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Socorro & Truth or Consequences 3/25 Echo

Participants: Andrew, Barbara, Loren, Joe, Jay, Michael Voegerl, Sharon Sessions, Cari


  • JW: Looking to get feedback from the community on what can be done better for COVID recovery. 

  • Sharon Sessions: Professor of physics at NM Tech, also the director of the office of outreach at the college. Coordinating activities around the community to make sure that 100% of the community has access to thriving and survival sectors of the economy.

  • BW: Have been with Health Action for 11 years, working to make sure that all New Mexicans have access to affordable and quality healthcare. Have always worked in rural areas, looking to fix issues of representation. Trying to figure out how the relief has been reaching rural communities, and what people are doing in the community to supplement that. Assuming that people don’t want to get back to the old normal. Want to hear what visions people have for building back. Circulating survey results to people in the legislature

  • JM: With HANM, born and raised in Southeast NM!

  • LS: Born and raised in La Mesa NM, also with the HANM team, it’s been a great experience learning from the rural communities

  • Michael Voegerl: Director of Student Affairs at NM Tech. Involved with everything that has to do with the students outside of academics.


  • SS: What are we looking to get out of this session? You mentioned collaboratives? This is more of a small project, we’re trying to get an idea of what activities have been going on during COVID and seeing what lessons we’ve learned and can share.

  • MV: I’m on the COVID task force at NM Tech - meets every week for 2 hours, covering planning for next semester, among other things. I’ve learned that we have to be utterly open and clear with our community. If we don’t solicit input, we have to be clear why we didn’t do that. Here in the Socorro community, we’re pretty data driven. We went out of our way early on to get input from the community, because solving the problem alone will be impossible.

  • SS: The first word that came to mind was communication. It’s essential to have that strong communication network, especially in collaborative groups to make sure that everything’s clear. Being transparent about how decisions are made is essential. It really comes down to clear communication and an understanding of why things are happening. Also collaboration - we can’t have different efforts siloed from each other. The main thrust of reopening here is to plan for everything. The high school got a bit more time to plan for how to reopen since they’re a bit more fractured, but things have been considered for how to respond to plenty of eventualities.

  • Cari: That’s very broad, we’ve learned a lot of lessons. I think I’ve learned how poorly other people handle stress. The things that have been amplified during the pandemic are inequities that we were already aware of - internet, healthcare, other resources. It’s important to have a community that knows how to access resources and truthful information. I don’t like the internet as much as I used to.

  • JM: What are your observations around the vaccine? Has there been good coordination, have they focused on at-risk populations?

  • Cari: Clearly NM is doing a great job compared to other places. Could we do things better? Of course. A lot of New Mexico is rural and doesn’t have access to high speed internet. I’ve done a lot of nonprofit work where I helped people sign up for insurance, and people don’t know how to fill out forms, remember passwords, etc. It’s not necessarily even older adults, teenagers and other groups aren’t able to properly contribute. People don’t know how to access that information.

  • MV: We’ve been working with the community to help get vaccination and testing sites staffed. NM Tech wants to get our local department of health up to snuff. Helping them with logistics and FD, National Guard. Anyone that would have us, we were there to help out. Our president said “make it happen for everybody.” A vast majority of our residents have taken this virus seriously. It’s unusual to see somebody without a mask, at campus or around town. DOH says that 25% of Socorro county is already fully vaccinated. Within the next couple days, it should jump another 2-3%. We have a great network here in town so that vaccines aren’t being wasted. Our community is working to get that out and make sure that those who aren’t mobile are still finding out about what’s available. People may not have internet access, but they have phones.

  • SS: They’ve offered the teachers as much protection as they can. There have been procedures for how to return to in-person learning. The teachers that wanted vaccines have gotten theirs early, that was important to peace of mind and making sure that they come back ok. The fairgrounds vaccination site has been running great. You drive in and they’ve got people along the way. It’s been incredibly well done. Don’t know if that’s being coordinated by the local gov, or the department of health.

  • BW: There have been reports here in NM that minority communities have not been receiving vaccinations at the same rate as white residents. There have been some interesting data on that.

  • SS: I’m the NM Tech liaison with the tribes. Meeting with Navajo tech is that 140,000 Navajo are already vaccinated. All of the students at the college are doing well in getting covered.

  • MV: I’m the coordinator for diversity and inclusion at tech. We haven’t heard much about inequity from the people here at tech. There hasn’t been much pushback. The city of Socorro has been doing a good job of getting people vaccinated. It’s helping quite a bit.

  • What opportunities are there to prepare students for jobs of the future?

  • MV: There’ve been lots of collaborations between NM Tech and other colleges in the state to get New Mexican students into a college program or something else to push them towards from a 2-year to a 4-year program. Solar jobs are going to be the wave of the future, but it’s not a long-term solution. We’re working on looking at other solutions. 

  • SS: There’s a lot of hope here! Last week, the movie theater reopened, which was really exciting. The doctor’s office has been more accommodating since last week. People are excited to go out to restaurants, they’re feeling a lot more confident and comfortable.

  • LS: People in Anthony are seeing similar results. Lots of small but significant changes.

  • MV: Hope is what we’re all shooting for, but vigilance still has to be a major factor. There probably won’t be changing on messaging around campus, but we’re still conscious of the challenges. Still weirded out to dine indoors. Having to help students re-socialize will still be a big challenge. Students want to get out and be social, but anxiety creeps in. It’ll be interesting to see in the next couple months what problems people have with re-introduction to society.

Rural Voices for COVID Recovery