Seventeen third-grade students from Doña Ana Elementary School lined up at the podium Tuesday to address the Doña Ana Board of County Commissioners. Their message was simple: Help us fix the roads where we live.
The long-term solution might not be so simple, as funding and easements create possible barriers to a quick fix. But that didn’t keep the students from methodically explaining to commissioners how culverts and curbs would help divert water from Sal Si Puedes Road, Rocca Secca Road and La Reina Road.
All three roadways are east of the village of Doña Ana, where several students live and catch the bus to school. Some students reported having their bus stop changed several times as road conditions shift after heavy rains, forcing their bus to take an alternate route.
Tuesday’s presentation was supervised by the students’ teacher, Mr. Henry Jasso, who explained how the students recently gave the same presentation during an ENLACE conference. ENLACE, an acronym for Engaging Latino Communities in Education, was first established in Las Cruces in 2002, thanks to an initial grant from the Kellogg Foundation. The program’s goal is to increase graduation rates among Hispanic students in middle school and high school. This is the first year the program has been introduced at the elementary level.
For the conference, Mr. Jasso’s students collectively chose a problem that affected their community, researched the issues related to the topic, interviewed professionals, and developed solutions.
Following the students’ presentation, Dist. 4 Commissioner Isabella Solis commended the students for their enthusiasm for improving their communities, a feeling she said she passionately shares.
“This is something we all hear in our communities: our roads need attention. The county is moving forward with Phase 1 of a $10.2 million roads initiative, and while I can’t make any promises, I’m confident we can work towards a second phase with some of the suggestions brought before us today,” said Solis.
A portion of the students’ discussion was critical of roads in Doña Ana County that were privately owned, but were being paved as part of the roads initiative. Doña Ana County Manager Fernando R. Macias, who recently toured all three roads with elected officials and staff from the Doña Ana County Roads Department, explained the process that allowed those roads to be acquired by the county to then be eligible for improvement.
“While we are moving forward with paving projects in other parts of the county,” said Macias, “those areas were identified as a priority because they improve the flow of traffic in those communities.”
Students were encouraged to make their presentation to state legislators who share a role in road development in Doña Ana County and can identify potential funding from the state level.
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