student doing chool work
By Nicole San Roman 

Class Acts

UNM Children’s Hospital’s Mimbres School Helps Young Patients Stay on Track

When a parent is hit with the news that their child has a chronic, potentially life-threatening medical condition, the avalanche of information and treatment options is daunting. 

Digesting, understanding and preparing for what lies ahead can feel like a monumental task. In addition to all that, what about the child’s schooling?

The Child Life program at The University of New Mexico Children’s Hospital has the answer. It houses the UNM Mimbres School, a state-accredited year-round educational program designed for pediatric patients who have extended stays or who are undergoing treatment for chronic illnesses.

“I don't know what I would do if we didn't have this school. Honestly, it's been a blessing,” said Eanika Nunez as she watched her son do his homework inside a small classroom.

In some cases, the education at Mimbres supplements the curriculum taught at the child’s primary place of learning. But for others, Mimbres provides the only access to education a patient with a chronic condition might have. 

 “It’s interesting and really cool and fun. I love it here,” Israel said, smiling and eager to talk about what he’s been learning. He says he especially loves math and reading. “School is fun and it makes me excited.”

For Israel, the hospital has been a part of his entire life. “Israel is a miracle baby,” Nunez said. When she was pregnant with him, her doctors didn’t think he was going to make it. 

“My amniotic fluid was really high, and I had weekly checkups to make sure he was still good.” Israel was born blind, and at just a year-and-a-half, underwent surgery in both eyes. “He doesn’t have one specific diagnosis,” she said. “He’s just had a lot of health issues over time.” 

Along with special educational needs, Israel also has regular doctor’s appointments and physical therapy sessions that take him away from the classroom.


I don't know what I would do if we didn't have this school. Honestly, it's been a blessing.
Eanika Nunez

The Mimbres School’s mission is to accommodate patients like Israel. 

“The classroom has a different meaning for each kid,” said school superintendent Jeremy Abshire. “For some kids, it may be in a hospital room. We have some kids that may have procedures in other states. They may be in Nebraska for a two-to-three-month procedure. So, they're able to maintain school remotely through us so they don’t have to miss months of school. Our kids really relish the opportunity to be in school to learn.”

It’s not just the patients who benefit from the school. Nineteen-year-old Winter Lewis is also a student. She’s not sick, but her younger sister, Taylor, is. 

When she was first diagnosed with lupus, it really did uproot our family. My mom had to relocate from Deming,” Winter said. The diagnosis split up the family, with Winter and her other sister working in Deming to help support their family while Taylor got treatment in Albuquerque.

Winter, who was a senior in high school, fell behind. It was the UNM Mimbres School that finally brought her family together, enrolling all three siblings in school. 

“Now things are going well,” Winter said. “I’m finally just working one job, part time. It's great. I'm able to focus on my schooling.” She’s set to graduate in May and both of her sisters are back on track, too.

“It’s bringing families together,” Winter said. “The UNM Mimbres School at Child Life has benefited all of us, truly.”


Want to Help?

UNM Mimbres School relies primarily on donations, which pay for things like textbooks, workbooks, iPads and school supplies. One of the teacher’s salaries is also funded by donations. You can help UNM Children’s Hospital by donating during 100.3 The Peak’s Radiothon on March 3, 2023. Click HERE to find out more. 

Categories: Child Life, Diversity, Education, News You Can Use, Top Stories, UNM Hospital