UNM-Gallup Staff Member Wins UNM Community Service Award

A_PKaressa Bitsoie Silversmith, senior tutor with the Adult Basic Education center and GED program at the University of New Mexico-Gallup, has won the Sarah Belle Brown Community Service Award from UNM. Silversmith received the award at a recent ceremony at UNM’s main campus in Albuquerque.

Photo: Karessa Bitsoie Silversmith

Former Regent Doug Brown established this award in honor of his wife to support and promote the university’s commitment to public service.

“Karessa was selected because of her commitment to her students and her ‘can
do’ attitude in helping them succeed,” said Beth Miller, UNM-Gallup executive director.

“Her goal is to help everyone who walks through the ABE Center doors each day realize his or her potential. Since assuming her position a little over a year ago, our success rates in ABE have vastly improved.”

Prior to coming to UNM-Gallup, Silversmith worked as a data technician for the Gallup McKinley Public Schools, at a local elementary school where current superintendent Esther Macias was principal. At that time, she was enrolled at UNM-Gallup studying for a bachelor’s degree in University Studies. As a student, she participated in the Bridge program at UNM-Gallup, run by Kamala Sharma, associate professor of chemistry.

Bridge sends students from UNM-G to New Mexico State University for a summer term to learn how to conduct scientific research.

After graduating, Silversmith says she decided she wanted to focus on human services.

“I always wanted to do more for our community. When I came to this position, I saw that we are all connected in one way or another, and that if we all do our part we can make change happen,” Silversmith said.

Silversmith says she tries to facilitate change through finding what the needs of the community are and making connections between various agencies and programs she works with, including those of the Navajo Nation and other local government agencies.

Silversmith, a Navajo, was born to the Edgewater Clan for the Tobacco Red Running Into the Water Clan.

“I am proud that this is the first time a Navajo person, and more importantly, a Navajo woman, has received this award,” she said.

Her story came to the attention of Lt. Gov. Diane Denish before the December 2007 commencement ceremonies. Denish mentioned her struggle as a Native American working mother of two, and wife of a soldier, Navy Gunner’s Mate First Class Travis Silversmith, currently deployed on his second tour in Iraq.

“Let this award be a symbol for women who are struggling with all these issues and a symbol for what can be accomplished,” Denish said.

Silversmith said she hopes to use some of the $2,500 award to “honor what Sarah Belle Brown stands for” by paying the expenses of students in the GED program who are academically prepared, yet cannot find a means to pay for their test.

“This act of kindness only attests to the truly altruistic nature of this individual,” said Christine Abassary, ABE program manager. “I salute her dedication am honored to know her.”

Donations to the GED expense fund may be sent to UNM-Gallup, care of the
Executive Director’s office, 200 College Road, Gallup, NM 87305.

Media Contact: Linda Thornton, (505) 863-7565; e-mail: lthornton@gallup.unm.edu