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NMSU Children's Village to be dedicated

When Myrna Villanueva first came to New Mexico State University as a newlywed in the late 1950s, she saw it as "quite an adventure" and today she says being on the NMSU campus "always makes me feel good." She will be back on campus on Thursday, April 20, for the dedication ceremony for Myrna's Children's Village, which was named in her honor last fall as a "belated happy birthday" gift from her husband Danny Villanueva, who pledged $1 million for the village.

Myrna Villanueva was honored this fall when the New Mexico State University child care center was named Myrna's Children's Village as a "belated happy birthday" gift from her husband Danny Villanueva, who pledged $1 million for the village. The dedication

The gift will help expand programs at Myrna's Children's Village, located in a section of Cervantes Village at the corner of Sam Steel Way and Williams Avenue. The village opened its doors in October 2003 and provides care to about 50 children, mostly the children of NMSU's nontraditional students. The village open house on April 20 will be from 4 to 5:30 p.m., with dedication ceremonies to start at 4:30 p.m.

Danny Villanueva said he decided to make the gift as part of the university's comprehensive "Doing What Counts" campaign, after Myrna had taken an interest in the program on a previous visit to campus. Villanueva, a former NFL football star and Spanish language television pioneer who now heads a venture capital firm in Los Angeles, is chairing the university's five-year fundraising campaign.

"My wife and I will always be grateful to NMSU, where we began our marriage," he said as part of the gift announcement. "It was here that we set the foundation for our family that has become the cornerstone of whatever success we have enjoyed. This is our chance to pay back."

A native of Tucumcari, Villanueva came to New Mexico State University on a football scholarship after attending a junior college in Reedley, Calif., where he met and married Myrna before returning to New Mexico.

Villanueva was a member of the Aggie team that won the Sun Bowl in 1959. While he pursued a degree, played football for the Aggies and served as the editor of the student newspaper, his wife worked for the city of Las Cruces. Their first child, Danny Jr., was born during Villanueva's senior year.

"I was very impressed with the village when I saw it the first time," Myrna Villanueva said. "Child care is so needed and necessary. This is a wonderful facility and so well organized."

When she was a young working mother living in married-student housing, she said, there were no child care services on campus and she had to hire someone to help her while she worked, which strained the young couple's budget.

"So many young parents want to go to school - that reason alone makes this program so very important at NMSU," she said. "Danny and I have a deep belief that early childhood is a critical time where children's values and beliefs are formed, which makes quality care like the village essential. The effect is extended when programs like this serve as educational labs to train teachers."

The village was established to incorporate all child and family services available at NMSU including the pre-school programs that were part of the Dove Learning Center housed in the basement of O'Donnell Hall for many years. The village also strives to make child care more available for students and to serve as an educational lab.

"NMSU is such a special place for us. We just love it and we know a lot of lives will be changed by the opportunities the village offers," Mrs. Villanueva said.

Myrna's Children's Village Open House and Dedication is being hosted by the College of Education and the Aggies for Kids volunteer group. Aggies for Kids, which formed in 2004, is a group of mostly women who volunteer to help increase the capacity and services of the village.

Refreshments will be served at the open house. For more information call Pat Conn at (505) 646-2130.