Holly Raines-Baxter and Kristin Prinn graduated with their master's degrees in social work from New Mexico State University at separate times; the two women have never met. Both are making a positive impact on the lives of children, teens and families in Las Cruces and Camden, New Jersey.
Raines-Baxter graduated with her master's degree from NMSU in May 2017, after she earned her undergraduate degree in sociology in May 2015, also from NMSU. She currently works as a therapist with the Southwest Family Guidance Center in Las Cruces.
Raines-Baxter, who is originally from Logan, New Mexico, knows the foster care system first-hand, helping her better understand the significant role she plays in the families she assists.
"I went through the foster care system in high school, and because of that experience, I decided to do something with it," Raines-Baxter says.
After her mother died when Raines-Baxter was 14, she was placed in five different foster homes. Luckily, her caseworkers made a big difference in her life and motivated her to pursue a similar career. She also had the support of her friends, her last foster family, who Raines-Baxter is still close to, and her now fiancé.
"I originally wanted to work for Child Protective Services, but now I work with teens who are at risk of going into foster care and their families to help keep them at home," Raines-Baxter says. "I've learned that families are complicated, and I've had some good outcomes and not so good outcomes, but I've had kids still text me about how they're doing and moms who still keep in touch. It's very fulfilling to have those relationships."
Raines-Baxter says her experience at NMSU has also helped her tremendously.
"It helped me learn more about the different cultures in our area. It made me more cognizant of issues affecting families here (in Las Cruces). I wouldn't have been able to do my job without that knowledge," Raines-Baxter says.
Kristin Prinn, who has been living in Philadelphia for almost 20 years, arrived in the Las Cruces area in 2004, after earning her undergraduate degree from St. Joseph's University. At the time, Prinn was serving a one-year mission with the Associate Missionaries of the Assumption and joined a group of international nuns working with youth and families in Chaparral, New Mexico.
"I fell in love with working with gang-involved youth immediately. I saw very early on in my time on the border that a one-year commitment wouldn't be as impactful, so I looked into staying in the area to pursue my master's degree in social work," Prinn says.
NMSU also proved to be an affordable option for Prinn, who qualified for in-state tuition, and became a graduate assistant by the time she began the social work program in fall 2005. Prinn graduated from NMSU in May 2007, and benefited from the university's diversity.
"I had gone from a predominantly white student body at my college in Philadelphia to the social work school at NMSU where I was one of the only white students in the program," says Prinn, who learned Spanish during her time on campus. "Having the privilege to study with Latinos and American Indian students was an incredible experience for me and taught me so much about myself and the challenges our country faces daily."
Prinn visits the area once or twice a year, including a service-immersion trip to Chaparral to learn about immigration with the youth she works with as executive director and founder of LUCY Outreach, a program in Camden that offers multilingual, culturally-sensitive services to low-income youth and young adults and their families.
"I was no angel as a teenager, so I never dreamed that I would work with this age group," Prinn says. "So many people saw things in me that I never saw in myself. Now, I can pay it forward and bring out the best in my kids."