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Thirty Community Leaders Begin Changemakers Fellowship

In a commitment to improving New Mexico’s education system, community leaders from various backgrounds gathered in Albuquerque on September 12 to launch the third cohort of the Changemakers fellowship. 

The fellowship, which is co-run by the non-profit organizations NewMexicoKidsCAN and Excellent Schools New Mexico, is aimed at creating positive change in the state’s K-12 public education system by empowering community leaders to improve student success.

With a total of 30 New Mexicans participating in this year’s cohort, the fellowship draws participants from diverse walks of life, ranging from nonprofit leaders to business owners, locals with education backgrounds and those without. 

Executive Director of NewMexicoKidsCAN, Amanda Aragon, kicked off the fellowship at the welcome reception by emphasizing the role these participants play as leaders within their communities. Aragon described the fellows as individuals who “do great work all day, every day,” saying she understands the time these participants are taking out of their busy schedules to learn about education. “It is imperative that every community leader understand the impact of our education system on our community and feel equipped to engage in meaningful conversation and do what needs to be done to create change,” Aragon said.

Scott Hindman, Executive Director at Excellent Schools New Mexico, echoed Aragon, emphasizing that the program’s aim is to elevate the entire state’s education system, not just specific schools or districts. Hindman highlighted the importance of cooperation and civic engagement in achieving this goal.

One of the event’s speakers, Michael Fefferman, a member of Changemakers Cohort Two, shared his motivation for joining the Changemakers fellowship. He pointed out that the challenges within the education system are complex and that “There are no villains in the education system, everyone wants to do the right thing for our students.” Instead, he highlighted systemic dysfunction and stressed the importance of informed discussion about education to push the state to improve results. Fefferman said that Changemakers has the ability to kindle a long-term commitment to bettering education if participants are serious about making change. 

This cohort of Changemakers will complete their term in May, giving participants nine months of opportunities to learn about the state of education in New Mexico. During the term, participants are expected to attend five half-day sessions where they will engage in discussions about education policy at the state, district, school and classroom levels and tour local schools. Fellows will also attend at least one school board meeting in New Mexico to witness how school governance is conducted. Near the end of the fellowship experience, Changemaker participants will travel to visit a successful school district in a community that has experienced a dramatic transformation of its education system. 

“The most profound and impactful change in communities comes when community members get involved and help solve complex problems. We look forward to seeing the impact of our next cohort of Changemakers,” Hindman said.

The thirty community leaders participating in the third cohort of Changemakers are: 

  • Emily Allen – Dekker Perich Sabatini
  • David Ams – TRU Waste Advisors LLC
  • Victoria Archuleta – Village of Los Lunas
  • Abenicio  Baldonado – New Mexico Oil & Gas Association
  • C. Xochitl Campos Biggs – U.S. House of Representatives
  • Dominique De Armond – KIPP 
  • Megan DeLaRosa – Kirtland Partnership Committee 
  • Amy Douglas
  • Kelcy Flanagan – Maestas Development Group
  • Gabe Gallegos – SUNNY505
  • Joseph A. Garcia – Presbyterian Health Plan
  • Dominic Garcia – Albuquerque Community Foundation 
  • Nick Gordon – Sklar Capital Advisors
  • Kristin Grassham – Interos Inc.
  • Billy Gupton – Bank of America/Merrill Lynch
  • Monique Jacobson – Monique & Associates 
  • Rebecca Latham – Girl Scouts of New Mexico Trails 
  • Rebecca Myers – Coterra Energy
  • Martin Olea – Central New Mexico Community College
  • Sal Perdomo – Titan Development
  • Marta Pereira – Enlace Comunitario 
  • Thomas Quirk – Sandia National Laboratories 
  • Nathan Roberts – Bohannan Huston Inc
  • Destiny Rojo – PY Foundation
  • Isaac Carlos Romero – Sandia National Laboratories 
  • Louis Salazar – ConocoPhillips 
  • Stephanie Santillanes – United Way of North Central New Mexico
  • Justin Schroer – Presbyterian Healthcare
  • Jay Shah – Dreamstyle Remodeling
  • Christian Slough – Build with Robots