Northern New Mexico College Welcomes Sen. Ben Ray Luján For Student Donation And Career Dialogue

Sen. Ben Ray Lujan, left, and NNMC President Rick Bailey Friday in the Student Food Pantry and Clothing Closet at the college. Photo by John T. Denne


NNMC Northern New Mexico College welcomed U.S Senator Ben Ray Luján on Friday, February 19, to accept a donation for its Student Clothing Closet and to engage in a dialogue with students on career pathways and the importance of perseverance and resilience. Several students from the Department of Business Administration, the Student Senate, and clients of Northern’s Small Business Development Center participated in the virtual discussion.

“Transitioning from college to a career is always difficult, but especially so right now. COVID-19 is posing new obstacles for young New Mexicans entering the job market,” said Senator Luján. “I was honored to share my experiences with NNMC students, and to hear how their college and community have rallied behind them as they take the next step in their lives. I can’t wait to see what they achieve in the future.”

Evelyn Juarez, Northern’s Student Senate President, stated: “I found myself holding back tears as Senator Ben Ray Luján shared his story of resilience – a story that is not so different from yours or mine. A story full of cultural capital, familial support, and persistent, hard work. It was a true blessing to have had the opportunity to share my thoughts and ideas on workforce development as well as being able to hear others’ ideas, which shared a common goal – that of the need for more mentorship opportunities and pipeline programs for students in preparation for success in the workplace. What I will always carry with me are the concluding words of encouragement that Senator Luján gave us all – words that myself, as a first generation, DACA student, really needed to hear at that moment. He reminded me that no matter the adversity and no matter the odds, the sky is still the limit.”

Dr. Lori Baca, chair of the Department of Business Administration, Julianna Barbee, director of the Small Business Development Center, and Rick Bailey, President of the College, also joined the dialogue. 

Director Barbee noted: “The SBDC was honored to participate in U.S. Senator Ben Ray Luján’s virtual discussion on workforce development. Senator Luján has always made time to listen and do what he can to connect with our businesses and students. He sincerely wants to know what is working and not working. Senator Luján continues to demonstrate the values he grew up with and shares those values passionately by communicating openly and honestly. While he listened and gathered information, he also inspired everyone to be more and do more; he made it clear we have the power within each of us to imagine better. I have tried to instill that same principle in the students I have mentored and clients I have supported. A person’s background should be recognized as strength and used to motivate, not inhibit or curtail progress in any way.  SBDC clients Ryan Baca, Aaron Lopez, and Nathan Maestas clearly represent this mindset in all they have accomplished and how they have achieved their success.”

After the discussion, Senator Luján delivered several of his personal collection of professional suits and dress clothing to NNMC’s Student Food Pantry and Clothing Closet, which commenced operations in March 2020.  While students have benefitted from the food pantry during the pandemic, the college hopes to open the clothing closet to students in the fall.”

President Bailey commented: “Senator Luján’s generous donation will make a huge difference for our students and prepare them for job interviews and professional careers.  He has always been a thoughtful mentor to me personally, an inspirational role model for our students, and a heartfelt champion for our college.  We are filled with gratitude.”

Northern New Mexico College is a Minority Serving Institution, offering bachelor’s, associate’s, and certificate programs. The College serves rural communities within a 40-mile radius of its campuses in Española and El Rito, New Mexico.  The mission of the college is to ensure student success by providing access to affordable, community-based learning opportunities that meet the educational, cultural, and economic needs of the region.