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CNM Student Veterans Mentorship With Foster Kids Aging Out of System a Success

November 16, 2016 -- CNM’s Sky Warriors and Sky Scholars programs have been a huge success, says David Walker, a Vietnam War era veteran, CNM student, Veteran Resource Center Administrative Coordinator and Sky Warrior.

Nov 16, 2016

“The vets – Sky Warriors – are working with 14 young people, called Sky Scholars, who have recently exited New Mexico’s foster care system, training them to be part of a hot air balloon chase crew and serving as kind of big brothers and sisters to them,” Walker said.

The young people and vets have a lot in common. The vets can relate to the trials and struggles of the kids who have moved from one foster home to another. The Sky Warrior program kicked off more than a year ago with seven CNM student veterans, learning how to be part of a chase crew. Now they are helping the young people, who were recommended to the Sky Scholars program by the New Mexico Child Advocacy Network. The Sky Scholars have all aged out of the foster care system and are now attending CNM.

The vets serve as a support system to the former foster children, offering them guidance on registration, self-reliance, time management, responsibility and new sets of social interactions.

“The young students are in and out of CNM’s Veteran’s Resource Center, where they get to know the veterans as friends, do homework and just hang out,” Walker said. “We all get to know everybody and work together as a group.”

To date, the Sky Warriors have had three cohorts, with each group having about seven to 10 participants. The Sky Scholars is in its first cohort.

The former foster kids also have learned development life skills in a 10-week course facilitated by Dean of Students Dr. Rudy Garcia. They are developing a feeling of camaraderie, something both the young people and Sky Warriors missed when they left the military and foster care system.

Diana Myklebust, balloon pilot and administrative coordinator for the Dean of Students, and her husband Randy Myklebust, pilot the balloon on which the students train.