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Ben Villarreal

“I’ve had exceptional faculty at Highlands who’ve encouraged me to strive for excellence.”...more



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Two NMHU Students Awarded Bilingual Education Scholarships

 New Mexico Highlands University education students Shirley Castillo, left, and Emilia Espinoza received NMABE scholarships.

New Mexico Highlands University School of Education students Emilia Espinoza and Shirley Castillo were awarded scholarships from the New Mexico Association for Bilingual Education during a presentation Feb. 5.

Espinoza and Castillo, both seniors, were each awarded $500 scholarships for spring semester. They will also receive free registration to the NMABE State Bilingual Conference in September, where they will also be honored. 

“We’re proud and honored to be able to select two such fine students from Highlands University’s School of Education to receive these scholarships, especially when we are at a time when we have such a great need for bilingual teachers,” said NMABE President Rodolpho Chavez, who was on hand to present the scholarships. Chavez is also a senior associate with Highlands University’s Center for the Education and Study of Diverse Populations.

New Mexico Highlands education professor emeritus and bilingual program coordinator Loretta Salazar serves on the board of directors for NMABE and is past president.
“Emilia and Shirley are both nontraditional, mature students with families who have been so very determined to pursue their education,” Salazar said. “They serve as wonderful role models for their children and our community. They have both done everything possible to advance their knowledge of their native Spanish language, including studying overseas in our Spanish immersion program.” 

Espinoza is the mother of three grown children. She was a longtime Highlands employee working full time and raising her family when she first started taking a college class each semester.  

 “I feel very fortunate that my hard work has paid off,” Espinoza said. “Spanish was my first language and my studies at Highlands have helped me re-claim my heritage. I want to show the children I teach that it’s so important to learn a second language and be bilingual.”
Castillo has three daughters and will be the first in her family to earn a college degree when she graduates from Highlands in May.

“I grew up speaking Spanish and always loved my first language,” Castillo said. “But I was reprimanded at school for speaking Spanish. I want my students to love who they are and be proud of their Spanish heritage. I want to thank my professors at Highlands who helped me so much, especially Dr. Loretta Salazar and Dr. Sara Harris.”

Salazar said New Mexico Highlands has a long history of its education students being awarded these NMABE bilingual education scholarships, with many going on to earn graduate degrees. Recent examples include past recipients Kate Bachicha, Jessica Gutierrez and Monica Romero, who are all pursuing graduate degrees in the School of Education.  

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