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I did well in school until the year my dad’s transfer moved us from southern California to Las Vegas, Nev. It was in the 1960s, with over-crowded schools, busing issues and the Viet Nam war on the nightly news.
My algebra class had 95 students and two teachers. The teachers took turns — one at the front teaching — the other at the back monitoring student behavior. The first day of school the class was notified that “no questions are allowed.” The teachers were apologetic but firm — there was just not enough time in a 40-minute class to cover 95 student questions. The first quarter I earned an A, the second quarter a B, the third quarter a B-, and the fourth quarter a C. I was thankful there was not a fifth quarter.
By high school graduation, I had attended six schools in three states and earned my high school diploma without taking another math class. Twenty-five years after I had completed my 8th grade algebra class, I walked into a remedial math class at a nearby community college, a true “gem” in the shadows of Cornell University. In this “gem of a college” setting, my fellow students and I experienced small class sizes, faculty who knew us by name, and we were encouraged to ask all the questions we needed to ask.
I spent a little over two years at this “small gem” of a community college where I gained the skills and, more importantly, the confidence to continue. I went on to earn my baccalaureate, master’s degree and finally my doctorate.
The best part of this story extends far beyond my own personal benefits. My going to college put college on the radar screen of my two sons. We sat at the kitchen table doing our homework together; they chipped in together and bought me my first book bag for Mother’s Day. My path, the path of my sons and the path of my grandchildren changed the day I walked into my first college class. At my grandchildren’s dinner table, the conversation revolves around not if they are going to college but where. That “small gem” of a college in upstate New York changed the life course of generations.
Los Alamos has its own “small gem” of a college — The University of New Mexico-Los Alamos. It comes as no surprise that I chose education as a career. I enjoy supporting traditional, adult and senior students as they take advantage of the opportunities this “small gem” of a college has to offer.
This “small gem” of a college — UNM-Los Alamos — with its small class sizes, faculty who know their student’s names and the opportunity to ask all the questions they need to ask, touches the lives of many Los Alamos residents.
Los Alamos residents have always been strong supporters of UNM-Los Alamos. I want to personally thank you for the value you place on education and for recognizing the value this “small gem” of a college brings to the town of Los Alamos.
Director of Student Affairs at UNM-Los Alamos