“I am my community”
By Chantel Trujillo & Jason Fuller
ALBUQUERQUE N.M. — Moneka Stevens-Cordova was in her late teens when she heard the call for youth advocacy.
At the time, she was living in a group home.
“There was a 13 year old that came in and I remember thinking, why is he here? What help does he need?”
She recalls that each morning before getting herself to Albuquerque High, she would first care for him — by riding with him to school on the Westside.
“I was able to encourage somebody else and I started learning how to encourage myself,” she says. “I think that was probably a prime moment in my life where I said, I’m going to do something.”
Video: Moneka Stevens-Cordova tells her story about growing up in New Mexico and becoming a youth advocate and community organizer.
Community leaders who have worked with Moneka, especially when she was younger, recall expecting to provide her their expertise in mentorship, only to realize she already had, naturally, what it took to guide the lives of others.
“Moneka has taken it upon herself to take this path, to make herself that person… that leader”
– Cody Altringer
One in particular, Cody Altringer, a teacher at Eugene Field Elementary and lifelong mentor, says it was, in fact, Moneka who helped him become a stronger leader.
“Moneka was a key piece of the puzzle that helped me to see community and people for what they really are – a strength.”
Altringer says he came into the community as an outsider with a missionary mentality and Moneka was forgiving of it.
“She took me for what I was and she saw my strengths.”
“I’m very appreciative for her always being there, every step of the way… always giving me the benefit of the doubt… never giving up on me.”
– Idalia Martinez
Idalia Martinez, an undergraduate at New Mexico State University, met Moneka six years ago through community team building activities. She speaks highly of Moneka as a mentor.
“She has taught us how important it is to reach out and make connections,” she says. “You need to step out of your comfort zone to be a community organizer – a community leader.”
Building the Community
Moneka Stevens-Cordova is changing lives. She has been an ambassador of activism for over fourteen years.
She recently received her master’s degree from The University of New Mexico.
Her current role is Director of the Community Engagement Center at Albuquerque’s Health Leadership High School, a charter school that specializes in providing students with hands-on learning where students can earn their high school diploma as well as earn a certificate in health.
Moneka emphasizes how guidance and mentorship are the builders of the community. She says there is nothing more rewarding than giving rise to the voices and potentials of youth.
“Because our young people are our most precious resources, they need to be invested in – they need to be believed in – they need to be encouraged.”
When asked what message she would want people to take from her story, she says, “I would want people to take away how they can look within themselves and see the strengths that they have to organize to make a difference… and how they can also support others, especially our young people, in making a difference.”