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The Gold Standard

DACC celebrates five decades of educational opportunities, community outreach

When Lauren Carmona first walked into Doña Ana Community College in 2011, little did she know the new path her life would take. DACC’s two-year architectural program ignited a spark. 

“The classes were intimate and personal, which allowed faculty to really see who you are and the work that was being produced,” Carmona says.

After earning an associate degree from DACC, Carmona went on to earn a bachelor’s degree from Texas Tech University, then a master’s degree from Yale University. She is now a marine designer for Mavrik Marine, a shipbuilding company in Washington, where she designs the interior of boats. 

 “I wouldn’t be where I am today without the massive support from the people that have been with me throughout this entire journey,” she says. 

Carmona is an example of the thousands of graduates DACC has impacted in its 50-year history.  

“There is no doubt that the students who leave DACC after completing their studies are not the same people who walked through our doors,” says Mónica Torres ’82 ’84, DACC president and the NMSU systems community college chancellor.   

“Founded in 1973 in collaboration with local school districts to support what was then called occupational education, DACC has evolved into a multi-faceted institution that provides transformative educational opportunities to meet the needs of people living in communities across the county,” Torres says.

With six campuses across the county, DACC offers a wide range of educational offerings, including adult education courses, general and transfer education options, small business assistance, career technical education certificates and degrees. 

DACC became a family affair for the Salazars. In 2010, Lizet Salazar began the connection when she inquired about the English as a Second Language and the General Educational Development, or GED, programs at the Sunland Park Center. She started a trend and became the first in her family to earn her GED certificate. Lizet Salazar was followed by her son, Luis Salazar, husband, Alejandro Salazar, and nephew, Max Salazar ’16. 

Luis Salazar and Max Salazar went on to continue their education at DACC 

and NMSU. After graduation, Max Salazar co-founded a videogame studio and worked as an art director in Juárez, Mexico. He sold his studio and currently works as a technical artist at 360 Dev Lab, and teaches game art courses at a university in Mexico City, Mexico. 

“We are thankful for what DACC did for our lives, I could not have become who I am without DACC and NMSU,” Max Salazar says. 

For Jim Bob Leon, who moved to Las Cruces from Ohio, DACC helped fuel his passion for food. Leon enrolled in DACC’s Culinary Arts Program and joined the Culinary Service Club, also known as CHOP, and served as president. After graduating in 2018, Leon used his education and experience to open his first restaurant, Jim Bob’s BBQ, in Las Cruces. He has since opened a second restaurant, which is located at the Las Cruces Airport.

DACC provides more than educational opportunities for its students, it also offers support to help students overcome other barriers they may face. 

The DACC Avanza program, which was featured in the fall 2022 issue of Panorama, helps students ease the burden of attending classes. Students, especially those with families, receive mentoring, career exploration, connection to community resources and social service organizations, food pantries, housing assistance, transportation and childcare resources. DACC’s Comfort Casita, which is stocked with food items, cleaning supplies and personal hygiene items, offers resources to students, faculty and staff. 

DACC also offers an opportunity for both cultural and educational exchanges as a participant in a Sister Cities International program with Lerdo, Mexico, and Nienburg, Germany. DACC’s first exchange program began more than 30 years ago with Lerdo, and includes faculty visits between cities each year. It evolved into student exchange programs where families would host faculty and students during visits, allowing for an exchange of information and unique learning opportunities between DACC and Lerdo’s technical school, Centro Bachillerato Tecnológico industrial y de servicios No. 4.

“I am thankful for so many alumni and community members who have donated from their resources to create scholarships so students could complete their studies,” Torres says. “We could not do any of this without the voters, taxpayers, and elected officials in the county and across the state, who have supported the college so we could support the students. And I am most grateful for the students who walked through DACC’s doors in the last 50 years and modeled the art of transformation—for themselves, their families and our communities.”


Clockwise from top left: Welding technology professor Jose Gomez (second from right) reviews CAD drawings with students. The DACC East Mesa campus, which opened in 2003, houses student services and central administration. Daezia Morales received her diploma during the DACC graduation in May 2021. Representatives from Nienburg, Germany, visited Las Cruces in April 2023. During the visit, they met with college representatives and toured the East Mesa, Espina and Sunland Park campuses. A food pantry, Comfort Casita, at DACC's Espina campus offers resources to students, faculty and staff. During the beginning of the 2022 fall semester, Molly McCaskell (left) and Gina Reyes were available to meet with students about the Avanza program.