T or C native McKenzie Rose Luna began homeschooling in 7th grade and enrolled at WNMU in 8th grade. She placed in Math 102 and English 101 and continued taking online classes, ultimately choosing to major in business and completing her bachelor’s, walking in last week’s hybrid commencement ceremony just ahead of her local Hot Springs High School graduation.
While middle schooler McKenzie was a little uneasy about how students and professors would treat her at WMU, she said that the professors had faith in her and having other dual credit learners in classes made her feel more comfortable. “I got to meet so many kind and helpful people, and it’s a really good environment,” she said.
The three-time local pageant queen, President of FFA, State 4H Officer and New Mexico Beef Ambassador has remained active in the community and with other youth throughout her teen years. “I feel there’s a lot of adults who say, ‘You shouldn’t have rushed this. You should have gone to college and had the real college experience,’” she reflected. “I don’t really feel like I’ve missed out on the college experience being a dual credit or online student. And I don’t think I’ve missed out on the high school experience either.”
McKenzie comes from an entrepreneurial family and is a business woman at heart. She has a track record of identifying community needs and filling them with products and services. As part of a WNMU business class assignment, she developed a business plan. “I realized my idea was very attainable, and I thought I could do this,” she said.
So at age 15, after recognizing that her local 4H program was suffering and the youth needed a local source, McKenzie began breeding show hogs. But along with providing a product, she began a mentorship program to lend a helping hand for burgeoning agriculturalists. “WNMU helped me take this seriously, consider these things,” she said.
Now, with a college degree under her belt, McKenzie is embarking on her second business pursuit. “I’m going to be starting a shower unit to take to wildland fires and natural disasters,” she said.
Last summer, she worked for company that specializes in washing the undercarriages of wildland fire vehicles “so they don’t transport seeds and plants across the United States,” she said.
The experience got her interested in fire, spurring her to become certified as a wildland firefighter. “I thought I want to get into the shower units because you get to travel, see a lot, and it’s not high risk work. You get to set your own hours. It’s a very laid-back atmosphere,” McKenzie said. “Plus these people are putting their lives on the line to save our natural resources and everything we cherish, and I want to give back to them.”
She will be buying a semitrailer and partnering with local contractors to convert the inside. Then, McKenzie will haul it to fires and maybe even weddings and other outdoor events, handling the bidding side of things and managing the finances.
This is a weekly WNMU student profile, Stampede: Faces, Stories, Lives. Get in touch with the names of other interesting Mustangs, and we’ll consider sharing their stories here.