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Literacy Council adapts, continues serving Roswell

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In this July 2019 file photo, Roswell Literacy Council Director Mary Lou Trujillo, third from left, accepts a donation to the Council from Altrusa International of Roswell. Also pictured, from left, are Deborah Goluska, Cecelia Contreras, and Bonnie Jones. (Submitted Photo)

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Roswell Literacy Council Executive Director Mary Lou Trujillo dedicates her time to helping others, and is proud of the work the RLC does on a daily basis.

Trujillo was born in Tinnie and arrived in Roswell when her father got a job at Walker Air Force Base right after her birth. As time progressed, she graduated Roswell High with honors and completed courses to pass the civil service exam. This was only the beginning of a life that would put education at the forefront.

“My first federal government job was with the IRS. I ended up retiring from the Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management in 1995,” Trujillo said. “I love education, and while employed by the government I took advantage of continuing my own through evening classes at ENMU-R and earning an AA degree in career technical education and mid-management.”

Unfortunately, tragedy struck when she lost her husband in an accident. “Now that I was left alone with two children to raise, I decided I needed to go back to school in order to give them a better life. I must say, returning to ENMU-R was the best decision I ever made. It took many long nights, but I finally attained my goal and became a certified secondary level teacher.”

Her first foray into teaching was with the Roswell Job Corps.

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“I was initially hired to teach the Business and Office Technology Program, which I did for several years before being promoted to a supervisory position,” Trujillo said. “My final and most favorite job there was as a career transition specialist. This was a great combination of counseling students, completing career assessments, job fairs, and making sure students completing the program had a job placement before leaving.”

Remarrying, Trujillo’s home life was as happy as her work life. She and her new husband finished raising the two boys and even adopted two grandsons. Due to the combination of her work schedule and having two new babies to raise, she left her job.

“But, as fate would have it,” Trujillo said, “a job opening came up with RISD as a mentorship coordinator.” With the schedule and summers off, it turned out to be a perfect fit with her home-life and she continued to work with the school district until May 2019.

After deciding to retire, Trujillo came across a part-time job with the Roswell Literacy Council and, as she states, “I landed the job of director. …

“I’m starting on my third year now with RLC, and I have had the pleasure of working with many fine people.”

Much like everyone else, however, they’ve faced some challenging times with the COVID-19 outbreak. “The pandemic hit us hard in the middle of March last year and we were forced to close down our tutoring and citizenship classes. During past years, our volunteer tutors worked with about 25 cadets each semester enrolled in the New Mexico Youth Challenge program. These were held twice a week. In addition, we had others who would come in regularly for individual tutoring in either English or Math.”

Adapting to the times, about a month ago the RLC started tutoring classes once again via Zoom. The help they offer doesn’t stop there — they will begin offering free electronic filing services of both federal and state returns starting Feb. 15 and running through April 15, by appointment only.

The organization continues to receive substantial support from the community. Trujillo spoke about a recent donation: “The agency has been blessed with some truly generous donations, one of them being from Xcel Energy. In early December, their manager called and asked what our needs were. Our council members met and we made a list, prioritizing the most important ones. This list included items such as plexiglass virus protectors for our classrooms, library, and reception area; two new desktop computers; various computer and office supplies; and items that could be used to renovate certain areas of the building needing attention — including plumbing renovations, outside motion lights for the back of the building, and more.”

Xcel Energy’s donation allowed Trujillo and the RLC to see these needs come to fruition. As she stated, “Our handyman has just gotten started on replacing, repairing, and renovating for this, our ‘Operation Facelift’ project.”

She added, “This particular donation came at a very crucial time for us. These items were a necessity for the continued operation of our agency; they were a lifesaver since we had not been able to hold any fundraisers due to the pandemic.”

The only recent one held was their annual Knowledge Bowl back in February 2019.

Trujillo also noted the help from Sherry Mumford and the United Way. “They have always been there for us, and their donation keeps us running. Altrusa International of Roswell also deserves a big thanks, as do all of our generous supporters. We hope to continue serving our Chaves County residents, and also hoping to eventually be in a position to offer free tutoring services to Dexter, Hagerman and Lake Arthur areas.”

RLC’s office is currently open Tuesday through Thursday from 1-5 p.m.

Right now, Trujillo is also volunteering her time and services in order to keep the agency’s doors open. But it is clear that her outlook is a positive one.

“I would love to have an artist volunteer their talent to create a mural on the outside of the building — something that would promote the work we do here and epitomize the belief in a great education that is owned by so many people.”

To find out more about the Roswell Literacy Council and its services, call 575-625-1369.