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NMSU College of Education awarded State Farm Youth Initiative Grant

New Mexico State University's College of Education Service Learning for Educational Distinction (SLED) program was awarded a $25,000 State Farm Insurance grant Sept. 16.


A group shot of State Farm representatives presenting the grant check to College of Education faculty and staff.
Representatives from State Farm Insurance presented a $25,000 gift to the New Mexico State University College of Education Sept. 16 for the Service Learning for Educational Distinction program. At the presentation were, from left, Kent Byers, State Farm agent; Dan Garcia, State Farm agent; Ryan Kimbrell, State Farm agent; Mike Apodaca, State Farm agent; Sunny Shields, State Farm agent; Denise Rodriguez-Strawn, SLED coordinator; Paul Jones, State Farm agent; Ben Trujillo, State Farm agent; Mary Prentiss, professor of educational management and development; and Dean Michael Morehead. (NMSU photo by Margaret Kovar)

The annual grant was awarded by the State Farm Youth Advisory Board and is the first State Farm Youth Initiative Grant the College of Education has ever received.

The grant will allow SLED to reach more students in Las Cruces and the surrounding communities. The program has already added more secondary schools in the Las Cruces area, as well as schools in the Gadsden Independent School District. The grant also will help to provide students at the Dona Ana Community College with the same service learning experiences as students on the NMSU main campus.

SLED was started in 2007 to provide students with educational opportunities in community service through placement in government agencies, educational entities, civic organizations and advocacy groups. The community service program helps develop and maintain partnerships between the university, its students and the community.

Both undergraduate and graduate students can participate in several different programs within SLED, including tutoring students and working with non-profit organizations. The program provides services that the elementary students may not otherwise receive, such as tutoring. But the NMSU students also play a larger role in the lives of the children they help.

"The NMSU students in the program are not just tutors; they are mentors and role models. They help children to see that college is a possibility," said Denise Rodriguez-Strawn, SLED coordinator.

The SLED program started with 19 students and 27 Las Cruces Public Schools teachers. While the students were only required to do 228 hours of service, they went above and beyond to complete 421 hours of service learning. Since then, a total of 632 students have participated in the program, completing more than 10,280 hours of service learning.

"There is such a transformation in the students; they go from having to do the service learning because it's required to wanting to do the service learning," Rodriguez-Strawn said.