Elizabeth Gomez and Pete LeRoy
Las Vegas, NM — New Mexico Highlands University student Elizabeth Gomez was awarded a $1,000 scholarship in memory of the late Bryan “Dutch” Cokeley, a media arts student who died in 2008.
Gomez, a Las Vegas resident who graduated from Robertson High School in 2003, is a senior with a double major in Spanish and media arts, with an emphasis in design.
“Elizabeth is an exceptional designer and writer – everything she works on turns to gold,” said Megan Jacobs, media arts professor and scholarship coordinator. “Elizabeth also has a stellar work ethic. The media arts faculty voted unanimously to award her this scholarship.”
After high school, Gomez, 27, spent a year studying painting at the University of Queretaro in Santiago de Queretaro, Mexico. She worked at several jobs and completed her degree prerequisites at Luna Community College before finding a home in media arts at Highlands in 2010.
“I like design because it’s a challenge and pushes me to be more creative every day,” Gomez said. “Unlike my painting, it has to meet the client’s needs while being functional and aesthetically pleasing.
“The media arts professors are excellent and critique your work in a way that pushes you to find your own style. The media arts students are like a family and help each other, ” Gomez said.
Professionally, Gomez said she wants to eventually merge her Spanish and design expertise at a publication that raises awareness and builds networks about cultural, political and leadership issues.
Gomez, who is on the academic honor roll at Highlands, is also a leader on campus. She served as vice president of MEChA de Highlands University and is still an active member. MEChA stands for Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano/a de Aztlí¡n.
In the community, Gomez is an organizer with the Las Vegas Peace and Justice Center and also volunteers for Good Samaritan House and Casa de Cultura. She is the media coordinator for the immigrant advocacy organization New Mexico Dreamers in Action.
Gomez, whose parents were born in Mexico, is bilingual and has worked as a translator.
“My heritage influences me because there is so much injustice in Mexico and I’m inspired to help change that,” Gomez said. “At the same time, there’s so much beauty in the culture and art of Mexico.”
For her senior Spanish paper, Gomez is analyzing Mexican border literature and music about femicides, the thousands of women who have been murdered or have disappeared near the border during the last decade.
“I want to bring more awareness to this horrible and sad issue that so many people on the Mexican border accept as normal,” Gomez said.
She said the scholarship award is motivating and helps her know she’s on the right path.
Bryan “Dutch” Cokeley was a Highlands University media arts student who had a longtime seizure disorder and died at the age of 30. Cokeley’s family established the scholarship in 2009 for outstanding media arts students.
Before his death, Cokeley was thriving in the Media Arts Department.
Highlands University exercise and sport sciences professor Pete LeRoy is married to Cokeley’s mother, Kathleen LeRoy.
“Bryan was such a giving, generous person and we felt it would honor him to award a media arts scholarship in his name,” LeRoy said. “To help further the career of a talented student in the discipline Bryan loved is very rewarding.”