HU Graduate Ane Romero Tapped for Excellence in Federal Government Leadership Award
Ane Romero, a New Mexico Highlands University graduate and 2005 Miss New Mexico, was tapped for an Excellence in Federal Government Leadership Award for her work on suicide prevention and other mental health issues.
The National Resource Center for Hispanic Mental Health made the award June 9 to Romero, who is a legislative aid for U.S. Rep. Grace Napolitano.
Romero, 30, is Napolitano’s lead staff member for a bill the congresswoman from California introduced Feb. 17, the Mental Health in Schools Act. The bill would authorize more therapists and mental health services in public schools nationwide, and would fund the $200 million federal initiative.
“No one on Capitol Hill is as organized, thorough and passionate about improving mental health delivery as Ane Romero,” said Henry Acosta, director for the National Resource Center for Hispanic Mental Health. “She’s well respected by her colleagues who appreciate her knowledge, hard work, and dedication to mental health issues. She’s extremely intelligent and resourceful, and yet so humble.”
Acosta said past honorees for this award include U.S. senators, U.S. representatives, and a U.S. surgeon general.
For Romero, her work on the Mental Health in Schools Act holds urgency.
“An estimated one out of five children and adolescents suffer from some form of mental illness, and suicide is the second-leading cause of death for college students,” Romero said.
“Suicide is also the fastest growing cause of death for children who are 10 to 14. Early intervention is key.”
Romero, who has worked for Napolitano since 2007, is responsible for outreach to other members of congress to build support and awareness for the bill. She’s also working with national mental health organizations on the bill.
“Overall, this legislation will give young people the opportunity to become more informed about mental health and help remove the stigma,” Romero said. “It will encourage them to ask for help, and not be ashamed or embarrassed to access services. We look for this bill to save lives.”
Romero said suicide impacted her life in a personal way when she was 13 when her 15-year-old friend died from suicide. At first, she simply wanted to honor the memory of her friend and role model. As she matured, she saw the need for more suicide prevention programs and got involved.
In 2004, Romero completed her B.A. from Highlands in political science with a minor in professional writing. She went on to earn her M.A. in public affairs from the university.
While at Highlands, Romero served as student body president for two years and helped establish a Yellow Ribbon Suicide Prevention chapter on campus. She is certified through Yellow Ribbon to train schools and communities in suicide prevention and has presented numerous workshops, including ones at her alma mater.
When she was a senior at Highlands, Romero wrote and lobbied for a successful New Mexico legislative bill calling for a study to help implement suicide prevention programs in the state’s public schools and universities. State Sen. Pete Campos sponsored the bill.
Romero chose suicide prevention as her platform when she was Miss New Mexico, giving her a high-profile opportunity to raise awareness about the issue.
She’s an experienced public speaker and served as the national spokesperson for the 1-800-YOUTHLINE, a peer-to-peer suicide prevention hotline. In 2006 and 2007, she spoke in Washington, D.C. on behalf of the Mental Health Parity Act.
Romero calls Las Vegas, NM home. Her parents are Las Vegas educators Nick and Yolanda Jaramillo.
Romero said she’s grateful for the education she received at Highlands.
“I definitely would not be where I am today without what I learned at Highlands, including my time as student body president,” Romero said. “This service was a huge gateway for learning about policy and government.”
If you or someone you know needs help, Romero urges you to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).