Feature
SFCC students and graduates use education to improve community

SFCC students and graduates are integrating the concept of “community” into every sector of the economy throughout the region. Welding grads are helping to build the new Presbyterian Medical Center, auto technician grads are repairing cars, education alums are teaching in the classrooms, art grads are showing work on Canyon Road and SFCC health care grads are working at Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center and other clinics. These are just a fraction of the places where you can find folks who are applying skills gained at the college. Conversations with a current student and an alumnus reveal that while every student is different, many discover their true passions while at SFCC.

John Francis Mustain, SFCC student and local artist

An incubator for creative expression

Student John Francis Mustain, 28, was excited to be a part of Meow Wolf, a Santa Fe-based artist collective that launched its permanent installation, “House of Eternal Return,” in March of 2016. Part of his job included providing tours to the exhibit’s hordes of visitors, which in one year reached numbers of more than 400,000 and continues to grow.

When Mustain learned that Meow Wolf would help pay for part of his tuition at SFCC, he jumped at the chance. “When I first came out to campus, I couldn’t believe what a wonderful place this was. I had no idea of all the different types of art classes it offered,” he said.

He eagerly signed up for a variety of classes. “SFCC met my desire for new creative skills. The teachers are great and there’s a real community at the college,” he said. “I wanted to diversify my skill set. This is the place to make that happen. It’s the perfect incubator for creative expression.”

During a letterpress class, Mustain had the opportunity to volunteer at the Palace of the Governors Press. “I made prints and was able to sell those in the Gift Shop at Meow Wolf, so that was terrific.”

He enjoys a variety of art forms, but fell in love with fine woodworking. “I want to develop skills that are useable and marketable…to become a skilled furniture designer and fabricator.”

Mustain credits SFCC for helping him develop new areas of self-discipline and focus. “Woodworking classes forced me to plan ahead and then execute a project. It’s been a great experience.” He plans to graduate this spring.

Many SFCC students get tuition assistance through their employers or other agencies, including SER Jobs, the City of Santa Fe, Presbyterian Medical Services, and T.E.A.C.H., among others. For more information, contact Linda Peña, Staff Accountant, at 505-428-1871 or linda.pena@sfcc.edu.

An inspiration for creative problem-solving

Andrés J. Mercado, Mobile Integrated Health Officer for the City of Santa Fe

When Andrés J. Mercado, 38, was a teen, he faced many challenges and never finished high school. He was encouraged, however, to enroll in SFCC’s Adult Education program, where he first received a G.E.D., then began college classes.

“I was a worker at the front desk of the Fitness [Education] Center when I saw people coming in to take a Fitness for Firefighters class. Instructor Sheila Beuler got me interested in firefighting,” he says. By age 19, he was working with the Santa Fe County Fire Department. He added that county tuition assistance and educational leave time helped him fulfill his educational goals.

He received state licensure as an Emergency Medical Technician-Basic following his studies at the college, which were a component of earning an associate degree in General Studies in 2003. “It was those gen. ed. classes that I never planned to take but needed to take, like philosophy and humanities, that got me looking at problems in more creative ways,” Mercado said. Realizing he wanted to delve further into those areas, he went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in philosophy at the University of New Mexico and then a master’s degree from St. John’s College.

Mercado said he draws on all of his educational experiences in his current job as the Mobile Integrated Health Officer for the City of Santa Fe. “These days, fortunately,  firefighters respond to fewer fires. But we respond to a high-volume of 911 emergency calls,” Mercado said. He said the city looked at the data and recognized that much of the budget was spent on repeat calls from individuals with chronic health issues.

In 2016, the city collaborated with Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center, Southwest CARE Center and other partners to create the Mobile Integrated Health Office. Mercado was involved in the initial planning as well as launch of the program. It was a way for him to tap into his creative problem-solving skills to help the city be more effective, as well as helping people in a more direct way.

He sees the positive results. “We’ve identified about 150 people who we serve in a more proactive way,” Mercado said. “We help people meet their chronic health needs without continually delivering them to the emergency room.”

“SFCC gave me the skills and confidence I needed to realize I could make a difference,” he said.