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Upward Bound helps Navarro family pay it forward

What began as a simple visit from an NMSU Upward Bound staff member to Gadsden High School changed Laura Navarro’s life. She always knew she wanted to attend college but wasn’t sure how to accomplish that goal. 

“They (Upward Bound) shed the light that I needed for me to know how to get there,” says Laura Navarro ’06 ’08. “Being first-generation, low income, being the oldest, I literally had no idea how I was going to do that. When Vince (Engling) showed up to my freshman honors English class, it obviously gave me a lot of hope.”

The Upward Bound Program, which began at NMSU in 1989, is a federally funded TRIO program that helps low-income and first-generation high school students attend and graduate from college.

Lucero Navarro, an NMSU Facilities and Services custodial services staff member, recalls when Laura brought home the Upward Bound information. 

“My daughter, Laura, was happy and was very dedicated in school, and my other kids followed her,” Lucero Navarro says. “I have good memories of Upward Bound.” 

As the oldest of five, Laura Navarro set an example when she joined the TRIO Upward Bound Gadsden Independent School District/Las Cruces Public Schools Program. 

As an NMSU student, Laura Navarro received mentorship as a TRIO Student Support Services and then a McNair Scholars Program participant. 

“I didn’t even think about grad school until Sue Brown and Terry Cook started mentioning it to me. It seemed like a whole other mountain for me,” says Laura Navarro, an educator, who earned bachelor’s degrees in sociology and communication studies and a master’s degree in communication studies. 

Each of Laura Navarro’s siblings attended NMSU after participating in the Upward Bound program. Joel Navarro ’10 ’13, a nurse practitioner, Samuel Navarro ’11, a federal law enforcement agent, and Lucero Serrano ’15, a registered nurse, earned NMSU degrees, while Celia Williams, an Army staff sergeant, graduated from the University of Texas at El Paso in 2016. 

Laura Navarro credits Upward Bound with providing the support and giving her the confidence to be the catalyst for a family of Aggies. 

“It was no longer a question if we were going to do it, but how were we going to do it,” Laura Navarro says. “We’re very grateful for the opportunity that we had to be in that program and for the doors it opened for us, because all of five of us in our respective fields are in fields of service. In one way or another, we are all paying it forward.” 


An NMSU employee for a decade, Lucero Navarro supported her five children, who all participated in the Upward Bound program and went on to earn college degrees. 


All five of the Navarro children, Samuel Navarro (from left), Lucero Serrano, Laura Navarro, Celia Williams and Joel Navarro, earned college degrees and chose careers in service-focused fields.