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School hailed as example of excellence

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — While roughly 200 New Mexico schools landed on the Public Education Department’s list of low-performers on Tuesday, one school was held out as an example of excellence that proves “demographics are not destiny.”

Mission Achievement and Success has earned three straight A grades from PED despite serving a high percentage of low-income and minority students. In November, the Public Education Commission voted to allow MAS to open a second location in Albuquerque.

PED chief Christopher Ruszkowski held a press conference Tuesday at MAS to announce his department’s new efforts to address failing schools. He stressed that MAS’s strong performance demonstrates that New Mexico students can meet rigorous standards.

“What Mission Achievement and Success is showing us is what’s possible for every kid in Albuquerque and what’s possible for every single kid in New Mexico,” Ruszkowski said. “This is a school that is proving that demographics and ZIP code need not be destiny,”

Launched in 2013, MAS currently serves roughly 750 students in kindergarten through third grades, as well as middle school and high school grades. It is adding an elementary grade each year to eventually include fourth and fifth graders.

In August 2018, MAS will open a second location that will initially offer kindergarten and first grades. JoAnn Mitchell, MAS founder and executive director, is still considering a number of potential sites.

MAS students say their time at the school has been life-changing.

Ryan Chavez, 18, came to MAS after struggling at Jimmy Carter Middle School.

He “was always fighting,” and eventually got expelled. One teacher told him he should be homeschooled.

Today, Chavez is earning solid grades and looking forward to graduation. He hopes to work in corrections or car audio installation.

“I would be a dropout if I hadn’t come here,” Chavez said. “I’ve gotta thank these teachers for giving me a chance.”

For Omar Hernandez, MAS has opened the door to a better life.

This year, the aspiring mechanical engineer will become the first in his family to graduate from high school.

“Our adversities cannot hold us back,” he said.