iPad rentals, emergency funds and food pantries: What it takes to make “free college” work for all students

New Mexico recently became one of nearly 30 states to offer some form of “tuition-free” college. Studies suggest this could lead to a jump in enrollment, particularly among Black, Hispanic and female students. Experts, administrators and students say additional services and support, such as student emergency assistance funds, are likely to become even more important.

New Mexico’s marijuana record expungement lags behind legalization

Thomas Wescott, 24, of Las Cruces, New Mexico, said he has been rejected by multiple employers due to a six-year-old conviction for marijuana possession. Today, he works at Sol Cannabis, the first cannabis consumption lounge in the state, which recently legalized recreational marijuana. Wescott and others like him are poised to benefit from a law that went into effect last year mandating automatic expungement of nonviolent cannabis-related offenses. 

New ghost gun rule unlikely to stem violence amid thriving youth gun culture

Ghost guns — so-called because they are nearly impossible to trace — are sold in parts and assembled by the buyer. Until recently, they were not classified as firearms, meaning there were no background checks and dealers didn’t have to be federally-licensed. That has opened the door for traffickers, teens and people with felony records to get ghost guns. Miranda Viscoli, co-president of New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence, said, “I’ve asked kids how fast they could get a gun off the street, and they say ‘Eh, 20, 30 minutes.’”

Youth find hope restoring Rio Grande wetlands threatened by climate change 

La Mancha Wetland Park in Las Cruces, New Mexico, is a cool oasis in the spring heat of the surrounding desert for the beavers, turtles and birds that frolic in its waters and willow trees. The park, which is connected to the Rio Grande, is also a refuge for the young people who have dedicated themselves to restoring and managing an ecosystem under threat from climate change. 

Youth employment opportunities shine bright this summer

Summer of 2022 is shaping up to be one of economic opportunity for millions of young people, from teens looking for summer jobs to recent college graduates and young adults seeking entry level positions in a new career. Despite recent upticks of Covid-19 cases in some regions, mask mandates, vaccination rules and other restrictions have largely been dismissed. At the same time, employers are increasing wages and flexibility to lure workers in a tight labor market. 

New Mexico child welfare agency gets funding boost

New Mexico’s child protective services department is set to receive a funding boost officials say will be used to improve services for foster youth, including creating more specialized placements for some of the state’s most vulnerable kids. During the 2022 New Mexico Legislature, state lawmakers approved a 9.4% funding increase for the Children, Youth and Families Department. CYFD, which asked for nearly $255 million for its general fund ahead of the legislative session, will receive approximately $230 million for its 2023 general fund operating budget.

New Mexico officials hope to open state’s first safe house for sex trafficked youth

Though popular portrayals of human trafficking tend to conjure ideas of violent kidnappings and cross-border human smuggling, the majority of sexual exploitation happens much closer to home and likely involves someone close to the victim, experts say. “The images that America has had for several years around human trafficking is girls chained to beds and things like that,” said Shelley Repp, the executive director of New Mexico Dream Center, a Christian non-profit that works with survivors of sex trafficking. She said those images “aren't accurate with the lived experience of the human trafficking victim.” 

Video — ‘We celebrate together’: Home visitation programs support new parents

Home visitors provide basic prenatal and early childhood development education to parents in their home — support that can be critical for families in New Mexico, a poor state that has struggled with child welfare. Across the country, home visitation programs have shown positive outcomes, including increased school readiness and access to healthcare.
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