Almost 10 years ago, I walked across the stage and received my high school diploma. After all the pomp and circumstance and 12 years in school (nine spent as an out of district student), my only plan was to get out of Los Alamos. Packing up, I moved out to California that August to live the Hollywood life. However, after nine months, the Hollywood life beat me down. Realizing that I could not make it in California, I moved back home and started to look at furthering my education.
I had friends at every college in New Mexico, so I started weighing my options. UNM of course was at the top, but like all the others, without the Lottery Scholarship, I could not afford tuition without taking out massive amounts of Student Loans.
That is when my eyes turned to UNM-LA. I was working at Baskin Robbins at the time and living with my parents in Espanola, so the local location of UNM-LA was perfect. After speaking with my advisor, I realized that I wouldn’t need Student Loans to get my education. UNM-LA fell well within my budget from Baskin Robbins and some help from my parents.
At UNM-LA, I discovered myself. I discovered my desire to pursue a business degree. Although political science looked like the path I wanted, I soon relived my DECA days and switched majors. Also, after all the years of beating grammar into my head, the small classes allowed me to finally break down the barrier and see how easy the subject can be … just proof read.
However, the most important discovery I made was my passion for public service. At UNM-LA, I served two terms on student government, where I learned the practice of serving a body and appropriately spending funds raised for this body from their fees. Along the way, I learned the uniqueness of each branch campus.
Although this college uses the UNM name and has access to some of the UNM resources, UNM-LA does not receive funding from UNM main campus.
Also, I served as president of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. While representing UNM-LA, I helped students find channels to increase their skills and ways to fund their undergraduate degree. I was then able to continue this representation at the state organization level when I served as Northern District Vice-President. It was a wonderful time, and I am always happy to call myself a Kappa.
In 2009, the greatest opportunity was presented to me. I was approached with a student position at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Although I loved the ice cream business, I could not let this opportunity slide. With UNM-LA’s easy schedule behind me, I was able to balance a good work/school schedule that furthered my skills outside the classroom and allowed me to continue my education without needing student loans.
Then, in 2011, I said good-bye to UNM-LA. Graduating with my Associates of Arts and Science in Pre-Business Administration, I went on to UNM Main Campus. There, I saw how much further along I was than many students who went the traditional route. My time at UINM-LA allowed me to not only hone my scholastic skills, but also my professional skills. Also, working for LANL while attending school allowed me to bring a unique perspective to group projects and assignments.
Following my passion, I got involved with the Delta Sigma Pi Professional Business Fraternity at the Anderson School of Business where I served as Vice-President of Scholarship and Awards, and Senior Vice-President. In 2012, I co-founded the Land of Enchantment Wildlife Foundation. Serving as its chair, we have grown dramatically over the last few years by championing causes like rehabilitating the two bear cubs rescued from the Valles Caldera.
In May 2013, six years after receiving my high school diploma, I received my Bachelor of Business in Operations Management from the Anderson School of Business. I had continued to work at LANL while I was in school, so now, my mission was to move to Los Alamos.
After a brief spell at my parent’s home, I moved up to Los Alamos to a small apartment. Six months and a transition to a fulltime position later, I moved to the Canyon Village Apartments. A year later I bought my first home, a Denver Steel, and decided to become more engaged in Los Alamos.
Starting out in local politics, I couldn’t help but want to serve UNM-LA. So, in February of 2015, I made an effort to get elected to the UNM-LA Advisory Board. Although unsuccessful, I was proud to show my passion for the institution that molded who I am today. With that attempt behind me, I proceeded to put my name in for an open position on the Environmental Sustainability Board, which I am currently a member. I also was awarded the opportunity to learn more about Los Alamos by participating in the Leadership Los Alamos program.
Why is all this important?
I am just an example of the kind of student that UNM-LA molds at its institution. Every day, students from all over Northern New Mexico come to UNM-LA to get a high quality education without the budget breaking cost of a traditional higher education institution. These students learn in a small classroom environment and are afforded the opportunity to get jobs at LANL and other agencies. They can explore their passions without worrying if they are going to need to pay on a loan until the end of time, and they can foster friendships while studying.
Over the last few years, UNM-LA has done a fantastic job of looking at the future needs of Los Alamos and the overall economy, and targeting programs in that direction for students. In 2013, UNM-LA expanded the Dual Credit program with LAPS to allow almost 300 students from the high school to take classes at UNM-LA that gave them credit toward their high school diploma and an associate or certificate program.
In addition, UNM-LA has championed an internship program that matches students with employers. Using grants, they have created a phenomenal Emergency Medical Service program and the Parenting University and Personal Care Attendant courses.
These programs have allowed UNM-LA to beat the trend among New Mexico colleges and have continual growth in student registration. Year after year, UNM-LA is helping more students however, the momentum is in trouble.
Like other higher education institutions, UNM-LA receives funding from the state to help meet its operational needs. However, these schools are receiving less and less funding from the state. Recent action from the legislature and governor during the special session took another 5 percent from UNM-LA’s budget.
This is why I am going to vote Yes on the UNM-LA Mil Levy.
A vote Yes will allow UNM-LA to continue to provide its programs at an affordable cost. These programs help make a better Los Alamos. It will bring more students to Los Alamos, and encourage them to spend money at local restaurants and businesses. Opportunities provided by UNM-LA can also lead to students, like me, staying in Los Alamos and building a life in our wonderful community.
So, in January’s election, I encourage everyone to forget the UNM part of UNM-LA. A vote for UNM-LA is a vote for Los Alamos.