Scholar and Alumni Newsletter
January 2016
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Scholar and Alumni Newsletter

January 2016

A Message from the Simon Scholars Staff

Greetings Scholars!

For those of you who may not have seen this Facebook post from late December, we offer these words in acknowledgement of all your hard work, perseverance and accomplishments last semester:

“Congratulations Scholars! You did it! You made it through another semester of high school/college/life on the planet. Not only did you survive, you thrived. You pushed yourselves. You went new places, met new people and tried new things.You grew. You lifted others up. You kept going when the struggle got real. You remembered to laugh and keep it in all in perspective. YOU DID NOT GIVE UP! So during this holiday season, take some time to look back on how far you've come and look forward to what lies ahead. So proud of each and every one of you!”

The beginning of a new year is often the time when we, collectively, look back on all that has happened in our lives and resolve to make the changes that will move us forward in the direction we wish to go. Some of us will make resolutions to take better care of ourselves: workout more, eat better, get more sleep, call home more often, etc. Some of us may decide to change a habit that no longer serves us; the one I hear most often from our Scholars is “no more procrastinating!” And some of us will decide that this is the year when we will step out of our comfort zones, try something new, get involved, and work to make the world a better place.

A lot has happened in the world since our last newsletter was published. Paris happened, and after our Facebook profile pictures changed colors, we were reminded that Beirut happened too.  Mass shootings in Charleston, Roseburg, Colorado Springs and San Bernardino reminded us once again that we, as Americans, have a serious gun problem. Meanwhile, the “Black Lives Matter” movement continued to speak out against police brutality and racial inequality, sparking a heated national debate on why and how some lives seem to matter more than others. Student protests on the campus of the University of Missouri (Mizzou), claiming that the administration was not doing enough to combat racial inequality on campus, prompted the school’s President and Chancellor to step down and sparked similar student demonstrations from Occidental to Yale. And, lest we forget during these chilly months that lie ahead, 2015 went down as the warmest year on record, confirming that climate change is upon us.

While all of these events can seem overwhelming, particularly when we are all fighting our own personal battles, I encourage you to avoid the temptation to ignore them or simply look away. This is an EXCITING time to be a college student! Your college years are unique for many reasons, but perhaps what marks them as truly special is the opportunity to engage in thoughtful discourse with a diverse group of young people from all over the world. Young people who, like you, are set to inherit the world, warts and all. Young people who have the opportunity to develop the skill, passion and voice needed to play an active role in creating the world in which you want to live. If you make just one resolution this year, consider this one: TALK TO PEOPLE WHO ARE DIFFERENT THAN YOU. Hear their perspective. Keep an open mind. Try to figure out how they came to believe what they believe, to value what they value, to feel what they feel and to see the way they see. The ability to do so is a skill that will serve you well throughout your life.

Graduation Announcements

We are pleased to recognize the following students who graduated in December! The following students earned their Bachelor’s Degrees from the University of New Mexico on December 11. Congratulations!


Jaylene Fink: South Valley Academy, Class of 2011
Jaylene received her B.A. in Psychology, with a minor in Anthropology. Jaylene plans to use the next year to study for the LSAT and then apply to Law School.



Erika Miramontes: South Valley Academy, Class of 2011
Erika completed her B.A. in Spanish, with a minor in Psychology. She intends to apply to a nursing program for the fall semester and will continue her volunteer work at a community health clinic.



Nora Ontiveros: South Valley Academy, Class of 2011
Nora earned her B.A. in Spanish, with a minor in Psychology. She also intends to apply to nursing school and has completed all of the required health sciences prerequisites.



Marilyn Cisneros: Albuquerque High School, Class of 2011
Marilyn earned her B.S. in Biology. Marilyn plans to pursue her Master’s Degree and was recently invited to interview for the Master’s Program at the University of North Carolina.



Saira Bustillos: South Valley Academy, Class of 2010
Saira earned her B.A. in both Psychology and Spanish. Saira plans to take some time off to gain some more direct experience in the field before pursuing her Master's Degree, possibly a Master’s of Social Work (M.S.W.).


The following students graduated last May:


Monique Parks: Albuquerque High School, Class of 2011
Monique earned her B.S. in Business Management from the University of Colorado - Boulder. Monique is now living in Los Angeles and working as a Management Trainee at Toyota National Headquarters.



Mary Ann Maestas: Capital High School, Class of 2011
Mary Ann earned her B.S. in Environmental Science and Policy with a minor in Middle Eastern Studies from Smith College. After graduation, she went to Jordan with the Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) program then went on to work for the Arava Insitute for Environmental Studies in Israel.



Jordan Gutierrez: Albuquerque High School, Class of 2011
Jordan earned his B.A. in Business Administration. He is currently a Director for Nerium International, a financial consultant for Fidelity Investments. In October, Jordan will begin his training to be an FAA Air Traffic Controller.



Erin Ward: Albuquerque High School, Class of 2011
Erin earned her B.A. in Sociology and Women’s Studies from Barnard College. Erin is currently living in New York City and
working as a research assistant in the  Sociology and Women's, Gender & Sexuality Studies departments at Barnard College. She is also preparing for the GRE and plans to pursue graduate school.


Colin Willis: South Valley Academy, Class of 2011

Colin earned his B.A. in Liberal Arts from St. John’s College. Colin is currently working for the non-profit organization “Global Warming Express” while taking courses to prepare for nursing school.



Janeth Santos: Capital High School, Class of 2011
Janeth earned her B.S. in Political Science with a Minor in Economics. She is currently working for College Plaza, a program of the Simon Foundation, where she helps Santa Fe High students with the college application process. She plans to pursue a teaching certificate program this summer.



Rocio Archuleta: Capital High School, Class of 2011
Rocio earned her B.S. in Psychology. She is still living in Austin, TX volunteering at a local hospital and is preparing to take the GRE. She plans on applying to the Physician's Assistant Program and the University of New Mexico.

Scholar Highlights

Nancy Martinez, UNM Class of 2014, is currently serving as an intern with the State of New Mexico Legislature.

“Being an intern at The New Mexico State Legislature has been the most rewarding opportunity because I get to work behind the scenes, and witness discussion of topics happening around our state.”

Nancy shares that her primary responsibility is to assist with staffing legislative committees that study various public policies. Additional work typically performed by Legislative Interns may include: legal and policy research, issue analysis, speech writing and budget analysis.

Those interested in learning more about this opportunity may contact:

John Yaeger

Assistant Director for Legislative Affairs

Legislative Council Service


Orlando Dominguez a current junior at UNM, traveled to the Dominican Republic over the winter break to serve as a volunteer with the “UNM International Medical Delegation.”
This student organization is “made up of exceptional
Pre-Medical, Pre-Pharmacy, Pre-Dental and Pre-Allied Health Students who are raising awareness about the global demands for medicine. The purpose of the trip is to expose these students to the scarcity of medical resources in other parts of the world while helping them gain an understanding of the importance of medicine as a science and a service to humanity.
The participants are from diverse backgrounds, both within and outside of New Mexico, and are not only dedicated to their studies, but also their community and the world around them.” We are happy to report that Orlando has returned home safely and we look forward to hearing more about his experience.

Shania Krawic, a sophomore at UNM, earned a work-study position with the UNM Center for Health Policy. This fall, she had the opportunity to co-author a white paper entitled “Meeting the Public Policy Challenge of Diversity and Equity in Early Learning.” Shania states that “this experience has given me that extra boost to push myself to do more after I graduate.”

Suyent Rodriguez, a sophomore at UNM, participated in the The National Student Exchange (NSE) program last semester.

According to Suyent, “NSE provides students at many universities, in my case the University of New Mexico, the opportunity to attend another college (one that is also part of the NSE program) for a semester or academic year. I always wanted to experience Miami and reconnect with my Cuban culture so I decided to check out the NSE program. Through the course of my semester at Florida International University in Miami, I was exposed to wide variety of nationalities, languages, and cultures; a completely different experience from UNM. One of the perks of the NSE program is that I got to pay the same UNM tuition instead of the FIU tuition, which saved me a lot of money. All of my credits will transfer back to UNM so I will still be on track to graduate! While at FIU I learned many things that I plan to take back to the UNM community, and my personal life. I learned much about myself, and other cultures, It was, without a doubt, one of my best college experiences thus far.”

For more information about the National Student Exchange Program, visit their website at

In Your Words

In each Newsletter, we strive to include a story or two from a college student who has faced a challenged and has grown from the experience. In this issue, we share this story from Esteban Cabrera, a sophomore at Swarthmore College. Swarthmore is a highly selective,  private liberal arts college located in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania outside of Philadelphia.


I was a different person last Spring semester than I am today. Before, I was much more stressed, anxious and depressed. Many mornings I laid immobile on my bed because I was not physically well. I skipped class in the subjects I had zero passion for and faced the consequences for those actions.  I reached out for help, but many times it was not the help I needed. All I wanted to do was leave and be home. I was good at hiding my emotions, but sometimes my presence spoke volumes.


I was tired of it: my tokenization, the invalidation of my lived experiences, the racism, classism, etc. I could not do it anymore, I wanted out. When the semester ended, I returned home, broken.

Yet, here I am back at Swarthmore.

Despite my experiences, I wanted to return. There were many more reasons for me to return than leave. And ultimately, I did not want to be pushed out. I wanted to resist and fight back.


I came back with force. I enrolled in classes that fed my being and fueled my spirit. I engaged in discussions and argued new ideas. I engaged critically with my work, my peers, and my professors. I began participating more in student affinity groups and running one with a few friends. I made a comeback.


I have immense gratitude for many of my professors and friends at Swarthmore who have supported me and continue to support me. I am thankful for the time my professors took to speak with me and help me find some sense of direction in my life. I am thankful for the subjects that have made me think about myself in the context of the world. I am very grateful.


I learned to develop a tough skin to deal with what happens on campus and have taken more agency in distancing myself from discussions that are hurtful. So far, I have done well.


I am doing what I love now. Studying what I love. Being with the people I love.


I am not alone. I am loved and cared for. Resist. Fight back.


You are not alone. You are loved and cared for. Resist. Fight back.

Student Check-in Reminder
For the Fall 2015 Semester

Please complete the student check-in on the portal as soon as possible. This is the same process as completing a fund request. However, you will enter "0" for the dollar amount in the funds requested section.

Please upload the following documents to your check-in:
Final grades for Fall 2015 semester
Class schedule for the Spring 2016 semester

When you log in to the portal, click on "Student Check-in" on the left hand side of the page under Useful Links. Follow the directions from there. This new process combines the Fund Request and the Student Check-in all in one place. Please let Anissa know if you have any trouble.

Click the link below to access the portal:
Simon Scholars Portal
Copyright © 2016 Simon Scholars Program,  All rights reserved.
College and Alumni Newsletter
January 2016

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