Terese Garcia, center, during her graduation from CNM’s Public Safety 911 Dispatcher program.

How This Student Became CNM’s First Blind Security Dispatcher

The job has been a lifelong dream for Terese Garcia
November 22, 2022

Terese Garcia remembers the exact moment when she decided she wanted to be an emergency dispatcher. She was 10 and listening to dispatchers on the TV show “Rescue 911” coordinate with emergency personnel. Their style of communication and the importance of their job left a lasting impression.

Fast forward several years and Terese, who’s been blind all her life, enrolled at UNM to study criminal justice as a first step toward her dream. Unfortunately UNM didn’t work out, and neither did a stint in massage school, but eventually she landed at CNM. 

One day, Terese mentioned to a CNM Security guard who was escorting her to class that she wanted to be a dispatcher. That officer mentioned her request to CNM Security Chief John Corvino who called Terse in to show her the dispatch center and eventually they scheduled an interview. She was offered the job and has been working as a dispatcher ever since.

“For Chief to give me the chance to fulfill a dream I’d had for 21 years was like gold, especially because I’m blind,” Terese says. “People often don’t know what blind people are capable of and/or don’t want to find out, so Chief giving me a chance means a lot.”

There have been some learning curves in the job, but Terese says CNM has been the perfect place to start. She and the Security team had to work together to find technology solutions so that she could do things like fill out her shift reports and then have those reports read back to her by a computer for double-checking. She loves that the CNM Security team is well-trained and professional but likes the lower volume of calls because she’s been able to learn the job without the intense pressure faced by dispatchers at larger institutions. 

To advance her training, Terese also enrolled and just graduated from CNM’s Public Safety 911 Dispatcher program. She’s the first blind person to graduate from that program and says it was enormously helpful. She learned advanced communication skills and got to run through fire and emergency medical service drills so that she could better understand what first responders are facing when they’re talking to dispatch in an actual emergency.

“I really liked running through the drills because it opened my eyes but also because it was so tactile,” she says. 

In five years Terese plans to either be at CNM as a dispatcher or maybe have graduated to a larger dispatch agency like the Albuquerque Police Department. She’s hoping that technology keeps pace so that she can do her job wherever she chooses to be. She also knows that she has a lot to learn and is excited about honing her skills.

“I know that as an effective dispatcher there’s always room to get better at multi-tasking, staying in the zone, and keeping your focus,” she says.