By Stephanie Stuckey, Staff Reporter
CNM is the only community college so far that has been an active partner with Michelle Obama and the Partnership for a Healthier America by participating in the Healthier Campus Initiative, said Dean of Students Dr. Rudy Garcia.
Partnership for a Healthier America reached out to Dr. Garcia about a year and a half ago after being referred by the American Association of Community Colleges to see if CNM would like to be the first community college to participate in such an initiative, said Dr. Garcia.
The Healthier Campus Initiative is the first-of-its-kind, making commitments with colleges and universities to make their campuses healthier by adopting guidelines around food, nutrition, physical activity, and programming.
Dr. Garcia said he wanted a little more information before jumping into the project because the Healthier Campus Initiative had only been working with four year institutions.
Four year institutions are different from two year community colleges in the way they house and have meal plans for students, Dr. Garcia said.
CNM does not have that type of community and there are no dorms or meal plans to choose from, he said.
“Our students are very transitory – they come and they go; this is very different from a four year university where the student spends most of their time on campus,” said Dr. Garcia.
One of the advantages of CNM participating in the Healthier Campus Initiative is that the community at CNM is everyday America, he said.
Our students are very busy dealing with life that often times health and the choice to make healthier choices are often neglected, he said.
Changing behaviors and habits are the most important when it comes to trying to be healthier, he said.
The Healthier Campus Initiative officially began at CNM this fall term, said Dr. Garcia.
Albuquerque has an estimated 352 days of sunshine per year and he wants students to engage in physical activity such as riding their bikes more, he said.
CNM offers a free bike valet, so that students will want to ride their bikes and feel confident that their bikes will be there when they get out of class, said Dr. Garcia.
The wellness path is currently under construction and should be completed in about a year; that should allow for more space for students to walk, jog or bike, he said.
CNM agreed to participate in about 12-15 guidelines from the Healthier Campus Initiative and those guidelines are things like creating opportunities for students to be more active, having more pedestrian friendly walkways, and having signs for pedestrian awareness around campus, said Dr. Garcia.
Switching the vending machines to healthier options is something that CNM may consider, but the main focus for CNM and this initiative right now is to change the habits and behaviors of the college’s population – students, faculty, and staff, he said.
Even the smallest of changes are worth the effort, such as parking farther away from the building and getting a little exercise by walking to class rather than circling the parking lot to get the spot in front of the building, he said.
Dr. Garcia said he is working with the school of Health, Wellness, & Public Safety to help with the Healthier Campus Initiative and they will be having Fun Fridays out on the lawn of the SRC where students can participate in different physical activities such as yoga and volleyball.
He is also going to be meeting with Lisa Gurule from the nutrition department as well as the culinary school to discuss the possibility of coming up with culture oriented, nutritious recipes.
“We have three different schools working together to create opportunities that students as well as faculty and staff can take advantage of,” said Dr. Garcia.
He is also speaking with the finance operations department about the possibility of building volleyball and basketball courts on campus.
Dr. Garcia also said he is a firm believer in mental health as well as physical health.
“I believe if a person is fit mentally then the rest seems to come a little easier,” he said.
Some of the benefits offered for mental health are going to be yoga, stress awareness and reducers, creating a relaxing environment around campus by planting indigenous plants to New Mexico, and having Curandero workshops, said Dr. Garcia.
Another great benefit toward mental health awareness is that there is training available for a three-year-certification in mental health first-aid on how to recognize mental health issues and learning how to help, he said.
Dr. Garcia said that this initiative is a three year project and he thinks that they will accomplish the bulk of the guidelines.
“We live in a society where we do not choose to be healthy until something serious happens and it leaves us no other choice,” he said.
CNM is honored to be participating in the Healthier Campus Initiative where healthier habits and behaviors are formed that will hopefully follow the student throughout life, he said.