They let me out of the office for a day…




….so I drove two and half hours from Santa Fe out to the teeny village of Mosquero, New Mexico and spent the day with the coolest bunch of high school kids I’ve met in a long time: Mrs. Donna Hazen’s video production crew.

I spent the day out there because WLA is contracting with these students to create and produce a series of short videos featuring ranchers and farmers, landowners and land stewards from their community. Why these kids from a tiny school of 45 students including kindergarten through 12th grade, in a village that takes approximately two minutes to drive through? Because of the obvious, deep connection between community members and the big-sky landscapes that surround them. Because every kid in that school comes from a family with a story to tell. And because of Mrs. Hazen’s inspiring program…

Video production is only one of several options available in Mrs. Hazen’s 21st Century Entrepreneurial Program, designed as an “innovative, not-for-profit, project-based business,” according to the program flyer. Student entrepreneurs are playing a central role in revitalizing their small, rural community with a series of student-run businesses including, among others, the town newspaper, a historical research enterprise, a gift shop, professional printing and photography, and video productions. One of these student-led initiatives, called “Painting the Town,” engages community members in bringing old and at-times abandoned buildings on the Main Street back to life by painting life-size historical vignettes and murals—all products of the historical research enterprise. The photos in this post feature these amazing murals.

What Mrs. Hazen has created through this student entrepreneur program is beyond inspiring, bordering on profound. The kids involved do the fundraising to support their work. They manage their own budgets. They write the articles, take the photos, design the publications, produce the yearbooks, paint the murals and pilot the drones. They accept the responsibilities that come with running these small enterprises; they rise to the challenge. They engage and inspire their elders and the entire community.

I can’t wait to see the videos they produce as part of WLA’s “Land & Community” video initiative to feature the work and livelihoods of landowners throughout the West. Stay tuned… these videos will appear on the WLA website later this spring. In the meantime, enjoy these photos from the students’ “Painting the Town” initiative…




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