to know we’re here,” Baca concluded.