LOS LUNAS — Opportunity is abundant for 17 organizations with ties to Valencia County after receiving thousands of dollars in grant funding through the 2023 Meta Data Center Community Action Grant program.

“Meta is committed to Valencia County, and this program is one way that we can support local schools and nonprofits and their impactful projects,” said David Williams, community development manager at Meta. “We’re proud to be part of this community, and we embrace the opportunity to have a positive local impact. We extend our warmest congratulations to the 2023 Los Lunas Data Center grant recipients.”

This is the fifth year Meta has offered the grants in Valencia County. The Community Action Grant program funds projects that help put the power of technology to use for community benefit, connect people online or off and improve STEM education.

Teeniors is one organization that received a substantial award of $20,000. Teeniors are tech-savvy teens and young adults who help older adults learn technology through one-on-one coaching. The mission is to empower older adults through intergenerational learning, to create paid, part-time jobs for youth; and to decrease social isolation through genuine human connection.

A “teenior” works with a woman to help her become more acquainted with her smartphone.
Photo courtesy of Trish Lopez.

Teeniors is based in downtown Albuquerque. Founder and CEO of Teeniors, Trish Lopez, is originally from Belen, so she is excited to put this award toward establishing a pilot Teeniors program in Valencia County.

Teeniors can help with everything ranging from help with computers, softwares, smartphones, navigating the internet and beyond.

“Teeniors can do coaching at the senior center, local library or coffee shop. In the case that (older adults) are home-bound we can have two teens go to the home to help with whatever it is,” Lopez said. “What’s most common and what I like best, is when we go to the senior centers for group workshops. It’s still one-on-one, but in a group environment.

“There’s so many ways older adults are left out because they didn’t grow up with this kind of technology and they deserve to be included like everyone else in our society,” she said.

Lopez said the grant will also go toward recruiting teens from Valencia County for the pilot project, which she hopes to launch in May.

“I would love to hire local teens and young adults in Valencia County. It’s always after school and on the weekends,” she said. “Our teens come from all walks of life and all are welcome. There is no GPA requirement or anything like that.”

Lopez said the pay is $15 per hour and youth who are interested in becoming Teeniors can learn more and apply through the website, teeniors.com.

Another organization awarded $20,000 from Meta to put toward their programming is Valencia County Literacy Council. Through this grant they will be able to start providing digital literacy classes to promote education and economic well-being across the county.

Celestino Landavazo, the executive director of the VCLC, said the grant will help to buy instructional laptops, computers and tablets for the digital literacy classes.

“This technology will be used at the Meadow Lake and El Cerro community centers for our digital programs. The grant will also help us get internet access at the El Cerro Community Center,” Landavazo said.

Like Teeniors, the VCLC is targeting their services towards adults and seniors.

“Kids usually learn the technology at school, so this is more for adults and seniors to access online services to make it easier for them because a lot of organizations are moving away from paper,” he said. “We’re getting a lot of people asking for help setting up an email, social media and accessing resources on the computer that will benefit their overall quality of life.”

Landavazo said they will begin the digital literacy classes at the Meadow Lake and El Cerro community centers once a week and will expand from there depending on want and need.

Learn more about VCLC and its programming at valencialiteracy.com.

The full list of recipients include:

  • Dennis Chavez Elementary: $3,400; To create a STEM unit in Physical Education involving science, engineering, math with bowling.
  • Belen High School: $5,000; To support high school student engagement in Information Technology pathways by providing academic, technical and collaborative skills via competitive esports.
  • Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central New Mexico: $4,000; To help connect students ages 6-12 in need of community-based mentoring services with one-to-one volunteer mentors in Los Lunas Schools.
  • Community Wellness Council: $9,000; To support development of a Valencia County Service Directory app and web-based tool to address critical community health and service needs.
  • Explora Science Center & Children’s Museum: $15,000; To enable Explora to provide STEM programming via a “Community Science in Valencia County” for under-served children and families.
  • H2 Academic Solutions: $5,600; To support a Lego Robotics program for students in Belen to expand their STEM based exposure and explore broader possibilities.
  • Los Lunas Middle School: $5,000; To support engineering and enhanced STEAM education for students.
  • Los Lunas Schools: $40,000; To expand virtual reality usage in middle and high school STEM education and support development of industry certifications in school.
  • Rio Communities Optimist Club: $5,500; To support STEM robotics camps for K-8 students across Valencia County.
  • School of Dreams Education Foundation: $20,000; To enable expansion of a robust Biosafety Level 1 and 2 STEM Research Lab and program in Valencia County for all student populations.
  • Sundance Elementary School: $12,000; To support increased student learning outcomes through technology tools by enhancing student voice, choice and access.
  • Valencia County Amateur Radio Association: $10,000; To support the establishment of Amateur Radio Clubs and Stations at two Los Lunas middle schools.
  • Valencia County Business Incubator: $20,000; To fund equipment and technology training for small businesses in Valencia County.
  • Wilderwood Equine Therapy and Rescue: $2,000; To enable creation of an online volunteer management system space for Wilderwood Equine Therapy for autistic adults and children.
  • Valencia Shelter Services: $15,500; To support updated technology and IT infrastructure for Valencia Shelter Services staff and survivors.
  • Valencia County Literacy Council: $20,000; To support digital literacy, education, and economic well-being across Valencia County.
  • Teeniors: $20,000; To empower older adults through intergenerational learning, to create paid, part-time jobs for youth; and to decrease social
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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.