By Nick Stern, Staff Reporter | Photo Courtesy of Willow Misty Parks
Judge Willow Misty Parks is Bernalillo County’s only probate judge and she believes that CNM has played a large part in getting her to where she is now, Parks said.
In a speech she wrote for the Donors’ Appreciation Dinner on July 18, she said that without her interaction with CNM she would not have achieved the same amount of success that she has now.
“CNM propelled me forward. I can say with conviction that I would not be where I am today if it were not for CNM,” Parks said in her speech.
She considers everything she received from her experience to be indispensable, she said, from the support, encouragement, and care shown by her instructors to the value of persistence she discovered while working towards her associate degree.
In 2011, Parks was elected as a Probate judge and now handles informal probates, which involves the handling of estates after someone passes away, whether there is a will or not, Parks said.
She appoints personal representatives who are legally qualified to manage and settle the deceased’s affairs, according to Parks and the Bernalillo county website.
The personal representatives distribute the assets to the rightful recipients which could be heirs, devisees named in a will, or even creditors, according to the website.
As a Probate judge, Parks can also perform marriages within Bernalillo county, which she especially enjoys doing, she said.
She loves her job and agrees that it was initially challenging to be a director of a position where people have been working for many years, she said.
She has to develop relationships and support and was fortunate that the judge before her was a mentor and teacher she had met at CNM, which helped create a smooth transition for herself, she said.
CNM was actually Parks’ second attempt at college following her attendance at The University of New Mexico, she said.
She had attended UNM for a couple years and felt lost after having trouble finding what her interests were and having a loose grip on her classes, she said.
Then, in January of 1994 when her daughter was 1-year-old, she enrolled into CNM’s night classes in the Paralegal studies program, and soon she discovered her interests were in law and learning, Parks said.
In 1996 she earned her associate degree in paralegal studies and also realized that she wanted to become a lawyer, she said.
The idea to even push for a bachelor’s degree never occurred to her until her mentor, Merri Rudd, from her Wills class suggested the idea of law school to her, she said.
“On the last day of the Wills class, Merri gave all the students personalized cards. Mine read, ‘when you are ready for law school, I will be happy to write your letter of recommendation,’” Parks said.
Up until then, she had never even thought of pursuing anything beyond her associate degree and now realizes with each and every success at CNM, her aims and her dreams grew higher and larger, she said.
After a few years of practice, one of her former CNM instructors and the then current director at Metropolitan College asked Parks if she would like to teach paralegal studies, which Parks had never even considered doing previously, she said.
She ended up teaching at Metropolitan for close to two semesters until the school went bankrupt and closed, she said.
The experience helped her realize that she enjoyed teaching, and she then began teaching at UNM’s Anderson School of Management, University of Phoenix, and ended up giving back to CNM by teaching here, which she still does to this day, she said.
Parks believes that teaching at CNM is definitely a good way for her to give back for everything she received, she said.
She teaches in CNM’s school of Business Information Technology, a school that gets in touch with the business community and has a lot of interaction, which is important to her, she said.
“I really feel a strong connection to CNM and it is a way for me to bring back around the gifts and the inspiration that led me to start finding things that interest me, and paths and opportunities that were available,” Parks said.
Her simple advice for students is to show up to class and to do the reading and preparation that is required, because it is all meant for the student’s benefit, not the teachers’, she said.