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UNM student invited to attend State of the Union address

A UNM student has been granted the opportunity to attend President Barack Obama’s final State of the Union address Tuesday night as a guest of New Mexico Senator Martin Heinrich, thanks to her commitment to education and giving back to the community.

Carielle Bahe, a junior secondary education major, said she found out about barely a week ago that she was invited to attend with Heinrich, and arrived in Washington, D.C. on Sunday night.

“I was really excited. I immediately called my mom and asked her if I could go just to make sure it was alright with her and my dad,” Bahe said.

Bahe said she knew Heinrich from her time interning at his offices as a sophomore for about a month. Her vision on the importance of education parallels Heinrich’s, who has worked on multiple pieces of legislation to make it easier for students to attend college, according to a press release.

According to the release, Heinrich is urging Obama to address access to quality education for all in the face of rising costs to attend college. The release states that New Mexico is ahead of the national curve when it comes to such a commitment, specifically in-state tuition as well as state expenditures for higher education.

Bahe said she agrees with Heinrich’s sense of urgency on the issue of ballooning student debt. She said she herself doesn’t qualify for some programs of financial aid, so she knows firsthand the toll that the cost of a college education can have on students

“A lot of my friends take advantage of that stuff, and unfortunately I can’t, so I think it’s really important that he’s pushing for that,” she said.

Bahe said she hopes to return to her home town of Crownpoint to help others on the journey she has been able to experience.

“Hopefully that’s a way of me showing my thanks to Crownpoint High School and how the community has come this far,” she said.

Bahe said she would specifically like to help other native American students – herself being Navajo – achieve an education. Crownpoint’s population was 88.7 percent American Indian in 2013, according to city-data.com.

“A lot of us can’t afford to go to college, and it’s just something I was able to do and I hope other native American students do that as well,” she said. “(Getting an education) is kind of like having your voice heard in a way, it’s very important.”

Bahe said at UNM she is involved with American Indian Student Services. She also plans on applying to be an RA with the American Indian Summer Bridge program, which helps incoming freshman adapt to college life, according to the program’s website. Bahe said she herself went through the program when she arrived at UNM.

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Felicia Salazar, deputy press secretary for Heinrich, said this is the first time the senator has invited a student to accompany him to the State of the Union address. Carielle’s commitment to her education and the education of others was the main factor in Heinrich inviting her, Salazar said.

“We definitely wanted to bring someone in that it really matters to, and I think Carielle is a perfect example of someone that,” she said.

The press release quotes Heinrich as saying “Carielle’s commitment to her education, giving back to her community, and working with youth is inspiring, and represents the kind of bright future we can have in New Mexico if we invest in our students.”

Obama will give his State of the Union address Tuesday evening at 7 p.m. local time, and Baha said she is grateful for the opportunity to attend an event mostly reserved for politicians and members of the media.

“I’m very, very excited. I’m looking forward to it and just getting ready to experience the whole thing,” she said.

David Lynch is the managing editor at the Daily Lobo. He can be reached at managingeditor@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @RealDavidLynch. 

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