With the help of donors and funding from the New Mexico Higher Education Department, the College of Health, Education and Social Transformation at New Mexico State University will be able to further help students and professionals focused on special education and communication and autism spectrum disorders.
Abel Covarrubias, CEO of Aprendamos Intervention Team and an NMSU alumnus, provided 50% of the funding for the Papen-Aprendamos Professorship, which was matched by the New Mexico Higher Education Department to equal $500,000. The Papen-Aprendamos Professorship will train professionals for careers in speech language pathology and autism spectrum disorders in schools.
When making the gift to endow a professorship, Covarrubias wanted to honor former state Sen. Mary Kay Papen by naming the professorship after her, noting her advocacy for people with autism spectrum disorder, and her work securing state funding for NMSU’s Autism Diagnostic Center.
In addition to his generous gift for the professorship, Covarrubias made a donation to name the Autism Diagnostic Center the Papen-Aprendamos Autism Diagnostic Center.
The New Mexico Higher Education Department also awarded $25,000 from its Higher Education Endowment Fund to help establish the Esperanza/Covarrubias Endowed Helping Hands Scholarship for students working toward degrees in special education. Covarrubias and Monica Marrujo, his wife, donated another $25,000 towards this scholarship.
The Higher Education Endowment Fund helps initiatives focused on education, economic development and other priorities aimed at moving the state forward.
“Issues like mental health and how we address autism are important to all of us, and the needs have been increasing in recent years,” Papen said. “They have certainly been central to much of what I had hoped to accomplish in my years in the New Mexico Legislature, and I am pleased to see this funding going in this direction now.”
Aprendamos shareholders who are committed to supporting the autism diagnostic center include Danny Palma, Bryan Tierney, Kerry Linnan, Kerry Palma-Szalay, Dean Palma and Marrujo.
“The Aprendamos shareholders and I are humbled and honored to recognize Sen. Papen for the work she has done to help support children with autism and their families,” Danny Palma said.
“We are committed to supporting the important work of the NMSU autism diagnostic center and look forward to being on this journey of supporting the children with autism and their families in our community,” Covarrubias said. “Our mission is to continue to support organizations like the diagnostic center, which ensures that every child is seen, heard and recognized for their gifts and talents. Children are our future and we must continue to plant the seed that will ultimately produce many fruits that will shape our community for years to come.”
NMSU’s Department of Communication Disorders is working with the School of Teacher Preparation, Administration, and Leadership to create an additional graduate-level autism certificate track. The faculty member hired as part of the new endowed professorship will help shape NMSU’s additional graduate-level autism certificate for speech language pathologists.
“Sen. Papen has been a champion for the center and is largely responsible for its creation on the NMSU campus,” said Heike Lehnert-LeHouillier, interim head of the Department of Communication Disorders. “Needless to say, we are very grateful to both Mr. Covarrubias and Sen. Papen for their support. We hope that this professorship will help the department to attract more faculty and/or support faculty working in the area of autism.”
CUTLINE: The New Mexico Higher Education Department and the Aprendamos Intervention Team have provided funding to help establish a scholarship and an endowed professorship at New Mexico State University that focus on special education, speech language pathology and autism spectrum disorders. In addition, Aprendamos founder and CEO Abel Covarrubias made a donation to name the NMSU Autism Diagnostic Center the Papen-Aprendamos Autism Diagnostic Center in honor of former New Mexico State Sen. Mary Kay Papen. (NMSU photo by Josh Bachman)
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