Crownpoint woman will attend State of the Union

Noel Lyn Smith
At left, Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., speaks with Carielle Bahe, a junior at the University of New Mexico, on Monday at his office in Washington, D.C. Bahe, who is from Crownpoint, will attend President Barack Obama's State of the Union address on Tuesday.

FARMINGTON — A University of New Mexico student from Crownpoint will witness President Barack Obama deliver his final State of the Union address on Tuesday evening in Washington, D.C.

Carielle Bahe will watch the president's speech from the House chamber gallery, which overlooks the chamber floor.

Bahe, the only guest of Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., was selected to view the president's speech after being nominated by staff in the senator's Albuquerque office, where she interned for a month in 2014.

“It’s a very exciting opportunity for me,” the 21-year-old said in a telephone interview Monday from the Hart Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C.

She added: “I was shocked because I never thought I’d go to Washington for the State of the Union address."

Bahe, a junior majoring in secondary education, arrived in the nation's capital Sunday evening and will leave Wednesday afternoon.

Bahe said she would like to hear the president talk during his address about efforts to keep college tuition affordable. She said it is important that tuition remains reasonably priced and that there are resources to help students.

Bahe said she has been fortunate to have 85 percent of her tuition paid through scholarships, including the New Mexico Legislative Lottery Scholarship, and her parents pay the remainder, since she does not qualify for financial aid.

Her parents are also helping her 20-year-old sister pay for college, and a younger brother, who is 17 and a high school senior, will start college in the fall.

In a press release from Heinrich's office, he said he is "honored" to have Bahe as his guest, and her commitment to education "represents the kind of bright future" the state can have if there is an investment in students.

Heinrich is sponsoring a bill to increase access to affordable post-secondary education for low- to moderate-income students, according to the release.

"In his final address to Congress, I urge President Obama to lay out a bold plan to improve education and ensure all Americans who strive for a college degree have a fair shot at affording it without being crushed by debt," Heinrich said in the prepared statement.

Bahe is the daughter of Christopher Bahe and Jerolynn Manuelito Bahe, of Crownpoint.

Jerolynn Bahe remembers when her daughter was looking at colleges. The mother said cost, as well as the benefits of in-state tuition, were among the factors the family considered when choosing a school.

In a telephone interview on Monday, she said her daughter remains committed to higher education, maintaining her scholarships and achieving her goals.

As for the trip to Washington, Manuelito Bahe said the family is excited about it.

"She's sending us pictures any chance she gets," she said.

After graduating UNM, Bahe plans to return to Crownpoint to teach and said she would like to attend graduate school.

She is Tl’ááshchí’i (Red Bottom People Clan), born for Tódích’íi’nii (Bitter Water Clan). Her maternal grandfather clan is Kinyaa‘áanii (Towering House Clan), and her parental grandfather clan is Naashgalí dine’é (Mescalero Apache Clan).

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636.