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NMSU Children's Village to celebrate playground at open house

The Aggies for Kids volunteer group will have much to celebrate as they dedicate a new playground for the children of New Mexico State University during the Children's Village Open House at 4 p.m. Friday, Oct. 28.

Aggies for Kids volunteer, Maria Elena Jurado, center, a 1977 graduate of the College of Education, will dedicate the New Mexico State University Children's Village playground "Our Playground," at an open house ceremony Oct. 28. Jurado is seen here with Children's Village participants. (NMSU photo by Darren Phillips)

NMSU's Children's Village, located in a section of Cervantes Village at the corner of Sam Steele Way and Williams Avenue, opened its doors in October 2003 and provides care to about 50 children, mostly the children of NMSU's nontraditional students. Aggies for Kids, which formed last year, is a group of women who volunteer to support the ongoing effort to increase the capacity and services of the village.

One of the Aggies for Kids volunteers, Maria Elena Jurado, a 1977 graduate of the College of Education, said this dedication will be especially thrilling to her as she is coming full circle in her connection to the university.

Jurado, who donated $70,000 to the playground project, will name the playground "Our Playground" and the dedication plaque will include the names of five children representing each of the five programs in the Children's Village collaboration.

"NMSU changed my whole life," Jurado said.

Jurado met her husband, Arturo Jurado, a 1966 graduate of the College of Business, at NMSU and they have since seen both their children, Rosario "Chayo" Garcia and Xavier Jurado, graduate from NMSU.

"My family would not be where it is today without the university. I remember so many years that our family schedule revolved around the semester schedule. Arturo and I even got married in between semesters," she said. "It's all about giving back. I want to set an example for these students and children. When the students we help want to know how to repay us, we simply tell them to give back when it is their turn."

A new set of playground equipment at the Children's Village will also be dedicated. The Associated Students of NMSU provided $25,000 for the equipment.

The Children's 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 childcare more available for students and to serve as an educational lab. The Children's Village would like to expand to serve as many as 156 children from 6 weeks to 5 years old.

Jurado experienced an on-campus educational lab while obtaining her degree in bilingual education. Now NMSU students from several disciplines are gaining similar experience at the Children's Village.

"So many faculty members encouraged me," she said. "I remember two professors in particular, Sharon Wooden and Ventura Garcia, really helped me."

The Jurados still farm in the Mesilla Valley and have volunteered for many organizations throughout the community. They often support NMSU students by purchasing their books for them. Maria Elena said one of her most memorable awards was from the Girl Scouts, who honored her at a meeting for her support of the group.

"I just really believe that we should help our children succeed," she said.

Other members of the Aggies for Kids group who have donated their money and time to the Children's Village are Jan Martin, Olivia Ogas, Eula Fern Thompson, Mary Welch, Mary Henson, Pat Conn, and Nancy Baptiste, director of the village.

The Children's Village Open House is part of NMSU's Homecoming activities. Refreshments will be served. For more information, call Pat Conn at (505) 646-2130.