Graduates of CNM: Kyle Tapaha

‘CNM never judged my past, they only cared about my future.’ Soon-to-be grad, Kyle Tapaha, will deliver this year’s student speech at CNM’s Graduation Ceremony on Saturday.
Graduates of CNM: Kyle Tapaha
Kyle graduated with his associate degree in Business Administration and is now a junior at UNM Anderson School of Management.

May 01, 2019

After serving in the U.S. Navy for four years, Kyle Tapaha fell on hard times. He struggled with finding direction for his future. When he came to Albuquerque from Arizona, Kyle experienced life as a homeless veteran.

It wasn’t until Kyle reached out to the nonprofit, Veteran’s Integration Center (VIC), that he decided to take steps towards pursuing a higher education and a brighter future.

“I really credit them for saving my life,” Kyle says. “When I wasn’t doing so well, they were there to connect me to the VA and even offered me a job. I saw how they were helping people and it made me want to learn more about the nonprofit business model.” 

After getting back on his feet, Kyle began his educational journey at ITT Technical Institute, but when the school shut down in 2016, Kyle began to lose his ambition. But soon after, he discovered new hope at CNM.

“CNM really embraced the idea of a non-traditional student like me. I felt accepted here,” says Kyle. “CNM never judged my past, they only cared about my future. The community here really made my life better.”

Kyle will deliver the student speaker address during CNM’s Graduation Ceremony on Saturday at Tingley Coliseum, which begins at noon. More than 1,050 graduates will participate in the ceremony. CNM President Kathie Winograd will deliver the keynote address.

Kyle’s involvement within the CNM community is extensive. In addition to being the Public Relations Officer for CNM’s Alpha Upsilon Chi Chapter of Phi Theta Kappa, a national student honor society for two-year colleges, Kyle has been instrumental in helping veterans get the resources needed to pursue a higher education by being a liaison between the VIC and CNM’s Veteran Resource Center. He was also the President of CNM's Executive Council of Students (ECOS). 

“For those student vets who were struggling to find food or housing, I wanted to be the one to make a difference in their lives,” Kyle says. “It just so happened that I was the perfect contact between the Veterans Integration Center and the Veterans Resource Center here.”

Kyle has been the liaison between CNM's Veterans Resource Center and the Veterans Integration Center.

Kyle says that one of his favorite parts about attending CNM was that fact that, as an older student, he could connect with a younger generation of veteran students and share his life experiences with them.

“I wanted to show other students that it’s Ok to take leadership roles and that if you want to better your life, get up and go do it,” he says. “Being an ‘older’ student, I found that I ended up becoming a mentor to a lot of the younger students around me.”

Kyle will graduate from CNM with his associate degree in Business Administration, and he is already enrolled as a junior at the University of New Mexico Anderson School of Management.

“I want to return to the reservation to help low-income families get the resources they need for everyday life,” he says. “I came from a similar community where we had no running water and I just want to make sure that everyone is taken care of out there. I’ll use my business education to find new ways to help these groups that have been disenfranchised live better-quality lives.”

CNM’s Graduation Ceremony will be held Saturday, May 4, at noon at Tingley Coliseum at Expo New Mexico, where more than 1,000 students will walk in the ceremony. Graduates from the past year (2018 Summer Term, 2018 Fall Term and 2019 Spring Term) are eligible for the ceremony. Nearly 8,000 students have graduated from CNM over the past year, earning approximately 9,500 associate degrees or certificates.

Entrance to Tingley Coliseum for the ceremony is free. Parking is free for participating graduates. Family, friends and supporters will be required to pay $5 for parking. Click here for more info on parking and other details about the ceremony.