Mora County Notebook - Pacheco, Olivas attend law camp

-A A +A
By Ruth Fort

Editor’s Note: A version of this law camp article was published last week. We are running an updated version of it because last week’s article contained several errors.


Amiree Olivas and Krystah Pacheco will return to school in the fall with a remarkable experience to talk about. Earlier this month the two Lazaro Garcia (Mora) Middle School students attended a five-day law camp at the University of New Mexico. The two have since returned to their respective homes full of excitement and thrilled to have experienced the camp.

Brian Colón, co-founder of the camp, said the committee receives between 65 and 125 applications a year to attend this camp. Of those applicants, 24 are selected to attend the free camp based on letters of recommendation, hand-written essays by the students, and academic achievement.

“The camp is just to teach the students about the judicial system, but more importantly we expose them to the value and benefit of a college education,” Colón said.

Colón and his friend Fred Perez founded the camp more than 10 years ago with the goal of teaching middle school students about law, but also to expose them to the university setting. Since then they have had more than 300 attend the week-long camp that costs roughly $16,000 to put on. Camp attendees do not pay anything to attend, as it is fully funded by a large fundraising celebration Colón hosts at his family home. The program is also supported by UNM college prep program, ENLACE, and the New Mexico Hispano Bar Association.

During the camp, Pacheco and Olivas got a taste of college life and developed skills in research, conducting a trial, critical thinking, team-building, leadership and techniques of persuasion and debate. At the end of the week, they conducted a mock trial at Bernalillo District Court. Pacheco and Olivas, along with three other camp attendees, were on the prosecution team. Although they did not get a positive verdict for the prosecution team, they were very grateful for a good experience in the mock case involving a stolen cell phone. Camp attendees were taught about their case throughout the week by Defense Attorney Jason Rael.

Camp attendees also met various attorneys and visited both the federal and state district courthouses.

“The camp is just not about the career as a lawyer,” Colón said. “It is also about going to college and being exposed to a college environment. At the end of the week, they are young leaders. The camp helps them grow as individuals, and that was one of our goals when we started it … We are educating them on the value of a college experience and the value of a college education.”

Pacheco, 11, has high hopes of pursuing an education in law to become an attorney. She hopes to attend UNM, Harvard or Stanford for her law degree. In the fall, Pacheco, the daughter of Jessyka Sanchez, will begin her seventh grade year at Mora Middle School. After the camp, Pacheco was chosen as one of the handful of camp attendees to attend a reception and program in honor of Ret. Justice Joseph Baca at the National Hispanic Cultural Center.

Olivas, 12, is the daughter of John and Pam Olivas.

Other area camp attendees included Leonardo Aragon, son of Michael and Monica Aragon, and Cailyn Marie Marrujo, daughter of Nicolas and Natalie Quintana-Marrujo.

Branch receives state honor

James Branch’s passion and perseverance for hoops has paid dividends as has been seen by the honor to be given to him. Branch has been a head boys’ basketball coach at area high schools.

He most recently coached the varsity boys team at his alma mater, Mora High School. Because of his passion and good work he will be the recipient of the New Mexico High School Coaches Association Level III Milestone Award in Boys’ Basketball this summer. He has accumulated more than 300 wins.

In a career that spans two decades, Branch has an overall mark of 316 wins and 142 losses with class AA State Championships and third place finishes at Questa High School. He was selected Coach of the Year by New Mexico Associated Press both seasons. Furthermore, he coached the Taos Tigers from  2000 through 2004 in class 4A and he led the tigers to third place in 2000 with  a 22-4 mark.

Branch also left his imprint coaching girl’s hoops while coaching at McCurdy High School in 2007 leading them to a Final Four State Playoff Berth in an overall mark of 24-7, followed by a one-year stint at Mesa Vista High in 2011 with a 20-9 state play-off berth. During the past three seasons, coach Branch led the Mora Rangers to three consecutive state playoff berths with an overall record of 56 wins and 29 losses, respectively.

Branch said, “To accomplish the milestone at Mora was icing on the cake because I always wanted to go back to coach and give back to the community. I had the privilege to work with great kids who would jump through a wall for me, and the fan base was second to none. I have truly been blessed, and am anxious to continue my passion to coach and begin a new and successful chapter in my career.”

Workshop coming up
The Mora Community Theater presents –Kids Actor’s Workshop for grades first through sixth on July 12. Auditions will be held for the play “Little Red and the Riding Hoods” by Jen McVetty. The event will be held at the St. Gertrude’s Parish Hall.

Register by July 7. For additional information, call  Connie Krusemark at 575-387-5407 or Peggy Meeks at 575-387-5346.There is a $5 fee for the workshop.

Performances for the play will be Sept. 12, 13, and 14.

Ruth Fort is a Mora County correspondent. She may be reached at 575-387-6523 or ruthfortchacon@yahoo.com.