Corilia Ortega, left, advocacy and education coordinator, and Kimberly Blea, director, for the Highlands University Center for Advocacy Resources Education and Support or CARES.
Las Vegas, N.M. — The New Mexico Highlands University Campus Violence Prevention Program changed its name to CARES — Center for Advocacy Resources Education and Support — to make its services more welcoming and clear to students.
“Education workshops with students revealed that our former name was intimidating,” said Kimberly Blea, CARES director. “This new name sends the message that the wellbeing of our students is an important priority for the university. We also wanted the name to be more inclusive of the scope of our services.”
Blea said CARES will offer the same services while expanding to substance abuse prevention programming, thanks to a new four-year grant from the New Mexico Office of Substance Abuse Prevention awarded this month.
“The purpose of this project is to address substance abuse prevention priorities like underage drinking, DWI, binge drinking, and prescription drug misuse and abuse,” Blea said. “With this grant, we’re creating a community-based coalition that includes partners like community service providers, law enforcement, business owners, and families, which are very important to have at the table to create community-level change in substance abuse.”
Since 2010, CARES has provided services that include student-centered advocacy such as aiding students in the criminal justice process, student disciplinary process, and referrals to community service providers.
Blea said in addition, CARES provides help with academic and housing accommodations.
Educational outreach is another important function of CARES.
“We provide professional development workshops for faculty and staff to equip them to with tools to support students through a crisis,” said Corilia Ortega, CARES advocacy and education coordinator. “Workshops for students range from bystander intervention to sexual consent and supporting friends struggling with thoughts of suicide.”
CARES also implements campus events like Suicide Awareness Runs and a Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event for sexual assault prevention.
“These awareness events are informal ways for talking about very hard and sensitive subjects, and we want to empower students with knowledge,” Ortega said. “Every time we implement an awareness event, we see a trend in students contacting our center for further information and help.”
She added that student feedback has helped CARES develop its education curriculum.
“We are committed to our students and thinking of creative, resourceful ways to help them feel safe and supported during their college experience at Highlands,” Ortega said. “It’s hard to ask for help and we want to make it as easy as possible.”
The CARES office is still on the third floor of the Student Union and can be reached at 505-454-3529 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org CARES is also on Facebook at No Violence HU.