Writer: Angel Mendez
Thursday, July 19, 2018
A new scholarship inspired by a rural New Mexico native, Ermelinda Quintela, works to unveil student potential and keep young talent in the state.
Quintela never dreamed of going to college while growing up in Loving, N.M. – a “village where everyone knows everyone” she says of roughly 1,400 people as of 2016.
“[College] was not a topic of discussion in my home,” Quintela said. “My father was raised the old-fashioned way at a time when finding a job to support his family was the priority. I had the grades, but not plans to attend college, and I don’t recall discussions with guidance counselors regarding college opportunities.”
She later graduated from NMSU three times, earning an associate’s degree from NMSU Carlsbad in 1986, two bachelor’s degrees in 1988 and a master’s degree in 1993.
It all started when Quintela enrolled in a program permitting her to work part-time as a local bank’s file room clerk while finishing her senior year of high school. The Chairman and CEO of Western Commerce Bank, Don Kidd, also a former state senator, NMSU regent and strong advocate of higher education, asked about her plans for college. Quintela’s answer of uncertainty started a lifelong mentorship from Kidd, who at the start of their friendship encouraged her to further her education. With his help, Quintela found the financial means through full-time employment and scholarship opportunities to continue her studies that began at the NMSU Carlsbad campus.
“I couldn’t go to college on my own,” Quintela said. “He is the reason I started thinking about college, then a scholarship I received and the ability to work full-time made a college education financially possible.”
It is this mentorship and belief in a student’s value that’s stayed with Quintela for years, ultimately shaping her decision to start her third endowment on NMSU’s Giving Tuesday last November. The scholarship for Loving High School graduating seniors supports students who wish to attend any campus within the NMSU system. Because of generous donors to the NMSU Foundation, Quintela’s investment will be matched to fully endow the scholarship.
“We’re small, but what we do is great,” said Catherine Bass, principal of Loving High School. “It’s fantastic of Ermelinda to give back to her community in this way. The cost of education is high, and it is opportunities like these that truly help our students decide on whether or not they attend college. We’re very appreciative.”
Out of the 175 students that attend Loving High School, Bass says the ratio is near 50/50 in gender but around 80 percent Hispanic and 20 percent Caucasian. In the recent graduating class of roughly 30 students, about one third plan to attend an NMSU campus this fall.
“This scholarship helps us bring awareness of the importance of a secondary education to some of New Mexico’s brightest students in the communities that are hardest for us to reach,” said Andrea Tawney, former president of the NMSU Foundation. “We’re incredibly grateful for passionate community leaders and alumni like Ermelinda. She is ultimately giving back to the hometown that raised her, and in turn, is leading them to a world-class education at any NMSU campus.”
Although Ermelinda now works at NMSU and lives in Las Cruces, she visits Loving periodically as the oldest of six daughters in her family.
“I challenge everyone in Loving or those who grew up in Loving to donate what you can to the scholarship,” Quintela said. “This is an opportunity for the entire community to come together and support our students.”
To make a gift of any amount to the scholarship, please visit https://giving.nmsu.edu/LovingQuintela.html.