How One CNM Work-Study Student is Excelling Despite COVID-19 Setbacks
Leah Leyva in her home office.

How One CNM Work-Study Student is Excelling Despite COVID-19 Setbacks

Leah Leyva’s job with the CNM Prop House has kept her motivated and helped her pay important bills
April 28, 2020

As CNM transitioned online, the college decided student employees would still get paid to work from home. For people like Leah Leyva, a job has made all the difference.

Leah, a third-year film student who wants to eventually become a film director, works for CNM’s Prop House. Before the crisis, her main job was organizing props that are used for both student projects and professional shows, including major productions like “Better Call Saul.” 

Nowadays, she can’t be in the warehouse, but she’s still plenty busy working on the Prop House’s new website. She’s helping them build out the site so it can be a digital catalog for CNM’s extensive prop inventory. Once organized, film students and professionals will be able to decide what to rent before even coming in. On the side, Leah is also helping a CNM teacher, who suffered an injury, build their online classroom. 

“The Prop House and Blackboard websites have been very rewarding work, and the work-study jobs help me pay about three-fourths of my essential bills,” Leah says. “It’s also given a greater sense of meaning to each day that I’m stuck on lockdown. I know a lot of people are struggling financially and mentally without work right now. It feels really good to get paid to do work and to be able to help others during this time.”

The transition hasn’t been without challenges. Leah couldn’t initially afford WiFi and the data on her phone plan ran out. That meant she didn’t have consistent access to the internet for the first three weeks. Because of the statewide stay-at-home orders, Leah also missed paying side gigs she relies on. She and her dad play in a band—Leah Leyva and the Band—and they had upcoming gigs booked everywhere from the Albuquerque Sunport, to the Tanoan Country Club, to Quarter Celtic Brewing. Outside of music, Leah was booked as a voice actor for a lead character in an upcoming feature film.

“My film and music gigs have been one of the hardest things to be missing out on right now both emotionally and financially,” she says. 

Luckily, Leah was able to get free WiFi from Comcast and made a workspace in her room, both of which facilitated her work on the Prop House site. She’s also found ways to still play music and study film while being quarantined. Throughout, Leah says CNM Ingenuity—which runs the Prop House—has been extremely supportive. 

“Last Friday, my boss Evelyn Dow sent some very encouraging words. And that has been the tone from CNM since the beginning of this whole mess: positivity, strength, guidance, support, compassion. The college has been so encouraging,” Leah says. “Honestly, being a part of the CNM community during this time has given me a lot of hope.”

Going forward, Leah plans to keep working on her associate degree in Film Production and hopes to graduate from CNM at the end of the Fall Term. She also plans to keep working on film projects, no matter how things shake out after COVID-19.

"I just can’t get enough of filmmaking,” she says. “Whether it’s learning more about film or working on a project, I’m completely in love with it.”

This story was written by fellow CNM student employee Hannah Lerner, who works in the Marketing & Communications Office.