DOI / VISTA Team Projects

Aztec Ruins National Monument

Laura Tomcek

DOI / VISTA: Laura Tomcek
Supervisor: Danielle York
Address: 84 Road 2900, Aztec, New Mexico 87410
County: San Juan County
Voice Telephone: 505-334-6174 Ext. 232
Web site:
Congressional District: 3
Bureau: National Park Service (NPS)


Aztec Ruins National Monument is the keeper of a remarkable community of archeological sites along the Animas River in northwest New Mexico. These ancient structures of the early Pueblo people are preserved and protected to tell their stories, so that the people of today and future generations can understand and appreciate that multifaceted culture. We work toward that goal in cooperation with monument neighbors, partners, tribes, and others, moving forward together to shape our future. 

A close partner in these educational efforts is the Aztec Municipal School District, a nonprofit sponsor which serves over 3,000 students in preschool through grade twelve. This school district's focus is "Building a Foundation for Success" for its diverse student population. 

Together, the missions of these project sponsors yield a combined focus of identifying student needs, developing engaging and relevant resources, and connecting these opportunities into the classrooms. Increasing the quantity and quality of needed educational resources available to these students is an investment in the future of the "four corners."

About the Surrounding Community

Aztec Ruins is in a very diverse community, with approximately 30% Native American students, 30% Hispanic, and 30% Anglo.  About 75% of the schools in Aztec, Bloomfield, and Farmington are Title 1.  The park is within an hour’s drive of the Navajo Nation, and 100% of the schools in Kirtland and Shiprock are Title 1.  San Juan County faces a high rate of obesity and diabetes.  Many students have very little physical activity on a daily basis. The Foundation for Child Welfare and Development has consistently ranked New Mexico the worst state for child development based on the school systems, health care, and other factors.  Students in the Four Corners are woefully underserved, but youth-focused projects like this can make a critical difference in their later lives.

Project Overview

Aztec Ruins has seen from past efforts that positive park experiences can be transformative for youth. Students are exposed to new fulfilling activities such as, planting trees, monitoring native plant growth, and caring for a community Heritage Garden. These activities offer real alternatives to truancy, alcohol/drug use, early parenthood, and some of the other serious problems feeding systemic poverty in the Four Corners. DOI/VISTA Laura Tomcek assists in stewardship of the park, increasing self-esteem, confidence, reliability, and other job skills, all of which help students complete higher education and hold stable employment later in life. To accomplish the experiential learning mission of this project, Laura will focus on creating a master plan for the Education Program at Aztec Ruins National Monument. This plan will focus on identifying the needs of the student population and best practices for interactive programs for each age level. She will then assess the current Educational Program at Aztec Ruins NM and develop qualitative assessment strategies to connect existing resources to local schools. Laura will also identify unmet curricular needs and work with Aztec Ruins NM interpreters to develop programs which will meet these needs.

Sponsors and Partners

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