SB 140 provides Opportunity for students like me

Stephanie Montoya
SB 140 provides Opportunity for students like me

As published in the Albuquerque Journal on Wednesday, February 16.

I am Debra Washburn of the O’ozei Tachinii, Tabahii clan. I’m of the Oraibi Clan adopted by the Red Running into Water Clan (Hopi/ Diné), born for The Water Edge People. A proper introduction of yourself is about more than just telling someone your name, it's about sharing where you come from. My clan identifies me as a strong Hopi/Diné woman. 

As a full-time student at Navajo Technical University, receiving the New Mexico Opportunity Scholarship last semester lightened my financial burden and has allowed me to focus on the most important aspects of my education. Receiving the scholarship has inspired me to help others and give back to the community. Expanding the New Mexico Opportunity Scholarship by passing SB 140 – The New Mexico Opportunity Scholarship Act will help other students to pursue their dreams and achieve their goals to reach higher in life.  

I know firsthand the challenges many New Mexicans face in gaining access to higher education. I resumed my educational journey later in life after personal experiences interrupted my education and other hardships. When I decided to go back to school, I faced barriers including finding the money to pay for college, transportation and child care.  

Pursuing a degree involves costs beyond tuition and fees, especially for students like myself, but many financial aid programs do not take these students or costs into account. The Opportunity Scholarship took a load off my shoulders by helping me pay for tuition so that I could afford, books, and materials, so that I could afford the gas to commute to and from class every day, a 100-mile journey each way. 

I will be graduating this coming fall with a degree in counseling with concentrations in crisis management, suicide prevention and substance use disorder. As a counselor, I want to increase suicide awareness and prevention through our Navajo culture and teachings to help my Diné people who are struggling in their daily lives. Helping people has always been my passion, and I truly feel that I can help solve these problems. 

As a child growing up, my grandfather always expressed his encouragement for my siblings and me to take full control of our educational journey and grasp all that we were taught. In today’s society, having a college education has proven to be a vital key needed for success, and although New Mexicans come from different walks of life and cultural backgrounds, the importance of education is an attribute that we all seem to have in common. 

Receiving the Opportunity Scholarship has inspired me to help others and give back to the community, and I hope one day I will help the younger generations to succeed with their education and goals as I have done.