The Forum is Proud to Support the New Mexico Education Equity Alliance (NMEEA) 2012 Fueling Increasingly Relevant Education (F.I.R.E) Awards!
The New Mexico Forum for Youth in Community is honored to be a part of the New Mexico Education Equity Alliance (NMEEA) 1st Annual Fueling Increasingly Relevant Education (F.I.R.E) Award Ceremony recognizing teachers promoting social justice and equity whether in formal class rooms or the school of hard knocks. Join us to celebrate the 3 Rs: Recognition, Revelry and Resourcefulness.
Bahati Ansari: In 1982, in Eugene Oregon, Bahati Ansari, a concerned parent, organized a coalition of other parents, clergy and individual school staff, to take action against growing racial harassment. “Although the policy statement was adopted unanimously by the school board, the statement alone was not about to solve the deeper more insidious problem that existed within the hearts and mind of the staff and children”. She created the concept of a Racism Free Zone™. The idea was quickly accepted and this began the 30+ years development district and nationwide. Since 1982 the project has been established in 23+ sites across country. Since arriving in Albuquerque, she has worked as on a host of community education projects and directly with students both at UNM and RFK Charter High School.
Robert Baade stepped to the plate when distraught parents and students were having the lived and often frightening experience of watching countless numbers of them struggle against insurmountable odds in mainstream public schooling, flounder and then fail. For too many of them, their stair steps to a bright future became a nightmare or even a pipeline to prison, while being simply labeled “New Mexico’s Drop-Out Crisis.” He created a meaningful alternative, RFK Charter High School. In a recent interview, he outlined some solutions RFK uses for student success. These include: meet them where they are at, address individual needs through individual learning plans, give them a reason to stay, a reason to do well, encourage them. “Don’t quit on students...always welcome them to come back.” He gave an example of one student who took 10 years to graduate and another of a grandmother who graduated to inspire her grandchildren to do the same. Taking the long term view, that some students have periods of being incarcerated, employed, in family crises or in rehabilitation, RFK has an 80% graduation rate. Another example of meeting needs is having a having a child development center on campus. Though privately operated, it serves as both childcare and parent development for the 10% of RFK students who “have that reason to come back or stay in school.” This year, he is leading the entire faculty to educational equity and diversity professional development to further strengthen their ability to help RFK students succeed.
Adrian Carver has been involved in the non-profit sector in the state since high school. Mr. Carver served on the Board of Directors for the New Mexico Forum for Youth in Community, was a founding member of the New Mexico Youth Alliance, served on the SafeTeen Board, is an AmeriCorps Alumni and has been involved with organizations such as One Million Bones, Amnesty International, the NM Alliance for Fathers and Families, and the NM Men's Council for Boys and Young Men. He is currently the Coordinator of the New Mexico Adolescent Health Action Council. For the past 10 years Adrian has become an activist for bettering his community by volunteering with these and many more associations. He truly believes in giving back to his community!
Angi Gonzales-Carver: For as long as I can remember, my mother has been a passionate and committed activist. The strength of her action stems from her non-traditional role as an educator, her ability to engage students and systems inside and outside of the classroom, and an incredibly unwavering value of empathy that informs her actions. Although she is not trained as a teacher, my mother possesses an innate ability to engage young people and students by empowering them to take control of their own education. This is accomplished through directly serving students and schools as a substitute teacher, and through working to actualize her vision for education that positively serves all students. Each of these actions are taken because she truly values the potential and the contributions of each student. She has worked to shift the paradigm in education by engaging young people and seeking long-term change through institutional advocacy. It is because of the work of my mother that I have chosen a career working for social profit. I'm not nominating her only for the work that she has done as a mother, I am nominating her for the immeasurable impact she has had on the education system in New Mexico--an impact that can be visualized in the achievements, ambitions, and contributions of the many students who have been connected to her work.
High school senior Arturo Castillo’s greatest endeavor has been to support increasing educational achievement and graduation rates statewide. Mr. Castillo was involved in supporting the play Dropping In, a production that address graduation concerns of youth throughout New Mexico. Mr. Castillo played as one of the cast and supported other cast members in rehearsing. Additionally, Mr. Castillo was involved in co-hosting a youth empowerment event where youth participants were able to develop a solution based action plan which included changing the school board voting age to 14 years old. Recently, Mr. Castillo was a youth keynote speaker at an educational event to bring awareness of the achievement gap for minority students. Therefore, Mr. Castillo is a great candidate with his efforts in social justice education.
Families United for Education: On a platform of four basic elements, FUE became a groundswell grassroots movement and worked effectively to have the Family Engagement Policy adopted by the APS Board of Education on 8/15/12. The policy was derived from community parents and family members expressing their concerns and desires for improvement of family engagement within APS. FUE called for APS adopt a new policy that prioritizes parent engagement and cultural equity. To achieve its goals, FUE compiled both quantitative and qualitative data on the disparity of student success. Over 400 parents were involved in a qualitative data gathering effort. During this process, numerous stories have been collected from parents/guardians across the district about how they have been rebuffed by school personnel while trying to support their student’s education, even though studies repeatedly show that a key factor to student academic success is family engagement. The Family Engagement Policy focused on four elements that emerged from the data:
Robert Frausto, a high school teacher, was a part of the NM History Project. He created and taught a New Mexico history lesson that laid bare the mistreatment of Mexicans in New Mexico, and challenged students to think critically about racial justice issues.
Albino Garcia is founder and director of the La Plazita Institute. Most, though not all, of the youth served by La Plazita come from Chicano or Native American background, and so face the challenge of balancing "multiple worlds" and conflicting values between mainstream culture and familial culture. La Plazita, through Mr. Garcia's leadership, helps youth effectively navigate theses multiple worlds and offer cultural healing through sweat ceremonies and teachings to link youth to the traditional values from their indigenous roots, including respect for elders, honoring of myself and the importance of community.
Claudia Isaac, UNM School of Architecture, Community and Regional Planning, uses an empowerment method of evaluation that is community driven and teaches this method to her students. Evaluation methods are often exploitative of communities, especially those that are low income and minority majority, so her method is sorely needed. She cares about relationships and the impact of evaluation on communities in her work as an evaluator in communities, as well as in her classroom. She conducts layperson trainings and directs community based participatory research in the areas of affordable housing, neighborhood planning and land use, metropolitan redevelopment and gentrification.
Kiran Katira has been a pioneer in teaching racial and social justice at the University of New Mexico as a professor as well as to individuals serving in the most underserved communities in Albuquerque, NM. She has completed research on racism, anti-oppression, and transformation strategies to address disparities. She serves as a Board Member of the Dorn Charter School where she has provided critical insights on strategies for the entire school to use a racial justice lens, engaging elementary students, school staff, and family members in learning about racial equity. With her role in Anti-racism Training (ARTI) of the Southwest, she serves as a trainer with a cohort of colleagues that developed a training specifically for New Mexico to raise their awareness and solution based practices for equity. She is currently, the Director of the Community Engagement Center, formerly known as Community Learning and Public Service, where every aspect of their work is around social justice.
Nancy Lopez, Associate Professor, UNM, Director and Co-founder, Institute for Study of "Race" & Social Justice, RWJF Center for Health Policy Her life-long interest in race, education and Latino/a Studies has lead her to concentrate on contributing to the burgeoning literature on critical race theory, critical race feminism, and education. She aims to foster a dynamic classroom atmosphere that invites students to question the world around them, while providing them with the sociological tools to investigate their unique interests in a systemic fashion. She regularly teach undergraduate courses on the social construction of difference in race, class, gender, sexual identity and disability. Using data sources from the achievement gap, discipline in diverse NM districts and Indian Education in NM, 2025, she is currently working on a book manuscript entitled, Dismantling Discipline & Achievement Gaps in the Southwest.
Glenabah Martinez: First as a student, then as a teacher, and now as a teacher of teachers at UNM College of Education, she has spent much of her life reflecting on the nature of education - what it is, who it serves, and how it happens. Now, she helps others deconstruct and reconstruct the educational models used in grade-school settings and beyond both with her college students and in the community. To change it, she said, "I think it's crucial as educators and members of this community that we recognize the integrity of our cultures in imparting knowledge. We use the ideas of cultural proficiency and cultural competency. It's a type of thinking in which we ask teachers to really think of themselves as cultured, gendered, social-classed, racialized individuals themselves first ... In that recognition of one's own identity as a teacher you can then understand, or try to make sense of, the multiple identities that students bring to the classroom."
Kristine Martinez was instrumental at instilling educational and social justice values to 4th grade students (from underserved populations). Specifically, she made an effort to have students understand their relationship to systems of oppression that serve as barriers to advancing their own education. Ms. Garcia teaches students of Latino descent about the importance of exploring their own culture and roots to achieve success which is in accordance to the messages and guidance the children receive at home.
Media Literacy Project: Using a media justice framework, which takes into account history, culture, privilege, and power, Media Literacy Project delivers presentations to thousands of youth and adults across the New Mexico and the U.S. Media Justice understands that we need new relationships with media and a new vision for its control, access, and structure and that this will require new policies, new systems that treat our airways and our communities as more than markets. MLP is a premiere one stop shopping treasure in our community for training, events, networking and resources. Recently, MLP advocated for educational equity by partnering with Families United for Education in advocating for passage of the policy at the Board of Education meeting 8/15/12, contributing to its successful passage.
Ervin Miller: As a social studies teacher at an alternative high school, he has exposed his students to bigger picture concepts to help them make sense of their lived experiences. He was instrumental in arranging for a bus-load of students to have the opportunity to attend the White Privilege Conference in Albuquerque, spring 2012. He has brought community activists to the classroom to assist his students’ exposure to analysis of the socio-political dynamics that affect their lives and impacts their schooling experience. He demonstrates a fine example of increasing the relevance of the curriculum.
Margaret Montoya, UNM Law School: Her inspiration as a teacher, activist, social justice advocate, critical race theorist, and joyful spirit has garnered her awards from all quarters– students, organizations, bar associations, and peers. She is a consummate teacher of social justice of the highest order, not only in formal classroom settings and in the community, but also in a wide range that extends from our legislature and courts of law to facilitating grassroots organizations in honing their strategic plans. As a UNM Law Professor, graduate of Harvard Law School, she has been especially adept at revealing the inequities embedded in the almost overwhelmingly large number of laws that set the stage for and perpetuate socioeconomic disparities in America.
Michael Morris has been a phenomenal planner, organizer, and mobilizer in the social justice movement. He has supported the establishment of organizations that are still in place that address disparities in marginalized communities. Examples include: establishing partnerships with community to develop the University of New Mexico Service Corps AmeriCorp program where college students from UNM and CNM utilize their work study to do service providing safe learning spaces for children; fundamentally, creating a positive pathway for children who participate in the program to have the opportunity to transition into college and serve in their communities and to obtain a secondary education. Examples of organizations/initiatives he has been involved in establishing include (but not limited to); Community Engagement Center, formerly known as Community Learning and Public Service, Committee for Public Service and Community Engagement at the University of New Mexico, and the New Mexico Forum for Youth in Community. Additionally, he served as a professor at the University of New Mexico teaching students about the importance of social justice work. With his leadership, he has supported communities statewide in addressing racial disparities.
Mountain Mahogany Community Charter School: From its inception 8 years ago, MMCS was conceived with commitment to multicultural/intercultural education. With nose to the grindstone, school personnel began the challenging work of integrating social justice principles from the inside out. Professional development prioritized such training and, as is developmentally age appropriate, curricula for students is an ongoing commitment. The middle school is poised as a social justice academy. Last year the entire middle school attended the white privilege conference and had ongoing in class course work on various aspects of social inequities. SEED (Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity) training was offered to the entire faculty, governing council and parent body.
Anna Nelson has been a tremendous teacher/ally in the elements of social justice. While she was at the Office of School and Adolescent Health, she volunteered countless hours striving to address teen dating violence; bringing awareness and obtaining support from adult partners statewide where TDV youth led initiatives are being implemented statewide with the support of the Attorney Generals Office and the NM Public Education Department. Additionally, she teaches at New Mexico State branch in Albuquerque Social Work Program training future social workers on anti-oppression, anti-racism, privileged, and strategies to become an ally in the community for transformative change. She currently serves as the New Mexico Forum for Youth in Community Executive Director and has elevated the organization to have the lens of racial equity throughout all of the programmatic components.
The New Mexico Health Equity Working Group (NMHEWG) and the Deconstructing Racism Committee (DRC) spent several years crafting, advocating for and finally succeeding in getting Senate Memorial 33 (SM 33) passed in the 2012 State of NM Legislative Session. SM33 recommends that any entity in New Mexico that receives public funding have an anti-institutional racism policy. In 2013, the DRC and NMHEWG will advocate for strengthening this Memorial. Three individuals are being recognized for their tireless work in achieving the successful passage of SM 33: Elena Giacci, current chair of DRC, Tonya Covington and Kristine Souzzi, current chair of NMHEWG.
In Stephen Parts’ attempts to get high school students involved and voting, he secures guest speakers from the (usually) four major parties in New Mexico. Additionally, he has been faculty sponsor of the Gay Straight Alliance since its founding about eight years ago. He’s also instituted a white paper recycling program that has kept over 7 tons of white paper out of the landfill. The school's share of the money from the recycling is in turn used to pay for the re-inking of printer cartridges keeping more of them out of the landfill as well.
Christine Rack was the primary advocate for the UNM Peace Studies program throughout the past decade, developing two key courses (Peace and Conflict & Nonviolent Alternatives) as the cornerstones of the program. She inspired hundreds of students (the nominator included) to work towards a more just world in their personal, professional and political lives. She also has been a key person involved in empowering women to become entrepreneurs in Nicaragua through the creation of an entire 'intentional community', complete with educational opportunities for the women. Retired from active teaching now due to the unfortunate effects of MS, Christine is working to continue what she started through the development of online versions of her courses that can reach students who normally wouldn't get the opportunity to know more about Peace Studies as a field and the issues it addresses.
Roberta Rael is the Founder and Director of Generation Justice, which is an intergenerational media making project that is committed to social change. Generation Justice operates from the social justice principles of equity, inter-generational connectedness, and civic engagement through media making. She has recently developed a virtual town hall, NM Speaks, a website which allows youth and adults to post thought on solving the high drop-out rate while simultaneously posting data illustrating the multifaceted connections between the drop-out rate with poverty, food insecurity, suicide attempt rates and other social and economic conditions impacting high school graduation rates. She has provided a veritable banquet of data, media and voices on the subject of NM education inequities available on the NM Speaks website. Currently, Generation Justice, in partnership with the University of New Mexico, is developing concrete data to illustrate the disparities in education among school in Albuquerque and statewide. Their efforts provide youth the opportunity to critically analyze the systematic barriers at an in depth scale in educational challenges that allows further the discussion about the achievement gap and high drop-out rate among marginalized communities. With the leadership of Roberta Rael, Generation Justice provides strategies for policy transformation.
Christopher Ramirez, UNM graduate student, has been a well sought out as a social justice teacher/facilitator in the community for many years. His skills has served his teaching work with the UNM Office of Equity and Diversity, Enlace, NM Forum for Youth, Community Engagement Center, South Valley Male Involvement Project, LGBTQ Resource Center and countless UNM student groups including the Men of Color Alliance, to name only a few. He was founder of a critical race theory working group that bridged UNM scholar-activists with students, including high schoolers, and community members spring 2011. The working group staged a successful teach in/candidates forum for APS Board of Education candidates that year.
Alma Rivera is a co-youth founding member of the New Mexico Youth Alliance, striving to engage youth statewide in connecting to policy makers to transform policy and positive invest for youth in NM. Ms. Rivera has volunteered her time as an Alumn to support youth in their efforts to serve as change agents in their communities. Additionally, with her sister, Victoria Rivera she established Campaign 2020 a 20 year vision to address violence and self identity; where youth develop ideas of the world they would like to see in the year 2020 and receive training and make a commitment to address violence/make a difference in the community. Currently, she is working at Enlace in Santa Fe, New Mexico inspiring youth in healthy decision making and transitioning from high school to college as well as college graduation.
Carlos Romero, mid/high school teacher, makes learning US History relatable. He gets us into great conversations comparing current situations to the past. He is fun.
Moneka Steven-Cordova’s education setting is state-wide. She holds educational dialogues with youth to research issues that need to be brought to policy-makers. She reaches out to youth from middle school to college. Through the New Mexico Youth Alliance, she has been powered to advocate for youth to get assistance in education advancement by finding local resources such as tutoring and scholarships. She often hosts conferences that she coordinates to teach students skill-sets in order to prepare them for careers. She is a teacher for social justice because she fights for all youth to have a voice in policy. She sacrifices her life in order to assure that the younger generation has democracy. She also volunteers her time, energy, and money to assure that youth are in healthy learning environments. Supplementary for the youth that she works with, she teaches them in a variety of workshops and seminars that she sponsors ranging from resume preparing to how to pass legislation for youth advocacy. She is responsible for the process of the passage of multiple student-led pieces of legislation. Moneka is a teacher for social justice and will fight to assure justice for all at all costs.
Loretta Trujillo is a passionate middle school teacher who is always seeking to deeply engage students in what they are learning and relate it to their lives and current realities. She leads Socratic seminars and group discussion in her classroom around issues the students have deemed important and relevant to their experience as students. In her AVID classes students have discussed, researched and presented on such social justice issues as the Dream Act and educational opportunities for undocumented students, poverty, gang violence, value and importance of after school programs and teen centers, crime and punishment focusing on juvenile “justice” system. These opportunities allow and encourage students to use critical thinking, higher level questioning and personal reflection to arrive at their own ideas and opinions on the subject. In her NM history classes she has had students organize and conduct mock trials reenacting the trail of Dona Anna Marina, “La Malinche” or “the trader” as history refers to her. This provides a space for students to experience history first hand, to question what has been presented as fact and to engage in these ides of social justice, equality, conquest and colonization. Loretta lives a life of activism and community service and she brings that knowledge and experience to the classroom and shares it with her students. The nominator was able to go on a fieldtrip with her class to the roundhouse/state capitol last semester (and took awesome pictures)and watched her students interact with their senators and representatives and speak very well as young leaders inspired to take action around social justice issues. She is inspiring and she practices social justice and equality in her own classroom and directly with the student’s every day.
Devont’e Watson is a youth advocate for change and social justice. He has been involved in making a difference in the community through selfless service in engagement with Martin Luther King State Commission, the New Mexico Youth Alliance, a writer in the Perspective (a local New Mexico magazine), and the establishment Capital Source, a blog and weekly podcast to highlight social issues. Mr. Watson is currently in the development of establishing a non-profit organization where youth statewide can share efforts they are working on to be change agents in the community. Mr. Watson is dedicated to educational equity and has led several initiatives such as the U.S. Department of Education Youth Listening Tour in Albuquerque, NM; which provided over 100 youth the opportunity to discuss and develop critical strategies to better support youth in graduating high school and transitioning into college.
The NMEEA is a New Mexico origin collective of youth, community members, educators and allies. As we live in a multicultural state and planet, we reject the hidden agenda in the current U.S. educational system that posits the dominance of one group over all others. This dominance pervades economics, politics, ideology and culture. Our current educational system is founded on this dominance. We work to transform our educational system into one that is truly inclusive, equitable and just, which means: a living system, dynamic, ever deepening our understanding of our interdependence, reflecting all our perspectives; that is transparent, rigorous, critical, and determined and controlled by local communities.