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Luna Community College holds public forum

Be the train!

by Sherry Goodyear
SPRINGER — Since news broke that Luna Community College in Las Vegas and all of its satellites were put on Show/Cause status by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), interim president of the college, Ricky Serna has been working tirelessly trying to lead the college to a better future.  Being put on Show/Cause status means Luna has had to take measures to prove to the HLC that they deserve to keep their accreditation.  Accordingly, Serna has visited all of Luna’s satellite campuses over the past few weeks, and on Thursday, March 1, it was Springer’s turn.  Serna and several departmental directors from the main campus came to the Springer satellite auditorium for a public forum where Serna could discuss and gain feedback on how the college can better serve Springer and the surrounding area’s needs.
Serna pointed out that many may not realize Springer is part of a mill levy in effect until 2070 that helps fund the Springer satellite campus.  According to Serna, in 2017 the mill levy raised $158,000 in tax dollars to help fund the Springer branch with the main campus putting in an additional $188,000 for a total of $346,000 being spent to operate the satellite for that year.  Serna’s point was the area is already helping fund the satellite branch, so it is imperative that the community and the college work together, to ensure the school is even more of an asset to the community and better serve its needs.
Many audience members offered ideas for ways the college could improve.  County commissioner Landon Newton suggested the college offer short certification programs in things like culinary arts, corrections, film, EMT training, and CDL and CNA programs.  He said what Springer really needs is business in the community.
One way the school is already helping the area is in providing dual credit college courses for local high school students.  Serna says we want as many of our local students as possible to start out as LCC “Rough Riders” first because we know we can save them a ton of money,” and we can ultimately prepare them for transitioning into other colleges or anything else they want to pursue.
Springer High School’s Dean of Students, Christina Vigil, said she felt Luna needs to do a better job of showcasing what they have to offer including their state of the art automotive, welding, culinary arts, cosmetology, media arts and nursing programs all of which are available at the main campus in Las Vegas.  She recommended setting up virtual tours online.  Serna said he liked that idea, but that for now, Luna would be willing to send a bus from the main campus to drive students there, take them on a tour, and then bring them back.
Dorothy Arguello who is from Mora, and who takes woodshop classes in Springer, pointed out that many people don’t even realize Luna is a school where anyone can take classes.  She said there have been many times when she has told people she takes classes at Luna, and they are surprised.  Many Springer students are what are affectionately known as “hobbyists” – people who take classes to learn welding, quilting, furniture and cabinet making, and courses of that nature, but even these classes are sometimes not as well-attended as they could be because citizens don’t realize they are available, or how affordable they actually are.
When all was said and done, Serna said as interim president he would not be at Luna for the foreseeable future because his original contract was only supposed to last through March 1, when Luna had hoped to be hiring its new permanent president, and as per that contract, he cannot be one of the presidential applicants.   That was before HLC issued the Show/ Cause status, and more pressing matters pushed the presidential search onto the back burner.  At that point, Serna was asked to take the helm and navigate Luna through the treacherous waters it currently finds itself in.
At this point, the college is preparing for its HLC visit on March 19.  This visit is meant to allow HLC to see just what all Luna has done and is doing to deserve retaining its accreditation.  For the meantime, Serna is still “Acting President” knowing that eventually a permanent replacement for him will be found, and he is busy spearheading the process of making as many positive changes at  Luna as he possibly can before he goes, because as he says, “It is hard to stop a moving train.”  And therefore his slogan for Luna is, “Be the train!”