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GEAR UP New Mexico encourages career aspirations for high school students with engaging tours

NMHED news:

SANTA FE – The New Mexico Higher Education Department’s GEAR UP New Mexico program provides high school students with insight into career opportunities through immersive college tours. Over the course of three days, nearly 40 students from across the state had the opportunity to explore a variety of cutting-edge programs and industries.

From Santa Fe Community College to the KNME-NMPBS studios in Albuquerque, students actively participated in learning experiences designed to bridge theoretical knowledge with practical applications. These tours showcased a range of career paths including cutting-edge technologies, sustainability studies, film and digital arts and veterinary technology.

“Our goal is to inspire and empower the next generation of New Mexico workers,” said Dr. Corine Frankland, director of GEAR UP New Mexico. “By providing firsthand experiences in high-demand areas, we fuel their dreams and foster a sense of possibility for their future here in our state.”

“2024 has made significant progress for GEAR UP New Mexico in terms of exposure to career paths,” said Katherin Hinton, a GEAR UP New Mexico regional coordinator and lead organizer of this initiative. “Seeing students discover new career options they had not previously considered fills us with optimism about the future of our state.”

Through the six annual college bus trips funded by GEAR UP New Mexico, the program aims to expose high school students to educational opportunities across the state. This is the first year that GEAR UP New Mexico has funded a program specifically aimed at building connections between college programs and the workplace.

GEAR UP New Mexico, a division of the New Mexico Higher Education Department (NMHED), is a federally funded program aimed at increasing college and career readiness for students in seventh through twelfth grades. GEAR UP partners with seven school districts in New Mexico that serve a high proportion of rural and first-generation students. The U.S. Department of Education extended funding for the program in 2020 to $31.4 million over the next seven years to support approximately 7,000 students and their families annually.

The tour began with a visit to Santa Fe Community College, where students were greeted by representatives from Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). LANL presented scholarships and internship opportunities for both high school and college students. The students then toured the health sciences, media arts and advanced technologies and sustainability studies programs before participating in an on-campus career fair.

Central New Mexico College welcomed GEAR UP students to their South Valley Campus, where students learned about their veterinary technology and other health sciences programs. On April 29 KUNM’s Let’s Talk New Mexico highlighted the shortage of veterinary care, especially in rural communities, and the importance of home-grown initiatives to increase interest in this field.

“I like that I had the opportunity to visit colleges. At my old school I didn’t even have the opportunity to visit colleges in my own city,” says Shelsy Hernandez, Albuquerque Talent Development Academy 10e student of the class. “I loved traveling and seeing what was available in Santa Fe and Albuquerque. It opened my mind to new careers that I would like to study.”

“My students had fun and learned a lot. They appreciated the range of career and college programs offered to them and enjoyed meeting students from other schools,” said Melissa Mendonca, the GUNM program coordinator for the Albuquerque Talent Development Academy. “It’s always great to see them appreciate what’s right outside their front door. They discovered there is more available to them than they thought, here in Albuquerque and nearby Santa Fe.

The tour also included cultural visits to the Albuquerque Bio Park, volunteering at the Bernalillo Animal Care and Resource Center by weeding and cleaning the facilities. A visit to the University of New Mexico to learn about their film and digital media department rounded out the bus tour.

The students were also introduced to digital media and real-world TV production by touring the KNME-NMPBS station next to UNM. This provided a further connection between education and the workplace. They learned to use the production equipment and practiced for their close-ups under studio lighting.

“A visit to the news channel had more impact because I want to delve into technical communication, so I will be involved in media, TV and interviews,” says Belén Padilla, an 11-year-old.e student at Socorro High School. “It’s good to learn how to plan what you’re going to say before you say it.”

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