The Rio Rancho Observer is once again benefiting from the New Mexico Local News Fellowship and Internship Program.

Lauren Lifke, who will be entering her junior year at the University of New Mexico, has joined the Observer newsroom for the summer as part of the program. She is the second intern in as many years, as staff writer Michaela Helean was hired full time during her tenure as an intern in 2022.

The program is in its fifth cycle this year and has increased to a record size of seven fellows and eight interns working in newsrooms around the state of New Mexico, according to a press release from the program. The extension of the program is a result of $125,000 appropriation to the Department of Workforce Solutions during this year’s legislative session. It is a project between the New Mexico News Fund and UNM’s Department of Communication and Journalism.

“This investment from the state is a bold statement of support for local news — and for our program, which has become a model for others in the country,” said Rashad Mahmood, executive director of the New Mexico Local News Fund.

Lifke will spend her time with the Observer working on general news assignments. She is a double major in multimedia journalism and statistics and aspires to be a data journalist. She is also a freelance news reporter for The Daily Lobo, UNM’s independent newspaper and a part-time server at a local restaurant who enjoys playing the cello in her free time. She began her eight-week tenure with the Observer June 12.