Achievement Coaches Help Homeless Student Persevere, Succeed

Feb. 20, 2013 -- When Francisco Marin’s bedroom became the backseat of his car, his dreams of becoming a college graduate dimmed. Homeless and often hungry, but still trying to cling to his dream by attending classes at CNM, he happened across a fairly new student service on campus called CNM Connect. “I almost gave up,” Marin says. “And I would have without CNM Connect.”
July 16, 2015


Marin, who grew up in El Paso, Texas, decided to take a chance to pursue an education by moving in with some extended family in Albuquerque almost two years ago. They offered him a small room for $200 a month, telling him that CNM would be a good place for him to pursue his educational goals.

“A semester passed, and they started having money problems,” he says. “They wanted more money, but I didn’t have it. I had to leave, but didn’t have anywhere to go.”

Except the shelter of his car, and the promise of the classroom. One day when he was filing financial aid forms, he decided to stop by CNM Connect to see what it was about. CNM Connect sites at CNM are staffed by Achievement Coaches who are experienced with helping students find ways to overcome even the most difficult circumstances.

“The first time I walked into CNM Connect, I sat down with Mike (Achievement Coach Mike Heim),” he says. “He started helping me get scholarships that I didn’t know anything about.”

Around this time, Marin was often going hungry. CNM Connect not only helps students access internal support services, such as scholarships, but it also helps students access resources in the community.

“I also started meeting with (Achievement Coach Sally Moore),” Marin says. “She helped me get into some shelters and access food. I had gone three days without food a few times. Two days a lot. Sally helped me to get the food and energy I needed to continue to come to school.”

Marin continued going to school for three semesters while living primarily in his car, except for the occasional nights in the homeless shelter.

“I would tell Mike (Heim) that I was considering quitting school a few times. I would say ‘I’m tired, I can’t do it anymore,’” he said. “Mike would tell me, ‘Don’t quit. You’re going to make it.’”

And he has. Marin has posted a 3.6 grade point average at CNM and he’s also excelling in classes at the University of New Mexico.

Moore helped him recently get into the Albuquerque Opportunity Center, a temporary housing facility that helps people transition out of homelessness. He plans to get an apartment in March.

“I finally think I’m done with the hardest part,” he says. “I know I’ll get straight A’s this term. And I have a place to live. Things are getting a lot easier for me. And CNM Connect has a lot to do with that. CNM welcomed me with open arms.”

Currently, Marin is taking classes at CNM and the University of New Mexico as he continues toward a Foreign Languages bachelor’s degree. He wants to be an interpreter for a school system or a hospital, where he can help others in need. He already has taken classes in Arabic, French and Portuguese, in addition to speaking fluent Spanish and English.

CNM Connect was born out of the Center for Working Families model. It was expanded with much greater emphasis and rebranded as CNM Connect in February 2011. First-time students who accessed CNM Connect in fall 2011 had a retention rate of about 80 percent, compared to 72 percent for those who didn’t use the services. Of the non-first-time students who used the services in fall 2011, 79 percent returned in spring 2012, compared to a 67-percent rate for those who didn’t access the services.

CNM Connect offers the nearly 30,000 students at the college access to Achievement Coaches, financial coaching, study skills workshops, free tax preparation, public benefits screenings and all internal student support services in one location at each of the college’s six campuses.