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### Top National Honor Awarded to Luna Adult Education Graduate

Samuel Gabaldon: A Remarkable Journey in Adult Education

When news reached Professor Lisa F. Bentson, the program manager of Luna Community College’s College & Career Readiness Institute in Las Vegas, New Mexico, that one of her recent graduates, Samuel Gabaldon, had been honored with the prestigious Adult Learner of the Year award by the Coalition on Adult Basic Education (COABE), the significance of the achievement was not lost on her. It marked a historic moment as Samuel became the first graduate from Luna’s program and from any New Mexico Adult Education program to receive this esteemed national recognition.

The Evolution of Adult Education

The perception of Adult Education, once synonymous with “GED programs” catering exclusively to high school dropouts, has transformed into a multifaceted initiative. While still assisting individuals in attaining high school equivalency, these programs now encompass a broader spectrum of offerings. They equip students with essential life skills, enhance critical thinking abilities, and nurture self-assurance. Moreover, they serve as a stepping stone towards post-equivalency pursuits, be it further education or career advancement.

Samuel’s Unwavering Resilience

Samuel’s educational journey diverged from the norm due to unforeseen circumstances. Diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of cancer during sixth grade, he faced a prolonged hiatus from academics, enduring years of treatments and physical challenges. Despite initial doubts upon joining Luna’s College & Career Readiness Institute, Samuel’s determination shone through. Surpassing expectations, he not only completed the high school equivalency tests within a year but also excelled, setting new benchmarks within the program.

As Samuel conquered academic hurdles, he dedicated his time to supporting his peers at CCRI, embodying the spirit of volunteerism as a tutor, mentor, and motivator.

Celebrating a Well-Deserved Triumph

The news of Samuel’s recognition evoked a whirlwind of emotions, ranging from disbelief to gratitude and a profound sense of responsibility. His accolade reverberated across the New Mexico Adult Education community, symbolizing a collective triumph. Stakeholders, including Amber Gallup, Director of the Adult Education Division, and Jamie Trujillo, Executive Director of the New Mexico Adult Education Association, lauded Samuel’s achievement as a testament to resilience and dedication.

Advocacy and Future Aspirations

Samuel’s advocacy for Adult Education stems from personal experiences and a desire to dispel misconceptions surrounding the field. As a Student Ambassador for New Mexico Adult Education, he champions the cause of modernizing Adult Basic Education, emphasizing its impact on individual growth and societal progress.

Looking ahead, Samuel embarks on a new chapter at the University of New Mexico, pursuing studies in Civil Engineering. His vision extends beyond personal success, aiming to contribute to projects that transcend generations, akin to the enduring legacy of the New Croton Dam.

Samuel’s accolade not only recognizes his exceptional journey but also serves as a catalyst for advocating equitable compensation for Adult Education professionals. His unwavering commitment to educational excellence and social equity exemplifies a rare dedication, making him a beacon of inspiration within the realm of Adult Education.