NonViolence Works clinician Beatrice Miera remembered a recent conversation she had with a student. "While counseling one of my Questa high school college-bound students, he referred to the recent killing of nine students on the campus of Umpqua Community College in Oregon and asked, 'Will I be safe if I go to college?' 'Yes, you will be.' And there will be someone like me on the campus to create a safe place for you,'" Miera recalled.
Later Miera began thinking, here on our UNM Taos campus, could she assure students that her statement was true? So she began to investigate and discovered that while strong academic counseling for students was offered, there were no clinical services. Calls to the main Albuquerque campus revealed that a walk-in clinic for social and emotional support was available to all students at no cost as part of their campus fees. But the Taos branch had no such services.
Throughout her career, Miera has consistently identified needs or challenges and gone after solutions with creativity and courage. She began her undergraduate studies at Northern New Mexico College and then switched to Taos when classes for college credit became available.
She was one of many residents who wrote petitions and letters and made calls to the main campus to request the establishment of a branch campus here. Then after it was established, she recognized the transportation problem: no buses to bring students to campus. Calls to the state Department of Transportation revealed that they would not put a bus on the route because there was no turning lane on County Road 110.
Not deterred, Miera noted that then-Gov. Bill Richardson was coming to Taos for a town meeting. She rose from the audience and declared, "We are providing bus service to the ski valley and to neighboring towns, but we do not provide a bus to help Taos residents advance themselves through education. Our mountain to climb is of poverty and the lack of job skills, and we need to invest in transportation to support their climb."
After Richardson learned of the need for a turning lane, it was implemented.
Miera is supportive of the Taos branch campus. When she attended the campus, classes were small, the professors were outstanding and she felt she obtained an excellent education that supported her, especially when she completed a master's degree in guidance and counseling with a specialty in vocational rehabilitation. When she stressed to her high school students that people at the University of New Mexico-Taos would be supportive, she realized, "Well, that should be me."
Subsequently, Miera held conversations with various administrators at both Nonviolence Works and UNM-Taos to realize a dream that both organizations have had for some years. An agreement was signed in April, and in May Miera launched the first scheduled service. Initially a one-on-one counseling structure, it will be expanded to groups and staff training as needed.
Miera was delighted that her first client on campus was a veteran. She is from a military family with her father, uncles and her own sons having served in the military. Miera herself enlisted immediately out of high school "because it is service that our family believes in."
She was in military intelligence, an experience that helped her analyze problems and suggest solutions back home in Taos and Quests. Her experience as a dispatcher with the Taos police department and six years as a case manager at Tri-County Mental Health services built skills in helping her clients access other needed services.
Miera feels uniquely skilled at understanding veterans' issues and is committed to using her own bicultural experience and military service to guide her practice in the development of her clients' social-emotional competence.
Miera also sees elementary and high school youth and adults in her practice through NVW. As she introduces this service to students, veterans and staff at UNM-Taos, undoubtedly she will find new creative ways to make it more visible and effective. She is a leader in making a difference.
Nonviolence Works has the largest licensed and credential behavioral health staff in Northern NM. We can be reached at (575) 758-4297 or online at nonviolenceworks.us.
Mary McPhail Gray is the board chair of Nonviolence Works and can be reached at (575) 779-3126 or firstname.lastname@example.org.