UNM Chicana/o Studies department aims to boost graduation rates

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – A new innovative program has some big aspirations to boost New Mexico’s abysmal education rankings.

The department of Chicana and Chicano Studies at the University of New Mexico is finding a way to increase graduation rates with a touch of tradition.

ISEE College Program gives high schoolers at certain Albuquerque Public Schools the opportunity to take college classes and earn dual credit.

“Last year I took Business Law, and I also took Curanderismo and Business Law really prepared me for like adult life like taxes and stocks, and more about governing but then Curanderismo really taught me about like culture and learning more about me,” said Larissa Saiz, a student at Manzano High School.

The director of the program said it also gives them an understanding of New Mexico culture they can take outside of the classroom.

“Through curriculum development, our students are learning things they’ve never known about their state and about their communities and that makes them better prepared to work in our diverse workforce in the state,” said Dr. Irene Vasquez, the UNM Chicana/o Studies Chair.

Gabno Noriega is an instructor for the program and said this program gives opportunities to students who are at-risk or haven’t even thought about college a chance to get a higher education.

“They come over here, and they get to see what it is like, I teach over at the University too and so the same content that I am teaching there I am teaching here so they are getting a college class,” he said.

The program takes it one step further by pairing students with mentors to help them apply for college, register for classes, and look for scholarships.