NMSU Social Justice Symposium Focuses on Students Cultivating the Future
LAS CRUCES — The seeds of farmworker families have grown far and wide in the 20 years since the College of New Mexico State University’s migrant assistance program began in 2002. During the At this year’s J. Paul Taylor Social Justice Symposium, April 1-2, a panel of these CAMP alumni will share their life stories.
“CAMP is about creating these safe and welcoming spaces on campus where a set of people with similar values, investments and dedication provide a place where life transformations happen,” said Cynthia Bejarano, Regents Professor and Researcher main program. “I know there are many places like this on campus and we guide our students through these doors.”
NMSU CAMP has impacted the lives of 564 students who say they have found not only success but also meaning. The theme for the 17th Annual J. Paul Taylor Social Justice Symposium is “Cultivando el Futuro: Celebrating 20 Years of CAMP Success.”
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The symposium was founded by revered New Mexico legislator and longtime educator J. Paul Taylor, who celebrated his 101st birthday in August 2021. NMSU’s College of Arts and Sciences established the symposium in 2005 when Taylor suggested pooling university and community resources. to address the concerns of underserved populations in the region.
The two-day virtual event will begin at 6 p.m. on Friday, April 1 with a welcome message, a recorded video message from J. Paul Taylor and a brief description of CAMP, followed by an in-person blessing from Tortugas Pueblo outside the Offices from CAMP to Milton Hall. This year’s Community Awards will honor Mariela Munoz, a nurse at Memorial Medical Center, and Sandra Martinez, an elementary school teacher in Columbus, New Mexico, both CAMP alumni. The panel discussion with CAMP alumni from each NMSU college currently working in New Mexico and the United States will continue until 8 p.m.
The keynote speaker for the second evening will be Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the United Farm Workers Association and considered one of the most influential labor activists of the 20th century. His presentation will be followed by a question-and-answer session.
The public is invited to connect via Zoom video conferencing both nights at https://nmsu.zoom.us/j/94348367338#success.
NMSU CAMP received a five-year, $2.1 million grant in 2017 and its funding is up for renewal this year. These funds help students transition into the college environment as freshmen with a $1,500 scholarship, book allowances and meal allowances as well as mentorship and peer support . While financial help is important, most alumni say it’s the personal support of recruiters and mentors like director Martha Estrada and staff members Ricardo Trejo, Yvette Cortez and Cynthia Bartow, that make CAMP stand out. feels like family.
Concepcion Mendoza has spent the last 10 years at Wanzek Construction, first as a project engineer and now as a senior quality manager. At Gadsden High School, she never knew college was an option until she met a CAMP recruiter who showed her what was possible and convinced her parents to let her attend NMSU. She caught the travel bug while participating in what is now called “Aggies Without Limits,” where engineering students spend the summer building community projects in developing countries.
“I’m still involved with ‘Aggies Without Limits,’ helping them on their journeys and supporting them,” Mendoza said. “Here at Wanzek, I play an important role in recruiting and mentoring young newcomers, especially women entering the construction industry. It’s the favorite part of my job when I have the opportunity to walk through projects with new young engineers and tell them my story.”
Dr. Carlos Cano, a medical doctor at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine, credits the study skills he learned through CAMP with helping him achieve his dream of earning a degree in biology and to become a doctor.
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“I can do a lot of different things and wear a lot of different hats. I can be both in the clinic and in the hospital,” Cano said. “There are many levels to getting into medical school, so being a person of color, it’s important to me to be an advocate for people who are historically underrepresented in this profession. It is very satisfying to teach residents and watch them grow throughout their careers.
Raymundo Chavira joined the CAMP program over 10 years ago, but had to drop out before graduating to support his family financially. After contacting CAMP again, Chavira learned that he only needed six courses to graduate. Today, he teaches bilingual third-grade students in his hometown of Deming.
“I contacted CAMP and by the end of the year I had graduated from college,” Chavira said. “I mean, my life changed completely after I graduated. I feel like I’m doing the right thing, like it’s the job I needed. I feel connected with my students because all these kids — ages eight and nine — have the same background as I. I’m in a unique position to understand where they’re coming from and help them learn the skills they’ll need.
Osvaldo Munoz, a Marriott Corporation executive, currently manages the Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention Center. Less than a month after enrolling at NMSU, Munoz required emergency surgery. He woke up in the hospital with his CAMP recruiter sitting by his bedside. “These people impacted my life,” Munoz said.
Guidance from his CAMP mentors also helped him grow from a failing chemistry major to a star in hotel tourism management. Munoz worked three years with Marriott in Las Cruces and has worked his way up the corporate ladder with Marriot International ever since. He recently accepted another promotion, his fifth in eight years.
“The only reason I was even able to get those promotions was because of my high performing staff. We work together. We are a team,” Munoz said. “I’m only capable of so much, but if I have a team behind me, we can accomplish anything. I think that mentality, growing up and going to New Mexico State and seeing the way the staff at CAMP cared for every student is what set me apart from everyone else. And just as I take the time to teach, coach, and mentor young managers who are just graduating from college or who may be in their first leadership position, I tell them, “Remember to pass it on to the next group of managers”.
These CAMP alumni and others will join the panel and participate in the Q&A. For a full agenda and speaker biographies, visit the J. Paul Taylor Symposium site at https://artsci.nmsu.edu/news-events/jpts/index.html.