Success Stories

Accelerate Helps Couple Return To College

Couple Credits Accelerate With Their Return to College

Melissa Torres and her husband Paul were both unemployed in the summer of 2012 when they found the Accelerate program.  Melissa lost her job working with a diabetes prevention program in June of 2011.  Paul, who worked as a drafter for an engineering firm and then an urban planning office for 11 years, lost his job in November of 2011.

The couple had been applying for work since they were laid off, but found that in each case they lost out to applicants with college degrees.  Melissa had started college in 1997, but dropped out in order to raise a family.  As the months wore on, they couldn’t decide whether to enroll in college and earn their degrees or to continue looking for work.

The decision was made when Melissa looked at the websites for the University of New Mexico – Los Alamos (UNM-LA) and Northern New Mexico College.  The couple resides in San Ildefonso Pueblo and both colleges were nearby.  Melissa noted that both participated in a program called Accelerate and she wanted to find out more.

The Technical Training and Job Placement program, known as Accelerate, focuses on transitional workers with retraining needs and non-traditional students enrolled in technical certificate and 2-year degree programs.  Accelerate offers an innovative approach to increase technical degree completion, professional readiness, and job placement.

Based on an email to Jackie La New, Accelerate’s Career Technical Advisor at UNM-LA, the couple enrolled in the college and in Accelerate in the summer of 2012.  They liked the idea of having a Career Technical Advisor to guide them and appreciated the stipends offered to attend professional readiness training.

According to Melissa, “Since being in the Accelerate program, we’ve realized it has helped us to be more focused on what we want and helped me to realize what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.”  In addition, she says, “I have become much more assured in my abilities and that has allowed me to gain confidence in how to present myself”.

Melissa Torres graduated in May of 2013 with her Associate’s degree in Health Sciences and Paul will be graduating in 2014 with an Associate’s degree in Pre-Engineering.  Melissa currently works for the Pueblo of Tesuque Diabetes Program which is a community outreach program designed to prevent the onset of Type II Diabetes in Native Americans.

But graduation won’t mean the end to her education or her dreams to help her community with health-related issues.  In December of 2013 she plans to apply to the Doctor of Physical Therapy program at the University of New Mexico – Main Campus.  Her husband plans to apply to the Engineering program, specializing in Civil Engineering.

Melissa credits Accelerate with her return to school.  “The program was responsible for getting us back into college.  I hope that many others just like us who have lost jobs and are trying to decide if going back to school is right for them, will have the same opportunity”.