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Elena Aguirre is retiring after 29 years of service with the University of New Mexico and the UNM Children’s Campus for Early Care and Education (UNMCC), where she was the program’s director.

UNMCC emerged as a collaboration between the UNM Children’s Campus run by parents in the basement of Mesa Vista Hall and a research based lab school called “Manzanita.” As the needs of UNM parents seeking childcare increased, the two combined and Aguirre soon became director.

The campus consistently maintains a long waiting list of UNM parents wanting to enroll their children in the program. Aguirre’s vision for the program’s curriculum and structure has been a key part of its success. “When I became the director I worked on finding a way to incorporate diapers into the school budget so that families wouldn’t have to provide them,” she said. “For many of our families, vegetarian options are important and I wanted to give them that choice also.”

Aguirre says she will always remember those whom she watched grow from the beginning of their college careers to success after graduation. “There was a young mom who had a three year old child when she started at UNM. She was from a small town and was a little nervous about college life. She is now a pharmacist and I remember being proud of her and thinking ‘she made it.’”

The decision to leave campus was bittersweet for Aguirre, as there are many people and things she will miss. “I will miss the kids and the energy of our student staff,” she said. “Every August seeing the new freshmen so full or dreams and ideas was always such an exciting time.”