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Luminaria Awards 2013 Winners

4th Annual Luminaria Award Winners, 2013

Faculty (2):

Staff (2):

Student (2):

Community Organization (1):

Inclusion, Access and
Student Success (1):

Inclusive Excellence (1):




Dr. Cynthia Arndell, Presidential Luminaria Faculty Award

Dr. ArndellAs a native New Mexican, nurse and physician practicing for over 35 years in a state that ranks 50th in the nation for poverty, I have witnessed, firsthand, the profound impact of social determinants on the health of our communities. Addressing the current healthcare challenges facing our society at both the local and national level, necessitates broadening the scope of how we educate our future healthcare taskforce—shifting away from a primary focus on the biomedical model of individual disease to one encompassing population disease prevention and health promotion. As a result, I have taken a lead role at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine (UNMSOM) in developing and implementing curricular initiatives spanning the 4 years of medical school education that address population health knowledge and advocacy skills. As the interprofessional UNMSOM coordinator, I am collaborating with UNM Health Science Center faculty and community partners to create an interdisciplinary longitudinal community-engaged curriculum for health professions students across disciplines.

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Dr. Antoinette Sedillo-Lopez, Presidential Luminaria Faculty Award

Dr. Sedillo-LopezAntoinette Sedillo Lopez is Professor of Law at the University of New Mexico, School of Law.  She received a University Studies degree (magna cum laude) from the University of New Mexico and her J.D from UCLA Law School. She clerked for the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals immediately after law school and practiced law with the Modrall Law Firm before being tapped for a position with the UNM Law School in 1986.  She has published articles in national law journals, in subjects as varied as family law, international advocacy on women’s rights and legal education. She has published a 6-volume anthology, Latinos in the United States: History Law and Perspective (Garland Press).  She is the series editor for the Routledge series, Latino Communities: Emerging Voices—Social, Cultural, Political and Legal Issues. Her poetry and creative writing have appeared in a variety of publications. She co-authored Family Law in New Mexico with Barbara Shapiro, which was published in January 2009. 

Professor Sedillo Lopez has spoken to regional, national and international audiences in both academic and non-academic venues. She is currently editing a book on new developments in legal education and a joint project collecting oral histories from individuals involved in the transformation of the legal profession in New Mexico from the late 60’s to the present. She led the highly ranked UNM Clinical Law Program from 2001-2009.  She has served as the director of the Guanajuato Summer Law Institute, which is a consortium of Texas Tech, Southwestern, University of Guanajuato and UNM law schools.  Professor Sedillo Lopez has chaired and served on many UNM task forces and committees, most recently as chair of the Faculty Senate Governmental Relations Committee.  She currently serves on the board of the Valley Improvement Association and is former president of Enlace Comunitario  and the Southwest Women’s Law Center.

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Verónica Méndez-Cruz, Presidential Luminaria Staff Award

Veronica Mendez CruzVerónica Méndez-Cruz received her Bachelor of Social Work degree from New Mexico State University in 1981 and a Master of Arts in Counseling and Guidance from the University of New Mexico in 1985.  She has worked in higher education for over 30 years.  Her first eight years at the University of New Mexico was that of a Career Counselor in Career Services.  She has been the Director for El Centro de la Raza for 17 years and more recently Special Advisor to the President on Latino affairs.  In the community, Veronica is a member of the Hispano Roundtable of New Mexico, Mexican American Women’s Association, and LULAC.  Her awards include MANA’s Woman of the Year (1994), UNM Faculty of Color Lifetime Achievement Award 2008, Division of Student Affairs Student Service Award 2010, Volunteer award from the City of Albuquerque 2009, Women’s Resource Center Award 1995, and the Staff Nominee for the Sarah Belle Brown Community Service Award.  On a personal note, Veronica lives in Los Lunas with her husband and two sons Paul and Chris.

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Dr. Don Trahan Jr., Presidential Luminaria Staff Award

Dr. Don Trahan, Jr.Dr. Don Patrick Trahan, Jr., is a strong advocate for multiculturalism and social justice. Dr. Trahan received his Ph.D. in Counselor Education from the University of New Mexico, with the supporting areas of Educational Leadership and Family Studies. He holds licensure as a mental health counselor in the State of New Mexico and certification as a nationally certified counselor.

In the fall of 2013, Dr. Trahan obtained a clinical appointment at the University of New Mexico in the Student Health and Counseling and the African American Student Services. Additionally, he is a part-time professor in the Counseling Department at New Mexico Highlands University and an adjunct professor in the Africana Studies program at the University of New Mexico.

Dr. Trahan specializes in multicultural counseling with an emphasis on advocating for historically marginalized groups and/or individuals. His scholarly work focuses on the integration of counseling theories, multicultural issues, and ethical decision-making processes, which has led to the publication of several articles addressing such issues. Moreover, his pedagogical practices consist of concepts based upon culturally responsive teaching and leadership.

Dr. Trahan endeavors to assist his students with developing the competencies required to examine, address, and resolve issues in their communities with a critical lens. This same critical lens is the driving force behind his advocacy for social change.

"It is indeed an honor to be recognized and I am extremely grateful to be the recipient of such an esteemed award. Please understand that this could not be the case without the support of many committed agents for social change. Thank you."

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Claudia Avila-Mitchell, Presidential Luminaria Student Award

Claudia Avila-MitchellClaudia Avila-Mitchell is married and has a beautiful eight-year-old daughter named Bianca Cheyenne. Claudia and her family currently reside in Albuquerque, NM. Claudia Avila-Mitchell was born in Eagle Pass, Texas to Roberto Avila and Flor Leija de Avila. Claudia is the eldest of five sisters. During her early school years she commuted back and forth from Piedras Negras, Coahuila, Mexico to her elementary school in Eagle Pass.  She commuted because her family wanted to provide Claudia with the best education possible. Her family eventually decided that it was best to move to the US and settled in Chimayo, NM with distant relatives.  During Claudia’s childhood years her parents were migrant workers who traveled the country in search of work which led to her grandmother Petra Avila Rangel raising her and her younger sister. After high school graduation, Claudia made a decision to join the US Army against her family’s wishes.

Claudia served honorably in the US Army for twelve years. While serving, she spent time in the US, Germany, and South Korea. One of her most memorable assignments was a humanitarian mission to Mali, Africa. Claudia saw what poverty and perseverance truly meant. The Malian people, especially the children, lived without the most basic necessities, yet were happy to be alive. Claudia decided to dedicate her life to making a difference in the world by focusing on people. Claudia decided to leave a successful career in the US Army to pursue her dream of an education; she is the first in her family to graduate high school and attend college.

Claudia is a senior studying Chicana and Chicano studies at the University of New Mexico. Claudia was recently selected into the prestigious McNair Scholar program. Claudia volunteers at the Los Jardines Institute Librotraficante (Banned book club) that emphasizes Chicana and Chicano culture by studying the books that were banned in the Arizona public school system.  Over the past summer, Claudia participated in organizing a free Children’s Literacy camp for over 100 people.  The book club and literacy camp has gained national recognition. As a result, Claudia will be interviewed for an upcoming segment of Latino USA that will highlight the members of Los Jardines Institute. Claudia also served as a translator with the New Mexico Center on Law & Poverty to assist qualified individuals with their expedited SNAP documents at Healthcare for the Homeless. She also spent time helping the elderly with public benefit concerns at the John Marshall Center. Claudia has also volunteered at the Special Olympics, Toys for Tots as well as a member of the coordinating committee for the Central New Mexico Progressive Voters Alliance.

Claudia plans on entering a PhD program next fall and hopes to one day become a college professor. She believes that the best way to change the future is to educate the youth.

"I am extremely honored and I cannot express my appreciation to everyone that has contributed to this award especially my husband Jack.  I would like to first thank the Division for Inclusion & Equity for this honor. I would like to thank my daughter Bianca for giving me a reason to be and do the best that I can, to my dad and my sisters who are always supporting everything I do; and to my mom who is no longer with us.  I would like to acknowledge the true leaders who have helped me understand life and find my academic path. First, I would like to thank Professor Irene Vasquez who has been an incredible mentor; she has been such an inspiration to me, that which has ignited the love of learning and teaching. I would like to thank Professor Carmen Samora for her mentorship and drive which has motivated me to continue learning about our culture and people. I would also like to thank Mr. Richard Moore and Los Jardines Institute for giving me the opportunity to be a part of a change in the community through learning about our culture and injustices.  I would also like to thank Ms. Lonie Hodge for the incredible opportunity to assist in the community this summer; I was completely moved and inspired by all your hard work.  I would like to thank Mr. Mark Rudd for the opportunity to be a part of the PVA and to assist in progressive change to ensure equity and justice throughout our communities.  And Finally, I would like to specifically thank my incredible husband for always believing in me and supporting everything I do."

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Marisa Silva, Presidential Luminaria Student Award

Marisa SilvaMarisa Silva is a native of Southern New Mexico and grew up between Santa Fe and Las Cruces. She attended St. John’s College in Santa Fe, NM, and Annapolis, MD, and then returned to Southern New Mexico to complete her B.A. in foreign languages (Spanish & Portuguese) and Latin American Studies. In 2001 her studies on borderland issues led to her involvement in the co-founding of a non-profit aimed at raising awareness of the serial killings of young women in Ciudad Juárez and Chihuahua City, Chihuahua, Mexico.

In 2005, she completed a master’s degree in Curriculum & Instruction & Bilingual Education. From 2006-2011 she worked at Valley High School in Albuquerque as the Bilingual Program Coordinator / Bilingual Social Studies teacher, and also served as director of VHS’s Ballet Folklórico del Sol. In 2011 she received a James Madison Memorial Foundation Fellowship to pursue full-time studies around U.S. history and the Constitution at UNM in the department of history. From 2011-2012 she worked as project assistant for the Project for New Mexico Graduates of Color, and from 2012-2013 served as president of the Graduate & Professional Student Association.

She is profoundly grateful for the example and support of her many mentors and colleagues at UNM, particularly: Professors Nancy Lopez, Adriana Ramirez de Arellano, Andrew Sandoval-Strausz; Dean Julia Coonrod and Provost Chaouki Abdallah; staff members Margaret Gonzalez, Dr. Lawrence Roybal, Henry Gonzalez, Veronica Mendez Cruz, the 2013 Madame Presidents, and beloved fellow students and friends, Carlyn Pinkins, Kris Miranda, Matthew Rush, and Priscila Poliana.

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Southwest Creations Collaborative, Presidential Luminaria Community Organization Award

Southwest Creations Collaborative

Since our inception in 1994, Southwest Creations has pushed the boundaries of both the social enterprise model and the nonprofit model of foundation-funded social change.

Southwest Creations’ pursues a three-pronged strategy to alleviate poverty and build economic opportunity across generations:

  1. Invest in women who in turn invest in their families. Worldwide, studies and experience have shown that when a woman is given the opportunity to earn income, she will spend it on her children and family first.
  2. Provide financial stability through well paying jobs. Financial stability gives a woman and her family the ability to pursue new skills, educational goals, and employment opportunities.
  3. Provide an infrastructure of employee programs that teach essential skills, increase employability, and promote community engagement, helping women become leaders in their families and communities.

While working with the Women’s Self-Employment Project in Chicago in 1988, Matteucci organized the Full Circle Fund, a microlending initiative launched in partnership with Muhammed Yunus of the Grameen Bank. Although women participating in the Fund gained a powerful sense of community, very few became successful entrepreneurs. Most who participated were unable to generate sufficient income because they adequate access to markets. Matteucci began to look beyond the microlending model as a strategy for ending poverty in the US.

SCC logoAfter moving to New Mexico in 1992, Matteucci continued to work on economic development projects for low-income women. Instead of a small business loan, she observed, most women needed a steady job that paid enough to support a family and helped them acquire new skills. In 1994 Matteucci partnered with Sister Bernice Garcia of Albuquerque’s San Jose Parish, to organize a sewing and handwork project for low-income immigrant women. Southwest Creations Collaborative was formed soon after and has since become an important part of New Mexico’s manufacturing sector. In 18 years, annual revenues have grown from $30,000 to $1.5 million and we have created over 100 jobs.

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Jennifer Gomez-Chavez, Presidential Luminaria Inclusion, Access and Student Success Award

Jennifer Chavez-GomezJennifer is currently the director for Student Academic Success at the University of New Mexico. She has 22 yrs experience working with low-income, and students from underrepresented backgrounds through her positions with the LULAC National Educational Service Center and the University of New Mexico. She has a B.A. Criminal Justice, a Master’s in counseling, and is presently a doctoral student in the UNM Educational Leadership program. Recently she was the director of Title V – Main campus grant from the U.S. Department of Education. She led the first Title V grant that was granted to UNM-Main entitled: Improving Campus Climate for Hispanic and Low-Income students. In her role she worked to increase retention and graduation rates by collaborating with students, staff, and faculty, to build a community through Engagement.

Ms. Gomez-Chavez’s experience includes academic advisement, retention initiatives, orientation development and implementation, mentor/tutor training, faculty/student mediation, departmental management, academic coaching, and staff development. Jennifer has been part-time faculty teaching the Psychology of Hope for the past 11 years, which being in the classroom is one of her passions. She has also serves on countless UNM committees including; Provost Committee on Advisement, LOBOS for Legislation -UNM Alumni Association, Mentoring Institute Advisory Committee, the Graduation Task Force Student Engagement Committee (Chair), Alliance for Hispanic Serving Institutions Educators, and Lumina Unidos Planning Committee.

Jennifer believes that student success is enhanced through community partnerships. For the past 17 years, Jennifer has worked closely with community organizations to build relationships between the Hispanic and the University community. For example, she currently, she serves as the Chair for the Hispanic Heritage Committee for the City of Albuquerque that is comprised of approximately 60 organizations to plan, develop, and implements activities that celebrate and preserve Hispanic Culture. On a national level, Jennifer actively participates as a member of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU), NASPA, NACADA, and U.S. Department Title V initiatives. Additionally, she is an active board member for the Multiple Sclerosis Society and also serves on the M.S. Advocacy committee, for the Rio Grande Chapter. With the MS society she advocates at the congressional level to improve federal policies for people living with MS.

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Jamal Martin, Presidential Luminaria Inclusive Excellence Award

Dr. Jamal MartinJamal Martin holds Lecturer and Clinical Faculty positions in Africana Studies, and Family & Community Medicine, University of New Mexico.

His efforts in public health practice and epidemiology concentrates on health equity and social determinants of health, as well as, working on diverse panels, boards, and task forces within health, human services and education. A scholar-activist for cross-disciplinary approaches in health policy, Dr. Martín recently completed course work in Global Health Law Governance, Georgetown University Law.

As an African and African diaspora scholar and public health scientist-practitioner, moving from infectious and chronic disease epidemiology to psychosocial and forensic epidemiology, his praxis now includes global health justice and diplomacy, human rights and the use of critical legal theory in international institutional law.

A former U.S. Public Health Service Trainee Scholar, and Attaché, Secretary-General, Office of the Secretariat, Asia Pacific Academic Consortium for Public Health, he still advocates for ‘child survival,’ ‘health leadership development,’ and policies for civil and human rights as ‘health security’ issues. Before embracing population health and primary care, he provided direct respiratory care, clinical laboratory, nursing, and medical services.

In 2013, he received the ‘Lifetime Achievement Faculty of Color Award’ from the Project for New Mexico Graduates of Color.

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