Hobbs High School students want to go back to school. They want to get back on the field/court and compete against others. They want to live their lives and they made that known Monday night at a student-led protest that brought around 150-175 people into the stands at Watson Memorial Stadium.
“I hope that the governor notices us,” Hobbs senior Brayden Strickland said. “I hope she notices that it is more about the mental aspect of going to school and playing sports and that it is not we want to, we actually need to at this point.”
At the beginning of the event, there was supposed to be a video message in which several students talked about what school and sports meant to them. Unfortunately, the connection was bad and the video stopped playing about halfway through the introduction speech by Justin Davis, president of the Booster Club.
While trying to get the video fix, Lea County Commissioner Jonathan Sena joked with the crowd that this must be like all the zoom meetings that crash on students.
Eventually the video play was given up on and Davis talked briefly before handing the speaking duties over to the students. Elise Turrubiates, a senior who plays volleyball and basketball went first and was followed by Hunter Wright, a baseball player was next and Jasmine Martinez from the Lady Eagles soccer team went next. Kooper Davis, a football and basketball player then took a turn on the mike with Strickland, who plays football, wrestles, and runs track & field, set to close things up.
With all three sports that he participates in now being crammed into one semester, Strickland understands how hard it is going to be, but he still wants to compete in all of them.
“For me, it is just another day, another challenge,” Strickland said. “I am going to take it as I have to do this and I am going to do all three. It does suck that I have to do all three in one semester, but I will get it done.”
However, while listening to the speakers, Bryan Valdez, a member of the Eagles soccer team decided to come down and talk to the crowd as well. Valdez was inspired by the messages he heard his classmates giving and felt the need to add his voice to the message.
The players talked about the need and desire not only be back on the field, but also in the classroom.
“I was gaining weight and working hard in the weight room, trying to do the best I can and it all just got taken away from us,” Kooper Davis said. “I know we (football) were schedule to play in the spring, but it is still hit home a lot, getting ready for all that and then not being there.
“It is heartbreaking,” Davis continued. “I was abiding by the rules and trying to get back to school and back to sports and then it didn’t play out like that.
During the summer and early part of the 2020-21 school year, athletes were led to believe that they would get to play when the calendar turned to October. That the NMAA had worked out a deal to work within the governor’s restrictions as well as altering the school sports calendar so that athletes could play. But when the start date arrived, the rules changed and the athletes were told there would be no sports in 2020.
Strickland, who is a member of the NMAA’s Student Leadership Advisory Council, has spoken with the NMAA multiple times. The Student Leadership Advisory Council is made up of 18 students throughout New Mexico and those 18 students are the voice of New Mexico students in the NMAA.
He knows the NMAA was doing everything in support of the athletes and trying to get them back on the field.
“It sucks. I have had a couple of meetings with the NMAA,” said Strickland. “I know that they have our best interests at heart and they are trying their best, but it does suck knowing that everything is changing all of the sudden.”
Students weren’t the only people to talk though. One parent, Adrienne Turrubiates, who came down to address the crowd nearly broke down in tears while talking.
“As a parent, I am trying to stay strong for them,” Adrienne Turrubiates said. “I can’t quit, because they can’t afford to quit. My daughter said ‘I lost the will to be a student in March. I don’t want to go to school because I don’t know what I am doing there.’ I am frustrated. After the death of the kid this morning, she told me we have to get out of this house. It is hard for me to watch that and not just want to get up and drive to Santa Fe and say you don’t know what you are doing to the hearts of these kids. It is breaking me, but I can’t let them see me break down. I have to stay strong for them.”
The shutdown has taken an affect on Adrienne Turrubiates as she has become the go-to person for others looking for help. Some need help with their children’s education, some need help with childcare, some are single parents, but the common denominator is that all are struggling during this lockdown.
“I have had so many parents come up to me and that is not including the people at work. That is not including the people at church. That is not including the people from schools,” Turrubiates said. “I am just talking about 50 people in my inner circle who say can you please help me with my kids.”
Hobbs wasn’t the only Lea County school to hold a protest Monday. Lovington, Eunice and Tatum students also held protests outside their respective schools. Lovington and Eunice held its protests in the evening while Tatum held its during the day.
Like the other schools in Lea County that held protests, those in Hobbs are hoping that Gov. Lujan Grisham hears their voice and takes their message seriously.
“Why are these kids being punished for something they could not control,” Turrubiates said. “These need a chance to go back to school. They need a chance to play. They need some sense of normalcy in their lives. … Please Santa Fe, hear us. Don’t punish these kids. Hear us. Let these kids go back to school. Let them play. They are hurting and if you care about this state, then take care of the kids.”
“I want to be able to have a voice,” Kooper Davis added. “I am only in high school, but high school students still play an important role in the world. I feel like we need to have a voice as well as everybody else. I want our voice to be heard and the opportunities to be equal.”