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NMSU Students in New MANRRS Chapter Win National Awards

LAS CRUCES?New Mexico State University student Ericka Luna earned national honors twice this year as a member of the newly chartered chapter of Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences (MANRRS).

Luna was selected for the MANRRS Pioneer Student Leadership Academy July 6-18 at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical University in Greensboro. The honor includes yearlong mentoring with successful business leaders after the July event.

Luna, an agricultural biology major, was third in the national undergraduate public speaking contest at the MANRRS national conference this spring in Pittsburgh, Pa. Luis Ochoa, a preveterinary major, was third in the undergraduate essay contest.

MANRRS offers a national support system for minority students to recognize and pursue professional careers in agriculture, natural resources and related sciences. "The conference allows students to participate in workshops and meet with employers to open up opportunities for academia and networking," said agronomy major Matthew Banegas, NMSU chapter vice president. "MANRRS is a great place to earn internships and scholarships."

NMSU members at the national conference represented a variety of fields. They included Nathan Rodriguez, chemical engineering; Luz Hernandez, horticulture; Irene Calderon, agricultural biology; Ricardo Hernandez, agronomy; Jolene Atencio, agricultural biology; Veronica Gutierrez, biological anthropology; Mark Seger, agronomy and horticulture; and Fernando Solorzano, molecular biology.

In their first full year as a chartered chapter, members dealt with the loss of their president, Erick Aranda, from complications of diabetes. In his honor, they established a scholarship to provide support for international students involved in agriculture, as Aranda was.

"He was a very intelligent scientist, and by establishing the scholarship we hope to continue his tradition and also expand our goal of providing opportunities in the area," Banegas said.

To raise awareness about diabetes, MANRRS students sponsored a booth during the NMSU Wellness Wednesday program. "We wanted to let people know the dangers of diabetes and let people know that it can happen to them," Ochoa said.

The chapter's other community projects included helping organize the Mayfield High School Agriculture Group. "We decided to do workshops and activities that will help members at Mayfield develop goals and career opportunities not only as a group but also as individuals," Banegas said. "Since not all schools in Las Cruces have an FFA chapter, we thought this was a good fit for our organization because each member has some type of agricultural influence."

Students also worked with La Posta Restaurant to teach arts and crafts workshops for fourth-graders at Mesilla Elementary.

"I am very proud of what they have accomplished as a group," said adviser Cynda Clary. "Particularly with the passing away of Erick, they had to really come together. Not only did they meet the requirements of the organization, but they also decided to honor Erick with a scholarship. That's what I'm proud of."