By Vanessa Kahin
Oh, the places you’ll go with a statewide summer reading program that received a personal endorsement from Gov. Susana Martinez Wednesday afternoon at the Clovis-Carver Library.
An all-expenses paid trip to Animal Kingdom in Orlando, Florida; an all-inclusive trip to Red River that includes ski passes; an overnight stay at Elephant Butte and a hot air balloon ride with the governor; these are just some of the prizes New Mexico children and their families stand to win.
All children have to do is read, Martinez said, and write an essay about why they love New Mexico.
“Why is it important to read?” Martinez asked, sitting on the floor of the library’s Ingram Room along with about a dozen elementary school children.
“Because in your mind, you get to have an adventure,” answered 7-year-old Rafe Gutierrez.
An adventure the group had, as Martinez showed a keen ability to keep the children’s attention while reading them the book, “The Secret Science Project that Almost Ate the School.”
Afterward, Martinez was lauded for her ability with children by some of the adults who attended the reading event. She said this ability comes from years of caring for her sister, Leticia Martinez, who is developmentally disabled.
Leticia Martinez accompanied the governor to the library.
The governor also spoke of an initiative she spearheaded that allows children who may be late to school to still receive a free breakfast.
“When kids are hungry, they’re distracted, sleepy. They’re not engaged,” she said. “But when their belly is full, then you have a really active student that’s ready to learn.”
Martinez mentioned the statewide summer food program, which helps provide children with nutritious meals during the summer months — helping fill a void that many children who receive free meals at school during the school year may face.
Martinez said there are 691 sites in New Mexico where children may receive breakfast, lunch and a snack during the summer.
“You don’t have to show a single piece of paper, you don’t have to call in advance, you don’t have to qualify,” Martinez said of the summer meal program.
The program is made possible by Department of Agriculture funds, which are entrusted to sponsors who then help coordinate the preparation and distribution of meals to children.
The Children, Youth and Families Department receives and distributes USDA funds for the summer meal program in New Mexico.
The governor said the state is ranked second in the country for feeding children who are hungry. However, a Map the Meal Gap study released in April states that New Mexico ranks number one for childhood hunger in the nation.
Map the Meal Gap is an analysis of hunger done by Feeding America, a network of more than 200 food banks.
Martinez also responded to questions of statewide and national concern:
What is your take on the hostage exchange involving Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl?
Number one, the American soldier walked away from his American camp and walked towards the enemy. Number two, he was living with the terrorists — enemy combatants. It is extremely dangerous to our men and women in uniform to be exchanging someone who walked away from their mission to protect America (from) enemy combatants. How many more are going to be walking away or kidnapped so that (the Taliban) can get their terrorists back in exchange for someone who has abandoned their post? I know that Congress is having hearings right now, and we’re hopeful that we’ll get to the bottom of this, but America … has always said (it) will never negotiate with terrorists.
What do you think of the defeat of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who lost his Republican congressional primary to tea party challenger David Brat?
(Cantor) was certainly a very good leader. As a majority leader, he was also up for re-election. At the end of the day the people get to decide who is going to be their leader in Washington, and who are going to be the ones (to) move the United States forward. (Cantor) will be missed. He was a good friend. But that is what our men and women who have fought wars for many, many years are all about: Giving us the freedom to vote for (our) leaders.
Any chance you’ll make a bid for vice president?
I’m concentrating on running for governor of the state of New Mexico. That is my focus. Reading to kids like I did just now is the most rewarding thing I could ever do. Making sure their bellies are full, that they have the energy to learn, and that they have great teachers to teach them.
What are your thoughts on Attorney General Gary King winning the Democratic candidacy for governor?
Certainly, the Democrats get to vote for whomever they think is their best candidate. Again, our men and women in our military made sure that right is available. They will choose who they think is the best for their party. And now, we will have a general election and overall the people of New Mexico, all people, from Republicans to Democrats to those who are independents will vote who they want to be their governor for the next four years.