Future Tech Student Receives Highest Student Civic Award

By Thomas Guengerich

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M., March 18, 2009 – A high school student participating in New Mexico Tech’s Upward Bound program has received one of Albuquerque Public School’s highest honors.

Melvin Ojeda, a senior at West Mesa High School, was named a Selfless Senior for his involvement and dedication to his school and community.

“At first, I thought I wasn’t the right person to get the award,” Ojeda said. “I am not one to like being the center of attention.”

Ojeda, who’s first language is Spanish, said he plans to go to Central New Mexico Community College for a year, then transfer to New Mexico Tech, where he intends to pursue a degree in chemical engineering.

Ojeda has big plans for his future, but in the meantime he’s happy to help others at West Mesa High and his community. An active church volunteer, Melvin helps take care of the grounds and buildings. He lives in a neighborhood plagued with tension, and he often steps up and serves as mediator between feuding neighbors.

“Melvin’s award shows that he contributes to society in a well-rounded way,” Upward Bound Director Frances Ortega said. “Not only in the classroom, but he has care and respect for people in his community.”

He also participates in the Upward Bound Program at New Mexico Tech, where he plans to attend college, and has been active in the award-winning Skills USA program at West Mesa. His giving and generous nature set him apart, as does his motto: Keep Dreaming.

“He’s one of those incredibly talented individuals who is very diplomatic,” Ortega said. “He seeks to communicate and understand – that’s what sets him apart from a lot of other students. He is willing to listen to others and to bring a broader understanding.”

Upward Bound is a yearlong program at New Mexico Tech that is active at West Mesa, Highlands and Albuquerque High. Students participate in monthly Saturday workshops, cultural activities, college entrance exam preparation, five weeks on campus at New Mexico Tech and college visits.

In late March, the Upward Bound students will visit campuses in Arizona – Northern Arizona in Flagstaff and Arizona State in Tempe.

“Upward Bound is wonderful,” Ojeda said. “It’s a great experience and you get to learn more to make your life easier in school.”

He said the biggest influence of Upward Bound was the college visit. He spent a summer session living in a dorm at New Mexico Tech.

The biggest impact of Upward Bound was when I went to New Mexico Tech this past summer,” he said. “It was a scene of what a person gets at college, living in a dorm with a roommate, going to class every day.”

New Mexico Tech Vice President of Student and University Relations Dr. Ricardo Maestas helped write the proposal that garnered federal funding to launch the Upward Bound program.

He said Ojeda is exactly the type of person that Tech is trying to reach through the Upward Bound program.

– NMT –