Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, NM)

Highlands Program Helps All.

Byline: Diana Heil Journal Staff Writer

* The students and community gain from the school's social work curriculum

Bantering about low riders with the boys, Jesse "Rocky" Romero is back at Espanola High School.

In this case the boys aren't his classmates. And Romero, a graduate of the school, isn't just a friend.

Twice a week, the 25-year-old counsels young men, ages 14 to 19, at the high school teen center as part of a model state-sponsored mental health program.

Through the art, history and spiritual beliefs of the valley's 500-year-old Spanish colonial culture, he hopes to retie troubled boys to their roots.

"I decided to get a master's degree to help my community," he said. "Some of these kids are unaware of the uniqueness of their surroundings. They feel trapped."

Romero's philosophy of how to reach the tough boys of his home town has been shaped, he said, during his coursework at New Mexico Highlands University in Las Vegas.

Importing solutions from the outside to the problems of heroin addiction, gang membership and teen bitterness isn't necessary, he has learned. …

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