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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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Yes on Bond Issue B will provide Native American students with more space, services

Native Americans at New Mexico State University will have a one-of-a-kind facility in which to gather socially and academically if voters approve Education Bond Issue B on the state's general election ballot Nov. 7.

d issue includes $3 million to help construct a 16,470-square-foot Native American Cultural Center (NACC) on the NMSU Las Cruces campus.

"Our decision to build this center reflects our firm commitment to serve Native American students and to celebrate the Native American cultures of New Mexico," said NMSU President Michael Martin. "As a land-grant institution, we want to reach out to all citizens and make them a part of the NMSU community. The center will enhance our ability to do that."

About 500 Native American students are enrolled at NMSU's Las Cruces campus, representing about 3 percent of its student body.

Organizers will utilize the center and its resources to recruit, retain and help graduate students.

According to the New Mexico Higher Education Department, New Mexicans of Native American and Hispanic ancestry "participate less often and less successfully in the higher education system than do other groups." In 2005, the department released a report outlining Native American and Hispanic student recruitment, enrollment, retention and graduation trends. The report stated that although Native American undergraduate student enrollment has grown in the last several years, it is still not representative of the state's overall Native American population.

"About 50 percent of Native American students in high school don't graduate," said Don Pepion, director of NMSU's American Indian Program. "We also know that a lot of American Indians don't go to college and when they do, they don't do so well. It's all about access to education."

It's also about connection. Students, organizers said, need to feel a part of and be recognized as a vital and significant part of the NMSU culture.

The NACC will house NMSU's American Indian Program, meeting and classroom space, a computer room, lounges, a library and resource room, and exhibit display areas, among other things. Space also will be available for educational programs, outreach activities and cultural events as well as research activities and technical services.

Statewide, Bond Issue B includes nearly $118 million for capital improvements to New Mexico institutions of higher learning and constitutional special schools. The NMSU system would receive $22.9 million if the bond issue is passed.

Election Day is Nov. 7. Absentee voting starts Oct. 10 and early voting begins Oct. 21. The last day to register to vote is Oct. 7 by mail or Oct. 10 in person.

Jeany Llorente-Ontiveros
Sept. 29, 2006