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Motorcyclists tour New Mexico to learn about NMSU?s far-reaching programs

New friends. Beautiful scenery. Learning about the impact of New Mexico State University across the state. Becoming aware of county 4-H youth development programs and their impact on young people.


Motorcycles and people beside sign for Valles Caldera.
Motorcyclist take a break at the Valles Caldera National Preserve during this year's annual Ride For the 4-H Clover motorcycle rally hosted by New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service. Participation has increased during the first three years from 60 to 90. (NMSU photo by Jane Moorman)

These experiences are a few of the memories NMSU?s ?Motorcycle Gang? have taken home from the annual Ride for the 4-H Clover motorcycle rally.

For three years, cyclists from across New Mexico, El Paso and as far away as Dallas have gathered on the last weekend of August for a two-day ride through rural New Mexico. The pack has grown from 60 participants in 2013 to nearly 100 this August.

The ride is the brainchild of Mike Cheney, chair of NMSU?s Board of Regents, following a trip to Santa Fe with Jon Boren, NMSU?s College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences assistant dean and director of the Cooperative Extension Service, during the 2013 legislative session to discuss funding for NMSU and the New Mexico Cooperative Extension Service.

?Jon was sharing some very interesting facts that I thought others should be aware of,? Cheney said. ?Students in 4-H are twice as likely to be involved in our communities, half as likely to get involved in drugs, and five times as likely to graduate from college.?

Cheney realized there was a need to raise awareness of what the Cooperative Extension Service does for New Mexicans.

?Since I ride motorcycles, I thought what the heck ? maybe we should do a rally,? he said. ?We could take folks around to meet the Extension agents at different locations and see all the great things they are doing ? and have some fun in the process.?

Each year, a caravan of motorcycles, cars and trucks rolls through the beautiful countryside of the state.

During the last three years, riders have visited county Extension offices in Dona Ana, Catron, Socorro, Lincoln, Sandoval, Rio Arriba, Taos and Santa Fe counties.

Along the way they have also visited NMSU?s Agricultural Science Centers at Corona and Alcalde and learned about the research being conducted at the ranch and farm.

?The folks on the ride come from all walks of life,? Boren said. ?This has been an absolutely wonderful venue to build awareness amongst the riders and our university?s leadership of the Cooperative Extension Service and our flagship program, 4-H. Our Extension faculty reach a third of the state?s population ? around 650,000 New Mexicans ? annually with our educational programs.?

The riders are not the only people becoming aware of NMSU?s far-reaching extension program. Politicians are also joining in the activities. This year, the three mayors of Sandoval County communities ? Greggory D. Hull of Rio Rancho, Jack Torres of Bernalillo, and Steve Lucero of San Ysidro ? were at the Friday evening reception, and Santa Fe Mayor and former NMSU Regent Javier Gonzales was at the Sunday conclusion party in Santa Fe to meet the riders and NMSU leaders.

Three state legislators ? Rep. Donald Tripp, R-Socorro; Sen. Carlos Cisneros, D-Taos; and Rep. Bobby Gonzales, D-Taos, have attended the Saturday evening banquet that was held in their county seat.

While Chancellor Garrey Carruthers has not ridden a motorcycle, he has been on the ride in one of the chase cars.

?The administration sees the value of going out into the state to look around and talk to folks about the great things that NMSU does, even outside of the Cooperative Extension Service,? Cheney said. ?There are a lot of people in the state who have not met the university?s leadership. It?s good for people to hear straight from the chancellor how we can make a difference.?

For Carruthers, who celebrated his birthday during this year?s ride, it?s a joy revisiting the communities he has served as governor, and now university president.

?Understanding what the people need is very important to an engagement university like NMSU,? Carruthers said. ?I?m thoroughly enjoying the rides because I?m running into so many young people doing marvelous things in terms of leadership training and projects.?

At each stop along the way, 4-H members share what the program means to them. Each Saturday evening banquet, 4-H members entertain the riders with their many talents, from playing classical piano to singing.

?I?m impressed with many of the things we see on the trips,? Cheney said. ?Some of the neatest are hearing how 4-H has made a difference in the young people?s lives ? that doesn?t happen without New Mexico State. That is truly gratifying to me.?