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Cristian Olivas brings personal experience to NNMC’S Adult Education program

Data Entry/Student Intake specialist encourages adult learners like herself to take the plunge into the high school equivalency program

Cristian Olivas can relate to the people seeking a high school equivalency (HSE) diploma through Northern New Mexico College’s Adult Education program. Cristian received her own diploma through that program, graduating with honors in 2018. Now she works as a Data Entry/Student Intake specialist for the program.

“From my perspective I understand what they are going through. Knowing the hesitancy of our new students, it encourages me to work with them a little closer, as I understand that fear of joining a program and wanting to see if this would actually work out for them,” Cristian said.

“I get to sit one-on-one with them when they’re starting the program, and I let them know it’s not as difficult as a lot of people make it seem. It was a great experience, getting my diploma, and I give a little word of encouragement, letting them know my story and how I used to be a student just like them. I think it really sets a tone for them about our program and how we’re always there for them.”

Cristian made the difficult decision to drop out during her junior year in high school, when she was 17. She was behind in the credits she needed to graduate from Pojoaque Valley High School. She had the encouragement of her teachers as she tried to catch up, “but at the moment I thought I just had so much weight on my shoulders that I couldn’t really fathom trying to work closely with the materials that I was provided. But after I dropped out it’s just like a new perspective reached me, and I definitely wanted to further my education.”

Cristian took a little break after she dropped out to make sure completing her degree was the right step for her. She knew she wanted to be successful and to help her family and decided that furthering her education was the way to do that.

When she made the decision pursue her diploma at 19 years old, she encouraged her mother and the rest of her family to do the same.

“So, although it was a difficult decision for me, I knew for a fact that it was the right step for me, and it definitely chain reacted a decision for not only myself but also the rest of my family.” Cristian said. “I ended up encouraging my entire family to further their own education, as my parents were also high school dropouts. They joined the program and ended up getting their GEDs the same time I did. As well as my sister.”

Her mother joined NNMC’s Adult Education program while Cristian, her father and sister joined other HSE programs. Although Cristian thought the program she chose was great, it was not moving at the pace she wanted. At her mother’s encouragement, she switched to NNMC’s Adult Education to complete her high school equivalency.

After receiving her diploma, Cristian worked for brief stints at GameStop and Denny’s. When Sandy Sanchez, the Adult Education Program Coordinator, let her know the data entry position was available, Cristian applied and was hired June 1, 2020.

“It has been an amazing experience. I’ve gotten more in tune with my community. I’m doing things that I never would have imagined before. For starters, getting interviewed for the Albuquerque Journal. Today I had a radio interview with KDCE, along with one of our previous students,” Cristian said. “So it definitely has been a great experience as well as a learning experience for me.”

Cristian is making plans to pursue college in the future, but has not yet decided what she would like to major in. Seeing friends and family impacted by traumatic experiences has sparked an interest in psychology, but she is also extremely interested in cosmetology.

“I feel like trying to do a hybrid of both can really be beneficial for me, as both of them are things that I love the most.”

Cristian was recently featured in an Albuquerque Journal article about adult education in New Mexico. You can read the article at https://www.abqjournal.com/2479109/the-literacy-project-breaking-through-challenges-in-new-mexico-excerp.html.

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