Thirteen organizations with ties to Valencia County have been awarded funding for science, technology, engineering and mathematics projects through Meta’s annual Community Action Grants program.  

“Their projects help put the power of technology to use for community benefit, connect people online or off and improve STEM education to support the long-term vitality of Valencia County,” Los Lunas Data Center wrote in a Facebook post congratulating the recipients.  

The Belen Public Library was awarded $10,000 through the grant to support monthly events for youth and their families focused on biological and life sciences in the Middle Rio Grande Valley. 

Belen library computer specialist and teen librarian Jessica Rodgers said the events were thought up specifically for the Meta grant.  

The Belen Public Library dedicated the first event in the Meta-sponsored series to UV light, given the strong light in New Mexico and how it impacts bacterial growth. An attendee observes the effect on the bacteria using a microscope. Submitted photo.

“We know that there’s a lot of people doing robotics and other technology-related programs, so we felt like it would be neat to do something that’s around life science,” Rodgers said.  

The events, which last about an hour, will all take place at the library and are mainly targeted to children in grades fourth through eighth, but they invite youth ages 1 to 19 to attend. Kids under 10 must be accompanied by an adult.  

So far, the library has hosted two events, one dedicated to UV light and the other on solar eclipses given the recent one on April 8. The next event will be a three-part series taking place at 3:45 p.m. on April 30, May 7 and May 21 exploring the life cycles of monarch and painted lady butterflies, both of which can be spotted in the area. 

Rodgers said they plan on getting kits that will allow attendees to observe the life cycle of live butterflies as they grow from an egg, caterpillar, chrysalis into butterflies, which will then be released.  

The June 21 event will focus on endangered species, more specifically the endangered silvery minnow, which used to flourish in the Rio Grande.  

“We are having people from the Silvery Minnow Refugium (in Los Lunas) come out to tell us about their facility and information on the silvery minnow and how they became endangered, and we’re hoping they’ll be able to actually bring some of the silvery minnow with them so that we can observe them,” said Rodgers.  

When learning about science, Rodgers said it’s typically broader and not necessarily focused on what’s in your own backyard, so she hopes this will help youth connect more with what they’re learning and inspire them to learn more about things that excite them.  

“The Middle Rio Grande Valley has a lot of unique and beautiful things here, so hopefully it will make you look around at your environment a little more and find something that you’re passionate about,” said Rodgers.  

The events in this series will be on-going throughout the year with the last being in February 2025. The programs are free to the public and the schedule of events will be posted regularly by the library on their social media pages, at the facility, 333 Becker Ave, Belen, and on the website. Rodgers said you can also call the library at 505-966-2600 for information.  

“I think that there’s definitely a lot to the library that sometimes people don’t realize, like we do have these kinds of programs,” said Rodgers. “A library is not just a place to be quiet and read books. This is a place you can come learn about whatever you’re excited about. The hope is also that you can bond with people as you’re doing these things, and everybody’s getting to learn together and experience something together.” 

Libros for Kids, a nonprofit that mails a free book every month to children under 5 in Bernalillo and Valencia counties, was also among this year’s Meta grant recipients.  

The organization was created in 2017 and is made up of a board of volunteer members who are committed to improving early childhood literacy and learning in New Mexico. So far, they have donated about 210,000 books to more than 14,000 kids. 

Libros for Kids is affiliated with the Imagination Library that, in partnership with Dolly Parton’s Dollywood Foundation, mails a high-quality, age-appropriate book each month to children free of charge. Registration and shipping are also free, and the only qualification one has to meet is living in Bernalillo or Valencia counties.  

Libros for Kids website states, “Growing up in a language-rich environment has positive effects on school success, graduation rates, earning potential, health and well-being.” Stock image.

While families can register independently, Libros for Kids board president John Heidrich said they have more than 70 community collaborators, including many pediatric clinics, libraries and similar organizations who recommend families to enroll in the program.  

Heidrich said this effort has allowed for about 42 percent of children under the age of 5 in Valencia County to be enrolled in the program, according to census data. The $2,500 grant from Meta will go toward purchasing and mailing more books for children as Heidrich said they aim to get 50 percent of children in that demographic enrolled in 2024. 

“We know we can impact literacy when we get over the 50 percent level of kids getting books, so our total goal between Bernalillo and Valencia is to get 8,500 kids enrolled this year,” he said.  

Heidrich said out of the 12 books delivered in a year, two of them are both in English and Spanish. Most book deliveries also come with ideas for activities to do with your child. 

To register, you must download a form online through their website,, and email the completed form to [email protected] or you can print and mail the form addressed to Libros for Kids, Inc., 2052 Calle Pajaro Azul NW, Albuquerque, NM, 87120.  

Heidrich said donations are always welcome and appreciated. Just $30 provides a whole year’s worth of books to a child and “every dollar we raise goes to getting books in the home.” Donations can be made through their website or by mailing a check to the aforementioned address. 

The full list of this year’s recipients include: 


  • Belen Consolidated Schools: To support activities, training, and real-world experiences for K-12 STEM educators through NASA-sponsored programming.
  • Belen Consolidated Schools: To support hands-on programming and workshops for women to pursue STEM careers.
  • Belen Public Library: To support monthly events for students in grades 4-8 and their families at the Belen Public Library focused on biological and life sciences in the Middle Rio Grande valley.
  • Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation: To support expanded STEM resources and programming at the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation’s new STEM Center at Belen Middle School.
  • Explora Science Center & Children’s Museum: To support year-round, hands-on community science programming for students and families throughout Valencia County.
  • Friends of the Los Lunas Library: To support after-school STEAM programming for elementary school students onsite and throughout Los Lunas Schools.
  • Libros for Kids: To support literacy efforts to mail age-appropriate books to families with children 0-5 throughout Valencia County.
  • Los Lunas Schools: To support hands-on education programs around wind energy, wind turbines and workforce development pathways.
  • Los Lunas Schools: To support the creation of community makerspaces within Los Lunas Schools.
  • National Museum of Nuclear Science & History: To support free transportation and admission for students in grades 6-12 in Valencia County to the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History.
  • Teaching Outdoors to All Learners (TOTAL NM): To support the building of educational outdoor classrooms and spaces throughout schools in Valencia County. TOTAL NM is encouraging teachers interested in participating in the program to apply on their website, 
  • University of New Mexico-Valencia Campus: To support six technology and resource management summer camps for Valencia County students at UNM-Valencia.
  • Valencia County Literacy Council: To support bilingual digital literacy programming for adults in Valencia County.
  • Valencia Shelter Services: To support enhanced IT and communication services.
  • Wilderwood Equine Therapy: To support development of the Autistic Self Advocacy Project (ASAP) database, an online and searchable database created by autistic people that identifies local autistic-friendly “everyday” services and resources.
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Felina Martinez was born and raised in Valencia County. She graduated from the University of New Mexico in 2021. During her time at UNM, she studied interdisciplinary film, digital media and journalism. She covers the village of Los Lunas, Los Lunas Schools, the School of Dreams Academy and the town of Peralta.