We would like to congratulate Aaron Naranjo, who graduated from Northern New Mexico College in Spring 2021 with a Bachelor of Arts in Integrated Studies with an emphasis in Crime & Justice Studies. Aaron has been accepted into New Mexico Highlands University’s graduate program, where he is pursuing a Master of Arts in Public Affairs with a concentration in Applied Sociology. He has also been awarded a graduate assistantship with Dr. Erika Derkas, Professor of Sociology.
Aaron’s original intent as an undergraduate student was to enter law enforcement, but his sociology and humanities classes with his advisor, Dr. Tara Lopez, and Dr. Robert Beshara inspired him to learn more about the “complexity of the social environment.”
“I think I just have that humanistic interest,” Aaron said. “I really have a deep love for people, and I really wanted to go into applied sociology to better understand social interaction and different cultures and their environments and more about the public and private institutions as well. Institutions can be all types of people, starting from the family and the family institutions all the way up to cities and the state level and a national level.”
Aaron wants to encourage students like himself who may initially struggle with college. He entered NNMC after graduating high school in 2002, but realized he was not ready for college and dropped out.
“I eventually decided I need to get an education because I want to be someone who could inspire my children, someone they can look up to and say, ‘Hey, my dad’s a college graduate. If he can do it, I can do it,’” Aaron said. He re-enrolled at NNMC in 2018 and remained on the Dean’s List every semester.
Aaron recognizes that maturity and “a little bit of perseverance” were factors in his success but stressed the importance of having a support system. His parents and extended family – comprised largely of college graduates who value education – helped him through the rough spots.
“It’s important to have people who believe in you. It doesn’t even have to be family to tell you, ‘Hey, you’re college worthy. You can do this.’ That’s all you need is that little support.”
Aaron’s NNMC professors were also part of his support system.
“I really, really miss Northern. All the staff and the professors and my advisor, Dr. Tara Lopez, there were just a great help to me,” Aaron said. “They’re all so awesome. It was bittersweet to leave there.”
Aaron is enjoying his studies at Highlands and appreciates how supportive and welcoming the faculty have been. He regrets not being able to participate in clubs and other aspects of college life due to COVID-19. His current classes are online.
“But I love taking the classes,” Aaron said. “So far, the professors seem amazing. I’m enjoying it just as much so far as I enjoyed Northern.”
After he graduates, Aaron hopes to find a way to assist the people at his Pueblo of Santa Clara.
“I think I would somehow like to give back to the community because they’ve already provided me so much. They’ve been a lot of help to me and my family, and I want to go back and do something in some way,” Aaron said. The Pueblo is supporting Aaron’s graduate degree with a scholarship.
Aaron urges those doubting their ability to succeed to “Go and do it. You can do it. Just persevere. If you work hard and just push through, it will get done. I think what you need is just that belief in yourself and everything will be okay.”
We are #NorthernProud of Aaron Naranjo!