Column: Pueblo student takes to street to raise college funds

A campus of the Central New Mexico Community College. Photo from Facebook

Darren Booqua of Zuni Pueblo needed money to keep attending classes at Central New Mexico Community College. So he took up panhandling in Albuquerque:
One reader paid Booqua’s entire tuition for the semester. Another reader deposited enough money into his CNM account to pay for his books. Others sent checks of smaller denominations.

While all of that was much appreciated by a very surprised Booqua, what turned out to have the most value to him, he said, were the kind words of encouragement included with the donations.

“They were words of wisdom, like, ‘Keep your head up,’ ‘Don’t stop trying,’ ” Booqua said. “One of them said something specifically about not drinking.”

That’s a battle he admits he has not always won. His criminal record lists four drunken-driving charges, a disorderly conduct conviction and a domestic violence charge, which he blamed on an addiction to Spice, a designer drug marketed as “synthetic marijuana.”

Booqua, originally from Zuni Pueblo, had been homeless, slept in parks, self-medicated with alcohol. He had lost a girlfriend and their daughter, lost a car.

He said that before I found him in January, when he panhandled he was honest with his would-be donors about what he wanted the money for – not education but intoxication.

It was a way, he said, to forget about what his life had become.

Get the Story:
Joline Gutierrez Krueger: Panhandling for college pays off (The Albuquerque Journal 5/16)

Earlier Column:
Joline Gutierrez Krueger: Panhandling for college (The Albuquerque Journal 2/28)

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