Makayla Grijalva | News-Bulletin photo

In addition to working with kids in local 4-H and FFA groups, Jocelyn and Chris Padilla Hunter became CYFD foster parents, leading to the adoption of three of their children. Together, the couple are raising five children — Serenity, 8; Jalin, 11; Jordan, 13; Jasode, 16; and Davrye, 18.

For the past 10 years, Jocelyn “Joshie” and Chris Padilla Hunter have been active in the 4-H community throughout Valencia County, not only going above and beyond for her own children, but also other youth involved in their club.

“I have my own club with like 40-some kids. Every week, me, him and my older daughter, we go and weigh their animals and help them work their animals — all of the new kids,” Joshie said. “A lot of people, they don’t know. It’s their first year, they don’t know how to feed, how to work them …It’s fun to see the progress when we get them small and they grow up to be big ol’ animals.”

Tarla Hill, who nominated Jocelyn as an Unsung Hero, said she has been a pillar of the Valencia County community for the entirety of her adult life. Hill praised her for the commitment she showed not only the children in her 4-H club, but also as a sitting member of the Valencia County Fair Board.

“She is always on call for her family, friends, co-workers and the community for anything that’s needed and always puts others before herself,” Hill said. “I feel it is time to recognize someone who is so selfless and continues to give to her community.”

For the past 10 years, Joshie has contributed countless numbers of volunteer hours to help kids and their families learn about projects, prepare for fairs and even made house calls whenever an animal was sick.

“Not only do they assist their kids with their numerous livestock projects, they also provide hands-on support to not only their 4-H club members, but members outside of their club,” said Sarah Trujillo, who also nominated the pair as Unsung Heroes.

“Throughout the summer, they would make weekly trips to the homes of the kids that were participating in livestock projects; they would weigh animals and provide feedback on the status of the livestock projects,” Trujillo said. “During the summer, gas prices were at an all-time high but that never stopped them.”

The pair become involved in 4-H with Joshie taking the helm of her own club when her oldest daughter, Davrye, became involved in the program at 8 years old. She entered the ring for the last time this past year after turning 18.

Although one of their five children has aged out of the program, they still have two others — Jordan and Serenity — who plan to continue to participate in 4-H.

“It’s a lot of work. It’s a lot of responsibility, dedication,” Jocelyn said. “You’re up at 6:30 in the morning going to work with animals and feed and walk them. You have to teach them, like you have to teach a pig how to keep its head up, and make the goat brace. It’s a lot of work.”

Jordan, 13, continues to thrive in his program, earning the herdsman award at the Valencia County Fair for the past three years. The herdsman award is given to the child who shows the most showmanship and helps out throughout the barn.

Serenity is still a Cloverbud, but looks forward to showing animals for the first time next year when she turns 8.

“(I enjoy) the responsibility that it shows the kids,” Chris said. “Hard work pays off when you put in the work. All of the kids do awesome, so it’s nice to see that everybody can succeed and have fun.”

Their other two children, Jalin and Jasode, didn’t quite develop the same interest in 4-H and rearing animals to show, but they still dedicate themselves to sports as an extracurricular.

“The other ones who don’t show, they show that same dedication and responsibility in what they do, so sports and everything else,” Chris said. “What they gave up here, they just put forth somewhere else.”

Joshie said her involvement in 4-H when she was younger inspired her to encourage her own children to participate. The activity helps to get children off of the streets and involved in a positive activity, she said.

“I love to be at the fair,” Joshie said. “They get their animals in like March and they show in August. They work hard all year to come and compete at the fair. My favorite thing is the fair and working with the kids.”

In addition to leading the Stock-It-Up 4-H Club, Joshie also sits on the Valencia County Fair Board, where she helps to organize different fundraisers to keep the annual fair coming back year after year.

“It’s a huge responsibility, but I am more on it to have a voice for the kids,” she said, adding dances are a favorite of hers with a chuckle. “Anything fun they like to do, I’m all for it. I’m always voting for the fun stuff.”

Unsung Hero: Jessica Chavez

Chavez has been teaching at La Promesa, part of Belen Consolidated Schools, since it opened 22 years ago. She has taught kindergarten through fourth grade.

Unsung Hero: Gary Jacobson

A lot of local businesses will generously help support youth organizations and athletic teams, but not many will invite hundreds of teenagers to an after-hour event.

Gary Jacobson, the manager at Mitchell Starlight Cinema in Los Lunas, does just that every prom season for all students in Valencia County.

Unsung Heroes: The Keller Family

Since 1999, the Keller family — Mary Ann, Ron, Richard and Eddie — have hosted the Bosque Farms Car Show during the village’s annual community fair. Originally billed as the “Just For Fun” Car Show, the event started when Mary Ann was on the fair board.

Unsung Hero: Gwen Mosimann

Leading the effort to help find solutions for Belen Consolidated Schools is Gwen Mosimann, the first-year McKinney-Vento liaison for the district. Her directive is clear but daunting — find housing for homeless students and their families.

Unsung Hero: Clair Toledo

Toledo became principal of Los Lunas Opportunity Schools in December 2021 to lead the merger between Century High School and the Los Lunas Digital Academy. She said while the merge is an ongoing process, this will be the first year they graduate in a single ceremony, albeit with different gowns.

History of Valencia County News-Bulletin Citizens of the Year and Unsung Heroes

Since 1995, the Valencia County News-Bulletin has been recognizing a Citizen of the Year and Unsung Heroes each year.

Citizen of the Year: Holly Noelle Chavez

“She’s selfless … through blood, sweat and tears, and focus on what is best for the most vulnerable in the community, she does a thankless job, but she wakes up every day and does it.”

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Makayla Grijalva was born and raised in Las Cruces. She is a 2020 graduate of The University of New Mexico, where she studied multimedia journalism, political science and history.