State seeks special education volunteers for school districts

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – If you’ve got a passion for helping kids, the state is looking for ombuds to volunteer in districts across New Mexico.

As parents get ready to head into another semester of school, there’s a new resource available for families trying to find support for students living with disabilities, or trying to navigate the special education system.

“I’m a parent, me and my wife have a son. That’s a junior in high school now, and he has autism,” said Valentine Anaya, parent.

For years, Anaya said his family has worked with multiple special ed directors and teacher aids.

“We’re restarting every year. And I think my issue has been, especially for kids with autism, they need some kind of consistency. So that we know what we’re going back to the next year. We know who all the players, the same team basically, to navigate him through his 12 years of school, and that has yet to happen for him,” she said.

The state’s new special education ombudswoman and her office that just opened Dec. 1st and aims to help with those concerns.

“To create opportunities for kids to take those barriers down within school systems within special education, and create opportunities for them to be their best selves and who they want to be in their lives,” said Michelle Tregembo, special education ombudswoman.

Right now, she’s working with almost two dozen families. But the goal is to make sure every district has at least one ombud, which is why they’re looking for volunteers.

“We’re developing a very rigorous training certification program and on top of that, there’ll be regular support your ongoing support case management,” said Alice Liu McCoy, New Mexico Development Disabilities Planning Council executive director.

“They need to come with a passion to helping children. But other than that, we will train them,” said Tregembo.

Because the program puts the students first.

“It prioritizes the student’s needs first and foremost and prioritizes the perspective of the family and the students. I think that is what’s really missing here,” said Liu McCoy.