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CNM’s Service to American Indians Catches Eye of White House

October 16, 2013 -- CNM’s efforts to reach out to its American Indian students have caught the eye of the White House.
CNM’s Service to American Indians Catches Eye of White House

From the left, Yolanda Pacheco, Dorothea “Dee” Bluehorse, Teresa Billy and Joe Skenandore are four members of the seven member Native American Task Team.

Yolanda Pacheco, associate director of Academic Advisement and Job Connection Services, was recently contacted by Sierra Gibson, a representative of the White House Initiative on American Indian and Alaska Native Education (WHIAIANE). The woman wanted to know ways CNM serves Native students and how her organization might help.

In a teleconference that included Pacheco and a couple of fellow American Indian academic advisors, the first thing Pacheco asked was “Why CNM?”

The reason, she said, was that CNM has a large population of American Indian students – about 1,900 – and the college has a number of special programs to serve them.

“Sierra told us that of the 99 institutions that have the highest number of American Indian students, only 10 appeared to have many programs for them,” Pacheco said. “And of the 10 schools, five were in New Mexico,” They included CNM, New Mexico State University, University of New Mexico, San Juan Community College and Northern New Mexico College.

WHIAIANE, which is part of the U.S. Department of Education, was created by a December 2011 Presidential Executive Order to expand education opportunities and improve education outcomes for all American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) students.

WHIAIANE officials apparently liked what they saw at CNM. In a letter to Pacheco, Gibson said, “The Native American Task Team at the Central New Mexico Community College may serve as a successful example of what we can urge other colleges and universities to aspire toward.”

While CNM has no designated Native American student center or office, CNM’s Native American Task Team offers a variety of services designed to keep Native American students in school and on track to graduate. The Task Team is made of six Academic Advisement employees and a Job Connection Services employee. They are: Pacheco, Dorothea “Dee” Bluehorse, Joe Skenandore, Teresa Billy, Clyde Ortiz, Daniel Colon and Amanda Rubio (from JCS). Four of CNM’s 23 academic advisors are Native American.

When American Indian students come in for advisement on their course work, they have the option of meeting with a American Indian advisor, who generally will have an understanding of their background and culture. The American Indian advisors are Pacheco, Dorothea “Dee” Bluehorse, Joe Skenandore and Teresa Billy. They have knowledge of special scholarships available only to American Indian students.

“Many of the American Indian students are first generation students or nontraditional students. They may not know how to enroll or get financial aid – just like the population in general,” Pacheco said.

Besides having the opportunity of being counseled by American Indian academic advisors, they can participate in the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES), a leadership development organization. They can also take advantage of CNM’s many support services such as CNM Connect, TRiO, and tutoring services.

Pacheco noted that the next step is for the WHIAIANE officials to meet with presidents of colleges with high Native American populations, particularly CNM and UNM.

“We don’t anticipate funding to come from this new relationship, but we do believe there will be idea sharing,” she said.

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