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FARMINGTON — A visit to San Juan College from the Mexican consul in Albuquerque highlighted a scholarship program that has helped 80 local Mexican college students over the last eight years.

Mexican Consul Efrén N. Leyva Acevedo signed a memorandum of understanding with San Juan College this afternoon at the college’s main campus in Farmington to provide $10,000 annually in scholarships from the IME-Becas program, which is funded by the government of Mexico.

The program provides financial assistance to Mexican and Mexican-American students throughout the U.S. to further their educations, said Osvaldo Avila, director of the college’s Herencia Latina Center and Engaging Latino Communities for Education, or ENLACE, program.

Since 2008, the program has awarded $80,000 to the San Juan College Foundation, and the ENLACE program has matched that amount both with funding and in-kind services.

Ten students are selected annually to each receive a $2,000 scholarship, Avila said.

Acevedo signed the agreement, along with college administrators, during a ceremony in the college’s Student Center.

During the ceremony, college President Toni Pendergrass said the support of the Mexican consulate's office allows the college to provide services to "some of our most deserving students."

She said students who receive the scholarships perform service learning as ENLACE Student Ambassadors. Recipients organize campus events to connect with students and participate in community service projects.

During his speech, Acevedo spoke in Spanish while Helder Lopez, a coordinator for the IME-Becas program, translated his speech into English.

Acevedo said this was his first visit to San Juan College, and he wants to visit Mexican students at colleges statewide that participate in the IME-Becas program.

"Our intention is to let all the Mexican students know that they have a friend in us, and they are not alone," he said through Lopez.

ENLACE Family Center Coordinator Carolyn Martinez said in an interview before the ceremony that the scholarships empower students who might not be eligible for other sources of financial assistance.

"It makes it possible for them to attend school," Martinez said. "It’s a big impact."

Two students who have received the scholarships spoke during the ceremony.

Luis Perez González said he immigrated to the United States four years ago to pursue a better future and education. He initially struggled to learn English but overcame that and graduated from Piedra Vista High School.

After enrolling at San Juan College, González faced another obstacle: paying for his tuition and books. He said ENLACE offered support when he felt like giving up and quitting school. They also directed him to the IME-Becas scholarship, which he received this school year.

González is scheduled to graduate this spring with an associate degree in the industrial process operator program.

Joshua Kellogg covers education for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627.

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