New Mexico Highland University President Sam Minner has awarded six scholarships to members of the Highland community to take the National Animal Control and Care Association’s Animal Care and Control Course, or NACA.
Six people were chosen for this opportunity out of sixty applications, and they are being supported to enroll in the class through the school’s community engagement funds.
President Minner said that while the ongoing concern for animal welfare in Las Vegas and throughout the state has been a motivating factor in offering the scholarships, his goal is to give people the opportunity to add to their skills in a way that could open more doors. road, whether in Las Vegas or beyond.
“The goal is not to assume they’re going to work in this field, or someone is going to hire them locally — it’s really about building community capacity,” Minner said. “These people will learn best practices and maybe be able to serve on a board of directors or get a summer job if the city is willing to hire them, but it’s mostly about building capacity, knowledge, community skills and expertise.
A student who received the scholarship for the Animal Care and Control course, Briana Garcia, has just obtained her bachelor’s degree in biology. Garcia said she applied for the scholarship because she planned to pursue veterinary education.
“I thought it would be very beneficial for me to think about some aspects of animal care that veterinarians should consider, and how it relates to our condition,” Garcia said.
Garcia is from Santa Fe and said she chose to attend Highlands because of its size and affordability. She credits the biology department and the Achieving in Research, Math, and Science, or ARMAS, center for helping her thrive in college.
“I’ve always been fascinated by animals and always realized how important community is, so I thought that was something I could apply to my life,” Garcia said. “As a veterinarian, you may be working more with animals, but an important part is also communicating with the client.”
Garcia said her time in Las Vegas and learning about the work of the Animal Welfare Coalition helped her understand the financial constraints that many pet owners face.
“As a future veterinarian and as a Hispanic from New Mexico, I want to give back to my community, and especially to those who are low income earners,” Garcia said. “I would like to put in place more education, some kind of funding and more events that can help prevent certain illnesses or irreparable harm in the future. So, I’m really excited to learn a lot and make my mark as a future vet.
Another scholar, Queren Saldana Luna, said she applied for the Animal Care and Control course for entirely different reasons. Saldana Luna has just completed her undergraduate degree in social work and is beginning her graduate social work classes at NMHU this fall.
“One of the reasons I applied was that I had just taken a course on domestic violence, and one of the things I learned in that course was that being violent towards animals is the one of the first things that really predicts domestic violence in the home or that a child is going to be violent in their adult life,” Saldana Luna said. “So I thought it was a great opportunity to become more familiar with the subject and learn more about the animals.”
Saldana Luna lives in Albuquerque and has no pets. She said she grew up in Los Angeles in a busy family, so she never had pets in the house. Saldana Luna said she was looking forward to taking the Animal Care and Control course as it would enrich her understanding of a subject she was unfamiliar with until now. Additionally, as she hopes to work directly with victims of domestic violence in the future, she said the course will give her additional insight into animal and human behavior.
Minner said he views Highlands University as a community partner dedicated to community responses. The scholarships offered for the Animal Care and Control course are just one of many animal welfare initiatives the university has been involved in, including organizing a fundraiser for the Welfare Coalition of animals and bringing shelter dog photographer and author Traer Scott to campus last spring.
“I think President Minner has always been innovative in his thinking and he is always ready to support our community, as well as other communities,” said Las Vegas Mayor Louie Trujillo. “I think this is a great opportunity for students, and it shows that Highland University of New Mexico is progressive in its thinking about specialty training.”