Rotarians Learn About UNM-LA Accelerate Program

Gabrielle Fresquez and Derek Vigil are enrolled in the Accelerate Program at UNM-LA. Photo by Bonnie J. Gordon

By Bonnie J. Gordon

At a lunch meeting Tuesday Nov. 6, Los Alamos Rotarians learned about the Accelerate Technical Training and Job Placement Program, available at six Northern New Mexico colleges, including UNM-Los Alamos.

The program is funded through a grant from the Department of Energy.

Accelerate is a program that trains and retrains people of all ages and educational backgrounds for enhanced employment opportunities in technology related fields while balancing academics and life.

UNM-LA Accelerate Career Technical Advisor Jackie La New and two students enrolled in the program, Gabrielle Fresquez and Derek Vigil, explained how Accelerate benefits both students and future employers.

“Although open to any student in science, technology, engineering, or business, the program targets non-traditional students such as adult students, single parents, minority students, low-income students, full-time workers and other students with significant educational challenges,” La New said.

Not only do students gain academic knowledge and hand-on skills training for their future careers, Accelerate provides professional readiness training in areas such as networking, interviewing, creating resumes and cover letters, conducting successful job searches and professional dress, La New said.

UNM-LA Accelerate Career Technical Advisor Jackie La New. Photo by Bonnie J. Gordon

Each semester students from all six Accelerate colleges meet for a special event such as mock interviews with local employers, job fairs with partner organizations, networking sessions with mentors or panel sessions of inspirational stories of achieving success.

The Accelerate program began in 2011 with 20 students accepted into the program each year. According to La New, the cohorts meet regularly to hear guest speakers and share ideas.

One of the most important aspects of Accelerate is the opportunity for internships, La New said.

“Internships allow students to build relationships, broaden their skills, get hands on experience and increase their understanding of professional and ethical conduct in their fields,” she said. “The program also benefits employers. Employers who participate improve their opportunities to be provided with qualified workers. They can support student learning while evaluating potential employees. Employers gain access to the Accelerate network, which offers academic contacts, intern and mentoring opportunities and a marketing audience.”

Ninety percent of students in the program at UNM-LA returned to it this year, graduated with an Associate degree, transferred to a bachelor program or transferred to another Accelerate school, La New said.

Gabrielle Fresquez is in her second year in the Accelerate program. At first she wanted to pursue health science, but discovered during the program that her interests lay in the business field.

“I’m a mom, I go to college and I have a 28 hour a week job,” Fresquez said. “The other students in Accelerate have really helped me with my classes. I take most of my classes online, so having someone who is studying on the campus is really helpful to me.”

“I think Accelerate is a great program. It’s really helped me and I’d urge anyone who’s eligible to take advantage of it,” Fresquez said.

Derek Vigil is a brand new dad. “Getting to know other students in Accelerate who have dealt with the same situation really helps,” he said.

Vigil is in the Electro-Mechanical Technology concentration of the Applied Technologies program at UNM-LA.

“I was having a hard time finding a job that would work with my school schedule,” Vigil said. “Jackie helped me with my job search. Now I’m working at Los Alamos County.”

Those interested in the Accelerate Program, including students, employers and possible mentors, may contact Jackie La New at (505) 663-3402 or jqq@unm.eduto learn more.

There will be an opportunity to see some of the projects UNM-LA students are working on, including some involved in the Accelerate program, at UNM-LA on Display: Spotlighting Student Projects on Thursday, during two sessions, 10 a.m.-1 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Nov.15. UNM-LA on Display will feature student projects and displays on topics ranging from ceramics to environmental science. This is a great chance to see what UNM-LA students are learning. The event is free and open to everyone.

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