GEAR UP New Mexico sparks career aspirations with engaging college tours

Anne Maclachlan


SANTA FE, NM — GEAR UP New Mexico is providing high school students with insights into career opportunities through immersive college tours. Over the course of three days, near 40 students from across the state had the opportunity to explore a variety of cutting-edge programs and industries.

From Santa Fe Community College to KNME-NMPBS studios in Albuquerque, students actively participated in learning experiences designed to bridge theoretical knowledge with practical applications. These tours showcased a range of career pathways, including advanced technologies, sustainability studies, film and digital arts, and veterinary technology.

“Our aim is to inspire and empower the next generation of New Mexico’s workforce,” said Dr. Corine Frankland, Director of GEAR UP New Mexico. “By offering firsthand experiences in high-demand fields, we’re fueling their dreams and fostering a sense of possibility for their futures right here in our state."

"2024 has marked major progress for GEAR UP New Mexico in career pathway exposure,” said Katherin Hinton, a GEAR UP New Mexico Regional Coordinator and lead organizer of this initiative. “Seeing students discover new careers options they hadn't previously considered fills us with optimism for our state’s future."

Through the six yearly college bus tours funded by GEAR UP New Mexico, the program aims to give high school students exposure to education opportunities across the state. This is the first year GEAR UP New Mexico has funded a program focused specifically on making connections between college programs and the workplace.

GEAR UP New Mexico, a division of the New Mexico Higher Education Department, is a federally funded program that aims to increase college and career readiness for seventh to 12th-grade students. GEAR UP partners with seven school districts in New Mexico that serve a high proportion of rural and first-generation students. The U.S. Department of Education renewed funding for the program in 2020 at $31.4 million for the next seven years to support around 7,000 students and their families each year.

The tour kicked off with a visit to Santa Fe Community College, where the students were greeted by representatives from Los Alamos National Labs. LANL presented scholarship and internship opportunities for high school students and undergraduates alike. Students then toured the health sciences, media arts, and advanced technologies and sustainability studies programs before engaging with a campus-hosted career fair.


Central New Mexico College welcomed GEAR UP students to their South Valley Campus where students received information about their veterinary technology and other health sciences programs. On April 29, KUNM’s Let’s Talk New Mexico highlighted the veterinary care shortage, especially in rural communities, and the importance of home-grown initiatives to bolster interest in the field.

"I like that I had the opportunity to visit colleges. At my old school I did not have opportunities to even visit colleges in my own city,” said Shelsy Hernandez, Albuquerque Talent Development Academy 10th grade student. “I liked traveling and seeing what's available in Santa Fe and Albuquerque. It opened my mind to new careers that I would like to study."

"My students had fun while learning a lot. They appreciated the range of careers and college programs presented to them and enjoyed meeting students from other schools,” said Melissa Mendonca, the Albuquerque Talent Development Academy GUNM Program Coordinator. “It's always awesome to see them appreciate what is right outside their front door. They learned that there is more available to them than they thought right here in Albuquerque and nearby in Santa Fe."

The tour also included cultural visits to the Albuquerque Bio Park, volunteering at the Bernalillo Animal Care and Resource Center by weeding and cleaning the facilities. A visit to the University of New Mexico to learn about their film and digital media department rounded out the bus tour.

The students also had real-world exposure to digital media and TV production by touring the KNME-NMPBS station next door to UNM. This provided further connection between education and the workplace. They learned to use the production equipment and practice for their close-ups under the studio lights.

“Visiting the news station was more impactful because I want to go into technical communications, so I’ll be involved in media, TV, interviews,” said Belén Padilla, an 11th grade student from Socorro High School. “It’s good to learn how to plan what you are going to say before you say it.”

Photos from the workforce development bus tour are available on the GEAR UP New Mexico Facebook and Instagram pages.