Faces of CNM: Brianna Cornejo
Brianna, center

Faces of CNM: Brianna Cornejo

Brianna is a student, but also in the Air National Guard, so she’s had the opportunity to be directly involved with New Mexico’s COVID-19 response
July 29, 2020

Spring final exams were hard for all CNM students because of the transition online. They were particularly hard for Brianna Cornejo, however, because she had to take them online while also serving with the New Mexico Air National Guard on the front lines of the COVID-19 outbreak.

At the time, Brianna was stationed at the Santa Fe National Guard armory and in charge of approving distribution of personal protective equipment (PPE) that would be sent to communities and tribes across the state.

“It was definitely stressful,” Brianna says. “But all my instructors were very understanding and did everything they could to help me out.”

Now, all of Brianna’s hard work is about to pay off. She’s set to graduate in August with a degree in Liberal Arts and plans to enroll in New Mexico Highlands’ Social Work degree within the next year or so. 

Juggling the National Guard and CNM has been hard, but Brianna says she’s had plenty of support. She likes the smaller classes at CNM because they allow more access to her professors. That, and she’s come to rely heavily on the CNM Veterans Resource Center. The center helped her find funding for school and also connected her with other veterans or soldiers who could understand her experience.

Photo of Brianna during a training exercise.

“In the National Guard you’re around people who are all going through the same thing at the same time so it’s easy to connect and understand each other,” she says. “At school you can sometimes feel alone, so it’s been great to meet people at the VRC who’ve had similar experiences, even if they were in a different branch.”

Brianna also decided to work at the VRC and has been in charge of helping other vets, National Guard members, or even children of vets secure funding for school. 

“We want anyone who’s eligible to be able to access and use their benefits,” she says. 

Brianna plans to stay in the National Guard after graduation. In fact, just days after her last class ends this summer she’s being sent to another COVID-19 assignment here in Albuquerque where she’ll once again help with PPE distribution. She’s also trained as an aircraft maintainer and regularly works on the Bell Boeing CV-22 Osprey. 

Despite the juggle, Brianna says she's glad to be on the front lines of the pandemic.

“It all clicked for me when one of the tribes sent us a photo of the PPE we’d distributed,” she says. “It feels good to know we’re making a difference.”