When Rodrigo Blanco’s first child was born, he chose his United World College-USA Get-Away parents to be his daughter’s godparents.
Getaway parents for 30 years, Patrick Alarid and Jeanne-Marie Crockett of Las Vegas were honored and flew to Minneapolis to baptize Carlota.
“That’s how much I appreciated them after that they gave me a roof over my head and an opportunity to feel like a family,” said Blanco ’04, Paraguay.
A California native, Alarid has hosted about 25 getaway students since 1991. He became involved with the UWC-USA Get-away program, which involves UWC-USA students spending time with local families, after graduating from New Mexico Highlands University and getting a job at UWC-USA.
Although Alarid spent most of his career in state government, he remained involved with the program including after he met Jeanne-Marie in 1994 and while the couple were living in Santa Fe for 10 years.
“During one year, we had students from Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Spain, and they all had friends who became our getaways because they didn’t have getaways,” Alarid said. “When we had get-togethers at our house, we would have six to seven students; they sure liked Jeanne-Marie’s cooking. Once, we had Thanksgiving for many of them in Santa Fe.”
Blanco’s relationship with Alarid and Crockett goes beyond his two years in Montezuma.
Blanco initially went to college in Belgium, but two years later returned to Las Vegas and received a full ride to attend New Mexico Highlands. He completed his bachelor’s in business administration and finance in 2½ years, graduating summa cum laude. Alarid and Crockett helped make it happen.
“I lived with them,” Blanco said. “They hosted me in their house. I didn’t have to pay rent and they were feeding me, so I tried to finish my degree as soon as possible.”
Blanco, 36, works in management accounting and finance controls for Cargill, a global food corporation based in Minnesota. He and his wife, Andrea, live in Costa Rica with their 3-year-old daughter.
Tamás Orbán ’93, Hungary, was one of Alarid’s first getaway students. The two remained in touch, initially by mail and later by email. Three times, Orban has returned to New Mexico; each time he visited Alarid.
When Orban returned to UWC-USA for his 10-year reunion, Alarid met Tamas’ future wife Eszter. The last time they saw each other was in 2018, when Orban, a biologist and researcher, traveled from his home in Budapest to Santa Fe for a conference.
Orban, 46, attributes his friendship with Alarid, 64, to their closeness in age.
“We became good friends,” Orban said. “He was more like a brother and really knew what we liked to do.”
They would hike, fish and watch movies and traveled to California for winter break and Project Week to visit Alarid’s family on his dime.
“That was very generous,” Orban said. “He really wanted us to get to know California. We got to know his mother and father.”
“At UWC, I was exposed to many new cultures, but the funny thing is although you are in the United States, he was the one who taught me about the U.S. culture,” Orban continued.
Get-away student Elisa Ruiz ’20, Spain, saw Alarid and Crockett monthly.
“Sometimes school would get too busy, but I knew I could always count on them,” Ruiz said.
The getaway students had a messenger group-chat with Alarid and Crockett, and the couple would text students to invite them to lunch or bring dinner to campus.
“Patrick would also call me every once in a while to check on me and he would always send me very good music recommendations,” Ruiz said. “So even though we would not see each other every day, we always kept in touch.”
Her fondest memory was during the first semester of her second-year, when Ruiz felt overwhelmed from classes, ExEds, deadlines, college applications and more.
“I needed a change of scenery so I thought of reaching out to my getaways,” she said. “I remember calling Patrick and feeling the kindness of his voice. He did not hesitate to offer me to stay over at their house. It was a much needed weekend away.”
“I will never forget the kindness and the love with which they hosted me in such a delicate time,” Ruiz continued. “I would also never forget how he stocked up the pantry with hot chocolate just for my stay.”
Currently studying politics and international relations at Sciences Po University in France, she said Crockett is an amazing cook and she would always prepare the delicious food during the holidays.
“I will never forget her ham casserole,” Ruiz said. “She was very generous with her time too — she was the one that showed me around all the local businesses of Las Vegas.”
To volunteer for the program, reach UWC-USA Get-Away Coordinator Gwen Albers at 505-426-3374 or firstname.lastname@example.org.