Last week’s traditional UNM Hanging of the Greens celebration served as a memorial for students from the UNM TRiO Student Support Services (SSS) program as they honored one of their recent graduates. 

Hanging of the Greens has been a tradition the 1930s and involves caroling, hot chocolate, biscochitos and the presentation of the official wreath to the UNM President. UNM Mortar Board Senior Honor Society and other student groups fill the campus with luminarias—over 14,000 this year—for participants to enjoy as they sing carols and walk through UNM.

Sergio Mendez-Aguirre, a former SSS student who graduated with a degree in chemistry in May of this year, was killed after the car he, his brother, Robert Mendez, and Mendez’ girlfriend, Grace Sinfield were riding in was hit by a suspected drunk driver. All three of them died that night.

SSS students, under the coordination of Brittany Tabor, SSS Sr. program advisor, designed a special heart surrounding the letters “SMA” with their luminarias at Hanging of the Greens this year in honor of Mendez-Aguirre.

“The tribute was a way for carolers to reflect on Mendez-Aguirre’s life and offer prayers not only for him, but also Mendez and Sinfield,” said Dawn Blue Sky-Hill, SSS director.

According to Blue Sky-Hill, Mendez-Aguirre had been a participant in the SSS program from the time he entered UNM until he graduated and is sorely missed. “We came to know him as a really good guy—nice, courteous, driven, and tenacious,” she said. “He wanted to explore the world, do he did. He joined the UNM International Medical Dedication and volunteered abroad in El Salvador.”

Funeral services for Mendez-Aguirre were held last Friday, and the family has set up a gofundme account for those who wish to make a donation. For more information on SSS, please visit their website