UNM Helps Bridge Unlikely Friendship During Pandemic

October 14, 2020 - Dorene DiNaro

kieran-carverWhile COVID-19 continues to keep families, and even strangers physically distant, the unprecedented pandemic helped connect three strangers that happen to be from the same town in Oregon; now living in Albuquerque. 

Two of those individuals just happen to be UNM freshman. 

Barbara Kurts, 92, said she was reading the local newspaper, a few weeks back, when she came across an article about Carver Dyck and Kieran Kentley. The two UNM freshman were moving into the residence halls on campus, mid-pandemic, and more than 1,200 miles away from home in Bend, Oregon.

“I saw the article about the young men in the paper and wanted to talk with them — one Oregonian to another — about what’s happening in Oregon, while welcoming them to New Mexico,” Kurts said.

Kurts, a mother of five and grandmother of six, said she was determined to meet the two-college freshman.

Not sure how to get a hold of the two, Kurts started making calls and eventually ended up with Student Affairs. That’s where I come in.  She asked me for help reaching the two and asking if they would be willing to call her. 

The trio discussed their decisions to move to New Mexico, attending school in the middle of a pandemic to the devastating wild fires ravaging across the state in Oregon.

“I think they’re working hard on the fires and so hopefully they will have things under control soon enough,” Kentley said. 

Dyck said his uncle lives in New Mexico and attended UNM. 

“I like New Mexico. It’s a beautiful state, and Albuquerque is a beautiful city; I figured if I wasn’t looking anywhere else, I would come here,” he said.

KurtsKurts shared her experiences serving in the U.S. Navy, and her time with Nuclear Weapons Stockpile Department and the Department of Energy. 

“Funnily enough, I’m studying to become a nuclear engineer,” Kentley said.

The trio is planning to meet face-to-face in the future once it’s safe. 

“Thank you for talking to us,” Kentley said.  “We really enjoyed talking to you — it’s been a nice change from our normal schedules.”

As for Kurts, she says she was glad to finally meet the two and told me that if it weren’t for her age and COVID, she would love to hug them in person.  “I wish them the best in school,” she says.

And as for me, I’m just glad to have met all three of them and look forward to the friendships and our continued conversations in the future.