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El Rito Campus

Northern NM Normal School Alumni Association Scholarship Application Open for 2024

The NNMNSAA Scholarship is intended to assist local students interested in attaining a higher education at a Vocational School, College or University. Scholarship amount may vary between $500-$1000 depending on the number of acceptable applications received and Scholarship recipients selected by the NNMNSAA Scholarship Committee.

Click here for more information and to access the application

The El Rito Campus is located at 1190 NM 554, El Rito, NM 87530, and is home to the El Rito Normal School Alumni archives, memorial and orchard.

Alumni Hall is available year-round for community events. The El Rito Water Association is housed in Delgado Hall, and properties on and near campus are offered for rental. Campus grounds and park are open to the public daily from 7am to 10 pm. More information: Call 575.581.4100.

Heritage Art Classes in Rio Grande Style Weaving and Spanish Colonial Woodcarving are now on Northern's Española Campus in the Arts Annex building.

LEARN MORE about Continuing Education at Northern on the Community & Continuing Education page. Contact Cecilia Romero, 505-747-5477 and cromero@nnmc.edu

Northern New Mexico College Mill Levy would return trades to our beloved El Rito campus
By Leo Valdez  

As a former high school boarder and graduate of the El Rito Normal School back in the mid 1960s, I remember the hustle and bustle of the campus and its surrounding community. I remember all of the trade programs offered at that time, including plumbing, electrical, welding, auto mechanics, carpentry, and others. These programs provided an impetus for jobs and careers for many students throughout New Mexico.

Unfortunately, the trade programs were phased out when the cost to sustain them outpaced Northern New Mexico College’s existing resources. The departure of these programs left a large void in job training and opportunities for my fellow friends, relatives, and community members.

Thankfully, due to the foresight and effort of President Rick Bailey and the help of our legislators, the ability to revitalize the El Rito campus and bring key trades programs back is within our grasp. On November 5, Northern is asking voters to approve a 2 mill levy that would generate $2.4 Million annually to establish and operate trade programs. Plumbing/Pipefitting and Electrical programs, developed in partnership with local unions would enroll students beginning Fall 2020 on the El Rito campus. The Mill Levy would also allow high school students in the Mesa Vista, Española, Chama, Jemez Mountain, and Pojoaque school districts to learn trades, and for all residents of these areas to have free transportation to and from the El Rito and Española campuses.

The reestablishment of these programs is an investment in the futures of our students and community members. The training provided by these programs will not only help high school and college-aged students, but anyone in the community who is unemployed, underemployed, or would like to pursue a new occupation. With the passage of time, there is also a possibility that other programs could be added, based upon regional workforce needs. If anything, we know that these are high demand, high paying jobs that keep our young people and their money in our community.

I am very proud to be a part of this initiative and hope to see Northern’s El Rito campus revitalized, and key trades programs brought back, as part of my legacy. My time at El Rito made a huge impact on my life and education, and has left me with many fond memories. I believe that these next generations deserve to have the opportunity to better themselves, and to contribute to our communities by learning these trades. I hope you will join me this November 5 in supporting Northern New Mexico College’s Mill Levy.

Leo Valdez is a resident of Northern New Mexico, a graduate of the El Rito Normal School, and a member of the Española Chamber of Commerce. He is Senior Vice President of Hutchinson, Shockey, Erley & Co., a public finance firm with offices in Española and across the United States.

Thanks for supporting NNMC's Mill Levy!

Annals of the Spanish American Normal School: The First 112 Years of Northern New Mexico College

Learn more about the founding of the Northern New Mexico College in 1909 as the Spanish American Normal School in By Sigfredo Maestas. Maestas himself attended the Normal School in the mid-1950s and later became dean and its 17th president. He shares first-hand accounts of the college’s evolution and how it has served the community for more than a century.

"The Normal at El Rito, An Enduring Spirit"

The Northern New Mexico Normal School Alumni Association (NNMNSAA) has released a book titled, The Normal at El Rito, An Enduring Spirit. This work depicts the history of the El Rito Normal School, as it was known for many years.The book was compiled by a former El Rito faculty member, Ben Casados, and two El Rito Normal School alumni and former educators, Eileen Gallegos Trujillo, and Cecilia Gonzales de Tucker.

The book traces the history of the school since its founding in 1909 to its final graduating class at El Rito in 1969.  During its 60 years of existence, The Normal provided teacher training for teachers in rural schools and educational opportunities for Hispanic students coming from rural Northern New Mexico and for students from urban centers in the state.

Its opening in 1909 was not without numerous obstacles, described in the book. The then territorial government was not keen on providing schools for the Hispanic population of rural areas in the state. At the urgings of Venceslao Jaramillo, an El Rito resident and territorial legislator, and two other persons, Mr. L. Bradford Prince, a former NM territorial governor, and Solomon Luna from Tierra Amarilla, another supporter for education for Hispanic students, The Normal opened its doors in 1909 with an enrollment of 37 anxious students, dispelling the notion that Hispanics were not interested in education.

Using historical documents, photographs and personal correspondence from administrators, teachers and students, the book provides a fascinating and engaging narrative of the school’s development and growing pains. Starting with a single building whose original purpose was to be used as a reform school, the school, with the aid of the WPA in the 1930’s grew to a beautiful campus of 19 buildings on a forty-acre campus.  At one time during the 1940’s, it enrolled as many as 600 students. Getting an education was not easy in those days; The Normal was a single provider of education in those early years.  Its history is truly inspiring and fascinating. This book offers a well-documented story of The Normal, a true educational icon of the development of New Mexico’s educational system in the early years of statehood.

The book is available for purchase at: Northern New Mexico College bookstore in Española, or directly from Northern New Mexico Normal School Alumni Association. Contact Ben Casados at bencasados@gmail.com

A book review by El Rito Normal School Alumni

January 2019 marks one year from the time 200 books, titled above, were printed, depicting the history of the Normal School in El Rito.  Following are three separate book reviews submitted by alumni from Northern New Mexico Normal School Alumni Association.

My sister Cecilia, and two colleagues have just published this wonderful book which chronicles the century long history of the Spanish American Normal, the boarding school where we received our high school education. It is an impressive compendium of documents, photos and narratives of an exemplary institution which offered a unique and empowering educational experience to several generations of Hispano youth in Northern New Mexico. The book provides fascinating insights into the complexity of ethnic politics and and struggles for self-determination of Hispanos.

Felicidades y Gracias Cecilia, Eileen and Ben for your determination and hard work! Tangible evidence of our presence — the legacy of all graduates, faculty and staff from The Normal, 1909 - 1969.

I realize I did not write you both after I had time to sit down with the book to tell you what an amazing job you did.   I do not think ANY of us "get" what really went into putting all of it together: the time, energy,  money, headaches (literally, probably), road blocks, trouble-shooting, conflicts, sleepless  night, (probably), and on and on.  It is an amazing endeavor, and so important to the history of education, the culture, and of the area that so needed to be documented.

I just wanted you both to know, I do not take for granted your extraordinary efforts. My brothers and cousins feel the same way. Even the cousins who did not attend El Rito. I got them all books which they are grateful to have and told me they are so glad to hand it down to their children and grand children.

This book can be purchased at Northern New Mexico College Bookstore or by contacting Ben Casados at bencasados@gmail.com or Eileen Trujillo at 505-412-0807.

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.