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Faces of CNM: Leroy T. Romero

After decades of drug addiction and incarceration, Leroy came to CNM, graduated with two Automotive Tech certificates, and now has a good job at a local car dealership
Faces of CNM: Leroy T. Romero
Leroy T Romero

Sep 14, 2018

Leroy Romero was addicted to heroin for 34 years, or longer than many students at CNM have been alive. During those years of addiction, Leroy also spent 15 years in jails across New Mexico for offenses instigated by the need for money to pay for his habit.

He decided to get clean in 2009 when he couldn’t inject into his arms any more. Leon went to a clinic and was put on methadone. He’s still on methadone to this day, but just small doses.

After prison, Leroy, who’s now 61, always had a job. He hated sitting around so he did everything from golf course work to a temp job with Albuquerque’s Parks and Recreation department. But nothing felt engaging enough, so he decided to go back to school. Growing up with a dad who loved cars, he chose the Automotive Technology program at CNM and recently graduated with two certificates— one in general Automotive Technology and one in Automotive Service Fundamentals.

“I had no idea what to expect walking on to campus,” Leroy says. “I was definitely the oldest person in class and usually older than the instructors. But I was never afraid to ask questions and do the work.”

Life was unfortunately still hard during school. While he was here, Leroy lost a brother and sister and had to use what little money he had to help pay for the funerals. Facing a deficit, he says two different CNM instructors stepped up and help with additional money for the services. The college also helped him apply for the Rust Opportunity Assistance Fund that paid for a month’s rent when he ran out of money.

“Everyone was so, so caring and helpful,” he says.

Today, life is a little smoother. During one of his Auto Tech classes, Leroy interned at a local dealership. He picked Rich Ford, and at the end of his internship the company offered him a full-time job. He wasn’t able to accept the full-time offer because of his disability income (he has two titanium knees and suffers from PTSD from his time back in the National Guard during the 1970s). But he asked if they would hire him part-time. They said yes and now he works three days a week as a technician.

He’s also considering coming back to school. He likes to stay active, and on the days he’s not working he has time for class. He’s thinking about a Diesel Equipment Technology certificate or maybe something with computers. Whatever he decides, he hopes that others might take a little inspiration from seeing him back on campus. He understands that everyone has their own struggles, but as he puts it, “If I can do it, anyone can do it.”