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The Challenges We Face

  • There is a shortage of racially diverse mental health providers in NM

  • There is a shortage of bilingual counseling services in NM

  • There is a shortage of racially diverse licensed/certified clinicians in NM

  • There is a shortage of racially diverse mental health entrepreneurs

  • There is a demand for the provision of services that are culturally and linguistically appropriate (Trepal, Ivers and Lopez)


1To create a two semester mentoring program to
support undergraduate and graduate students
interested in becoming clinicians in the
behavioral health field.
2To assess the trends and needs in the field by
carrying out research and advocating for policies
that support training culturally diverse
behavioral health clinicians to meet the needs of
a changing population.
3Advocating for the implementation of culturally
relevant programs in addition to providing advice
and presentations to advisors, decision makers,
and heads of school systems.

Percentage Comparison

Ethnic/Racial Minorities and Caucasian Professionals in Behavioral Health Services

  • Racial & Ethnic Minorities
  • Caucasian

Making a Difference

  • Social Work: Job growth expected to increase 14.25% -Between 2012 and 2022
  • Largest growth potential in NM to be expected in healthcare professions by 21.5%; and in child, family, and school Social Workers by 21.2%

Changes in Demographics

  • The Latino/Hispanic population is projected to increase from 55 million in 2014 to 119 million in 2060 (Colby and Ortman); in NM, it makes up 48% of the population—and growing- with nearly 20% being foreign-born—and growing
  • Native Americans make up over 10% of NM population with a growing 600,000+ residing in urban areas
  • Asians are the fastest-growing population in New Mexico, seeing a 46 percent increase in population from 2000 to 2010… the largest groups here are from Vietnam, China and India
  • African Americans make up nearly 3% of NM population with continued influx of transplants from southern states
Sonia Ramirez El Puente de Encuentros Cohort 2017-2018

Bridging the Solution

EPDE Mentoring Program

  • Guides students considering a profession in the field of
    mental/behavioral health to explore areas of
    professional development through direct mentoring
  • A two-semester program
    • Consists of two educational seminars per month: The first is
      to include a lecture from an expert in the field and the second will include student discussion and reflection on the content of the first seminar.
    • Exposes students to professionals and experts who are current clinicians and counselors
    • Provides students with culturally relevant reading material
    • Facilitates application of theoretical frameworks in direct practice


The Puente de Encuentros Fellowship has been a unique and rich experience. As a social work student I was exposed to professionals in the helping field, who shared with us their knowledge and stories about their experience and journey. We engaged in workshops that spoke to culture, diversity, trauma informed practice, research, professional development, ethics, and self-identity, among many other subjects. Being part of this fellowship helped me grow and gain a better understanding of the field. The board consists of people who care about mentoring and supporting the next generation of professionals. I learned so much from not only the presenters but also my peers, who shared great insight and feedback on the topics presented. I am very grateful to have been part of El Puente. I am inspired to continue working in my community and continuing my education.”

Adriana Martinez-GoodmanNMHU Junior, BSW

Belonging to the Puente de Encuentros Fellowship cohort was truly an amazing journey. The seminars helped guide me to what I truly want to do after graduation. I am grateful for the speakers and mentors we met and for all the information they provided, because it helped me gain a better insight into the bi-cultural needs we are currently facing in our state. I am now confident enough to work in the field, knowing that I am capable of handling the challenges and not let anyone tell me that I do not have what it takes to be a clinician. I can be me and that is key to genuinely helping others. With the support of such amazing people, I know that I will succeed and be another who enters the field as a Latina clinician and be that change that is needed in our communities. The skills I have acquired are lifelong and even now I have been able to apply them at my current job. I can say that EPdE is more than important to my future and I know that the people I met will always be mentors to whom I can reach out.”

Astrid EscobarUNM Senior, Psychology, Spanish

I am extremely grateful for the El Puente de Encuentros Fellowship. As a graduate student soon entering the field of public health, meeting and networking with prominent working professionals was an invaluable experience for me. Not only did I learn about these professionals' day-to-day working lives, and their contribution in tackling current behavioral health challenges, but I also learned about their career paths, which led them to where they are today. El Puente created a space for me to reflect on my own goals and my role as a future health practitioner. Each of the seminars left me inspired to know that I have what it takes to be a successful Latina health practitioner and to be part of the change that our communities need. 

Devon Ashley LaraUNM Graduate Student, Dual Masters: Latin American Studies, Public Health

Being part of El Puente de Encuentros’ Fellowship cohort was such an enriching experience. It allowed for unique networking opportunities with professionals who hold inspiring stories and who have kindly extended support to students in their professional journey. This fellowship opened a safe place for non-traditional students to be seen and valued in the academic world. Connection, appreciation, and support allowed for the healing of wounds that have been created by educational systems that often build barriers for such students. For this reason, El Puente’s programs should be further advocated to encourage non-traditional students to seek and to receive traditional educational support.

Ivette MiramontesUNM Graduate Student, Masters in Counseling

I cannot thank El Puente de Encuentros enough! Being part of this team was a wonderful experience. I was able to learn more about “real world” topics that are not taught in school. I was able to learn about the resources available to us as students and future graduates. Being part of El Puente opened my eyes. I acquired valuable skills for my social work career. I strongly recommend that others interested in the field apply for this fellowship.

Dulce MedinaNMHU Graduate Student, Dual Masters: Social Work, Business

Being part of El Puente de Encuentros has been an amazing opportunity and honor. This past year with El Puente has been filled with support and encouragement in taking the right steps towards a degree and career in social services. As any student knows, it is difficult to forge a path to success on your own and having guidance is an extremely important aspect in the learning process. Through the EPdE program I have been fortunate to meet prominent names in the social services field and through those experiences, to have been given guidance and insight into the fields of counseling and social working. Being aware of the lack of minority professionals in social services, EPdE makes it clear how important it is to bring bicultural/bilingual individuals into the field and to encourage such individuals to aim high, always reaching out to better our communities, and to be proud of who we are. I am excited to see what the future holds for EPdE and I am thankful for the opportunity to share in its fruits.”

Angelica ChavezUNM Sophomore, Psychology, Family Studies

El Puente de Encuentros has been an amazing opportunity for me! It has provided me with first-hand knowledge of the different professions that make up the behavioral health field and the importance of the role cultural diversity plays in our state and profession. Through the program, I was able to meet professionals and hear their stories of what their every day work-life is like and about the journey that brought them to their positions today. In addition, I learned how I fit into the mental health field and the steps I must take to get to where I want to be. Most importantly, I learned that there are mentors who are willing to answer my questions and help me along the way. I thank Lynn, Brenda, Pat, Rafael and everyone who took the time to present to us, teach us, and bring this wonderful organization to life. It has been an honor to be a part of the first cohort. I look forward to continuing my involvement in this program and watching how it grows throughout the years.”

Sonia RamirezUNM Sophomore, Psychology, Family Studies

Being part of the Puente de Encuentros Fellowship Program has been a great learning experience that has enhanced my clinical knowledge and multicultural awareness. As a graduate student in the last year of my counseling program, I can say that the program has provided me with much useful information and has further prepared me to be a culturally aware clinician. I am thankful for having had the opportunity to learn about many of the current trends and issues in behavioral health from current experts and professionals in the field. I have greatly appreciated the reflection seminars that have allowed me to reflect upon topics that we have learned about and to discuss my thoughts and opinions with others. Throughout the program I have felt fully supported by my mentors and peers and have felt a sense of belonging as a culturally diverse upcoming clinician. The program has inspired me to continue to grow in my cultural awareness and to continue learning about clinically and culturally relevant topics in the field. I appreciate and fully support the work of my mentors in educating the public about the diverse needs of our population and advocating for policies that support the training of behavioral health clinicians of diverse cultures. I am grateful for being part of the beginning of this movement and I hope it will continue to grow.”

Brianda JaquezUNM Graduate Student, Masters in Counseling

Being part of the Puente de Encuentros cohort has been a wonderful experience. I have learned so much attending these seminars. Initially, I’ve not had networks or people in my life with such familiar interests in regards to what I'm aiming for in my future. This fellowship program has not only educated me and given me that exposure but has enabled me to carry new reflections about my future and myself. Listening to the stories, insights, advice and presentations by the directors and our special guests has led me to grow in how I think about mental and behavioral health. Additionally, because the program was so centered on the Latino, Hispanic, and other minority communities, it has made me more comfortable in my own skin and has allowed me to think differently about my culture, background and those around me. I am very grateful to have been a part of this very first program and I know that it will only get better in the future.”

Leslie SalinasUNM Junior, Psychology

El Puente de Encuentros’ mentoring program has had a tremendous and rewarding impact on my academic and professional careers. It gave me the opportunity to connect with peers in-person, which made my experience as an online student comparable to attending classes in person. The bi-monthly sessions provided time to brainstorm and to reflect on what it means to be a culturally aware healthcare professional in New Mexico. When reflecting on my two semesters with El Puente, I can say that I have thrived as a person, student, and future social worker. I am grateful for this program due to the endless effort dedicated to connecting students with renowned professionals in the community. El Puente's contribution to my life has prepared me to begin my career confidently, ethically, and proudly. Thank you, El Puente.

Paul GallegosASU Graduate Student, Masters in Social Work
* Anne E. George, Donor Relations Officer. The Oregon Community Foundation.15 SW Colorado Ave, Suite 375.
Bend, Oregon  97702.
Phone: 505.238.9551
221 Tornasol Lane NE
Albuquerque NM  87113