Aside from being the first charter school in the state, ABHS was the first school in the nation to require students to complete 100 hours of community service and two college courses before graduation, according to executive director Frank McCulloch.
He headed the celebration with Molly Biehl, Amy Biehl’s sister, as keynote speaker.
“I am so thrilled to have each and every one of you join us on this momentous occasion,” McColluch said to a room of over 200 attendees.
McCulloch started by recognizing all the students contributing community service hours and their advisors who connected them with the agencies and organizations they worked for.
ABHS’s mission, since the beginning, has been a two-pronged mission around service and scholarship, he said. The required community service combines civic engagement with scholarship.
“It creates a complete empathetic, critical-thinking, individual,” McCulloch said. “I’m very proud of our mission and it goes right back to our namesake.”
That namesake, Amy Biehl, would’ve turned 50 the day before the celebration, April 27.
Biehl attended school in New Mexico before graduating from Stanford and went to apartheid Africa on a mission of social change – where she was tragically killed.
There couldn’t be a better tribute to her sister than ABHS, Molly Biehl said, calling the school a “magical” place.
“It makes us marvel at the impact and longevity of Amy’s story,” Biehl said.
Biehl congratulated all the students on the formal accomplishment
“I’ve got to experience some of your hearts today and I know you are serving far beyond what you’ve logged,” she said. “It makes me wonder how Albuquerque functions without this high school.”
For her community service, graduate Kimberly Rodriguez worked over 150 hours at a public defender’s office, which included attending trials and working on cases.
Rodriguez aspires to become immigration attorney, as the deportation of her uncle when she was seven years old made her want to fight for injustice in the immigrant community.
“Seeing my little cousins without a father really touched me,” she said.
Rodriguez plans to major in business and one day have her own law firm.
For graduates of ABHS, community service not only benefits the organization, but the individual as well.
“I learned a lot of things not only about myself, but about the community,” she said.
Another 2017 graduate, Jose Soto, said his time at ABHS has been “a journey, to say the least.”
Soto’s time at ABHS improved his academics dramatically, he said, particularly through supportive teachers.
“The development of my skills has been a really big plus when it comes to community service,” Soto said.
Soto logged over 130 community service hours with a local freelance film studio Concept Flux, creating promotional material for organizations in the community, like the growers market.
Getting to know what it’s like to work in different fields is how community service benefitted Soto the most, he said.
Biehl said, if Amy were here, she would be cheering “every last student” on, in the hopes that they continue on the paths they are on.
“When you follow your passion, people will follow you,” Biehl said. “Because it’s contagious.”
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