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Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller visits Northern New Mexico College

Mayor Keller donates a bus to Northern’s CDL training program and recruits for job opportunities in Albuquerque

Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller brought city leaders from several departments to visit Northern New Mexico College on February 23. Keller and his team engaged with students in the classroom and during a panel discussion and job fair. The mayor also donated a retired city bus to the college, which will provide a vehicle for students taking Northern’s CDL training to practice their driving skills.

In his pitch to students to consider job opportunities in his city, Keller noted that many Albuquerque residents are from Northern New Mexico. He talked about how the State of New Mexico’s current revenues are funding projects ranging from road repair to new buildings on college campuses, generating even more demand for workers.

“We finally actually have the funding to do that, but we don’t have the workforce to even do things like construction projects,” Keller said. “I think it really presents an opportunity to just stay in New Mexico.  There’s going to be opportunity here, and we need every New Mexican to stay here and be a part of the future of the state.”

The visit and the donation of the decommissioned city bus came out of a conversation between Keller and NNMC President Hector Balderas. The two have known each other since serving together in the New Mexico legislature.

“He’s got a lot of jobs to fill but doesn’t have the workforce. I explained that we have a wonderful CDL program and great instructors, but we had never had a vehicle where our students could actually do the hours of practice,” Balderas said. “He said he wanted to come up here, and I joked, ‘Why don’t you donate one of those buses to me?’ And the next thing I know, he’s using a semi and hauling that bus up here.”

During the visit, Keller and Balderas signed an MOU agreeing to have NNMC Career Services and City of Albuquerque Human Resources Department work collaboratively to establish internship and career opportunities for NNMC students with the City of Albuquerque, specifically geared toward students studying to obtain a commercial drivers license.

While on campus, Keller visited the Weaving and Spanish Colonial Woodworking classes, part of Northern’s Continuing Education program. The mayor took obvious delight in visiting with the students. He was impressed by the quality of their work and that Northern was offering classes in traditional arts. One of the weavers, Marcia Ronquillo, gifted him with one of her wall hangings. Balderas presented Keller with a pen that woodworking instructor Philip Sanchez created for him.

During a panel discussion with students, Balderas asked Keller to share the story of his journey through the political system, which started as a child being raised in an active union family. Keller left New Mexico as a young man, but came back because, “The longer I was away, the more I appreciated New Mexico. This is an incredible place, and I actually had to leave in order to appreciate that. When you think of our culture and our people and our landscape, there’s nowhere else in America that has that. and I didn’t understand that growing up here.”

When Keller started in the senate as an unpaid intern, Balderas was already one of the youngest elected representatives. Keller called him one of the “all-stars” of the legislature and an inspiration. Keller went on to challenge the incumbent senator in his district and won his election.

Balderas told the students, “You all have a lot of that same story. A lot of you are going to be the first person who breaks in for your family.”

Cosmology and Barbering student Donald Garcia asked how they could get funding for a cosmology/barbering space that would allow students to offer their services to the community. Keller suggested the donated bus might also serve as a portable classroom to provide those services, but also urged the students to advocate for what they needed.

“There is no greater advocacy effort than yourselves. When we were both in the legislature, students would come to us and ask for exactly what you are talking about,” Keller said. “And I will tell you what’s amazing about an elected official. Almost every elected official will try to help students, if they actually understand the issue and you live in their community.”

Balderas added, “With the mayor investing in this bus, there are other programs I’m going to be hitting him up to support, because he sees the vision. All your programs, like cosmetology, feed into his marketplace in Albuquerque. If a percentage of you want to stay here, you’ll stay here, but a lot of you are going to get jobs in bigger cities. He wants you to work in his city.”

 

Northern offers over 50 bachelor's, associate and certificate programs in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math); Nursing and Health Sciences; Liberal Arts and Humanities; Arts, Film & Media; Business Administration; Teacher Education and Technical Trades.
Northern New Mexico College is the most affordable 4-year college in the Southwestern US. Choose us for our value, our quality degree and continuing education programs in diverse areas of study, and our experienced faculty. We provide students with unique opportunities for academic, personal, and professional growth, small class sizes, personalized attention, and strong hands-on experiences from day one.
The Northern Foundation remains committed to stimulate leadership, promote equity, and grow resources and philanthropy in the Española Valley and surrounding rural areas. Over the past twenty years, we have granted $1.3 million to support over 1,250 NNMC students.