The New Mexico Economic Development Course, which takes place each May at Western New Mexico University, started Sunday afternoon with orientation, followed by a reception for participants held at WNMU President Joseph Shepard's house.

Thirty-seven participants from not only New Mexico, but also from other states and Ghana, are taking part in the 21st annual course to earn college credit or to increase their knowledge of economic development.

Two of the participants are repeats from last year when Samuel Adjei and Samuel Donkor took the course. This year they returned with two more represenatives of their group Christian Friends of Democracy.

"I love the program," Adjei said. "We came back, because what we learned last year helped us improve our economic program development. What we learned facilitated the renovation of two almost virtually collapsed clinics. We put into practice the information we learned and were able to improve standards."

He said the group works with Sister Cities International, through funding provided by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

"Our economic group, because certain people are not able to pay for school costs for their children, we try to help," Adjei said. "That's why we're here to learn more and implement waht we want to do. It is an excellent program. We thank the people here for it. Knowledge is power, and we recommend the program to many.

"We are benefiting from this good program by Americans to help Sister Cities International, but we wanted to bring six of us this year," Adjei said. "We have trouble getting visas. We have no interest in staying in the U.S. We want to learn and go back home and implement it."

Larry Meeker, who facilitates the program, which is put on by WNMU, in cooperation with the New Mexico Economic Development Department, the New Mexico Small Business Development Center Network and New Mexico IDEA-New Mexico Rural Alliance, said he has been involved in the program since its begiing. "I have been facilitating it for 10 or 11 years. It's all about the future."

Live from Silver City

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