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Selfless Seniors

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — It is that time of the year to honor, for 12th year in a row, a select group of seniors in Albuquerque high schools who have selflessly given back to their communities, usually without recognition or praise.

These young adults have already made a meaningful difference in their schools and communities, inspiring peers and all their neighbors to do the same, organizers said in a news release.

Since 2008, photographer Frank Frost has partnered with the Albuquerque Public Schools Education Foundation to showcase these seniors with portraits and individual stories.

These 2020 Selfless Seniors say so in their own words, organizers said. The individual comments were edited for space. Their full comments can be found at www.aps.edu/education-foundation.

ISABELLA REITZ
College & Career High School

“I have always had an unwavering passion for being on the frontlines of change in my community. Throughout the week, I am usually volunteering at Street Safe New Mexico, a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to helping trafficking victims in Albuquerque. I strive to welcome and get to know the women that come to outreach. And between helping to run outreach and Street Safe’s drop-in center, educating the public about the trafficking crisis in New Mexico, and fundraising money, I have also co-founded a social action club at my high school. I help to inform my peers about social issues and spearhead volunteer events throughout the city.”

MERCY MUMMERT
Albuquerque High

“I am a proud Bulldog – loyal, fun and kind. During my sophomore year, I quietly presented my teacher with a care package when that teacher returned to school after a tragic life event, and as the current student body secretary, I lead the charge in rallying the Bulldogs for activities in and out of school – school assemblies, sports events, drama performances, and more. I encourage my peers through hard work and perseverance in my classes and in all activities that I am a part of – captain of varsity soccer, swimming, and track/field teams; MESA club member; and peer tutor. I intend to pursue a career in pediatric physical therapy.”

DANIEL BENITEZ DE LUNA
Atrisco Heritage Academy

“‘But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on the right cheek turn the other to him also.’ – Matthew 5:39. This is the ideology I try to enact day in and day out. Throughout the past four years, I’ve dedicated myself to not only helping lower-income, minority-based communities but also to teaching young men of color how to advocate for their own rights. It hasn’t been an easy road, there have been many moments where I am frustrated, where I want to quit, where I feel that the work that I’m pursuing is useless and in hindsight won’t help anyone, but then I remember that quote. ‘But whoever slaps you on the right cheek turn the other to him also’.”

MELINA MORENO
Cibola High School

“My friend group split in half and left all those involved in emotional ruin. Losing your closest friends to a misunderstanding is unbearably unfair. I ended up feeling exhausted all the time, I felt numb and at times I would imagine what would be everyone’s reaction if I evaporated into thin air. When my friend Sammy asked how I was doing I almost cried because someone cared. I’m fully aware my mom, dad, and best friend all love me dearly and care a great deal about me; however, hearing, ‘Are you okay,’ in person was truly touching. Just know someone out there loves you and you were never a waste of time or space.”

JUAN MURGUIA
Del Norte

“Hello! I apologize for my awkwardness, but I really don’t know what to say. I’ve never written anything like this before. … I cannot tell you how happy it makes me feel to know that I am getting recognized for community service. I have been trying to help in my community as much as possible. I have read all of the Selfless Senior statements … and I can’t explain how happy it makes me to hear that even through all of the hardships that some of my peers have gone through, they fought through and still helped out in their communities. I find their stories amazing and would like to thank them all.”

MIA JAE TAFOYA
Eldorado

“Ever since I was a little girl, my aunt would always ask me what my random act of kindness was for the day. My junior year in high school our class lost another dear friend and classmate to suicide. … I was part of a group of over 100 Eldorado students who talked to APS Board of Education members about Eldorado and other schools around our district. These tragedies pushed me to create a student-led task force. We fought for and received a wellness room at Eldorado and a permanent professional therapist.”

KATE ANDERSON
Manzano

“Hello, my name is Kate Anderson, and I am the third oldest of 11 kids. My favorite quote that I say is ‘Good morning.’ If you’re having a bad day, start it over and say good morning! I believe that every dark side has a bright side, because you can’t have darkness without the light. You just have to look for it. My dream is to open up my own bakery, and run the business on my own. That’s why I’m in the DECA program at Manzano High School. I also have been taking the culinary arts program for the past three years.”

HALEY HUGHES
La Cueva

“I feel very blessed to receive this award and am so grateful for all of the people who have supported me throughout my time in high school. I have been heavily involved in my school’s Make-A-Wish Club and have worked to help raise money to grant the wishes of terminally ill or seriously ill children in New Mexico. I also enjoy volunteering with sufferers of dementia at Mayberry Senior Services, reading to elementary school students through the La Cueva Athlete Reading Program, and being involved with the youth group at my church.”

PATRICIA SOTELO CHAVIRA
Rio Grande

“My name is Patricia Sotelo Chavira and I have worked towards many of my goals during high school. I have earned the opportunity of working at Sandia Labs as a chemistry intern and I have taken on a leadership role in my local community. By taking on a leadership role in my school, I have primarily taken on the responsibility of leading by my personal example. In doing this, I hope to inspire my fellow peers to try and accomplish their goals. As President of the National Honor Society, I have helped organize several community service projects to help those in need. When I graduate, I hope to continue to be involved in my local community.”

ALEKSIA MINETOS
Sandia

“Over the course of my high school career, I always had a set idea of what the term ‘community service’ meant. It wasn’t until I was introduced to the incredible nonprofit and philanthropic sector of New Mexico, where I met an amazing array of New Mexicans who taught me to put the ‘community’ back in community service. Through participating in the Community Builders Program and interning with Swimming with Elephants publications, I saw how the nonprofit sector creates a sense of community, which is through combining forces to unite and support one another.”

ESPERANZA BIGGS
Valley

“I hate to brag and find it hard to talk about myself. Most people know me for being a straight ‘A’ student and taking pride in my academics. I’m also known for my passion in dance. I am active in my school and community. One of my biggest passions is advocating and bringing awareness to various cancers and closest to my heart, Congenital Heart Defects (CHD). My god brother passed away after two weeks of birth from CHD. After high school, I plan on attending Arizona State University where I have been accepted into the Nursing Program.”

JUAN CLARK
West Mesa

“On June 15, 2015, I was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia and overcame it a few months later in February of 2016. … One of my doctors refused to give up on me, which is why I am still here today. … Seeing how sad people were in the hospital for their kids and seeing my parents trying everything to heal me, I decided that if and when I survived this, I would do everything I could to make the most of my life … My parents and siblings were my biggest reason to fight, however, they were not the only ones who gave me hope. One major group of people that gave me a purpose to fight besides my family were the instructors and cadets from West Mesa’s NJROTC unit. They went above and beyond.”

ZACHARY JOSH KHIEU
Volcano Vista High School

“During my four years at Volcano Vista High School, I have grown to become someone I never imagined I would be. I passed by students at lunch who kept to themselves, never speaking to anyone, even during class. Even teachers and custodians were unhappy nearly every day …. I decided to do something about it. I was elected Vice President of the Asian Student Union and Vice President of Career Development in DECA. We encouraged a culture that promoted school spirit for all students, trying to make them look forward to coming to school. I also started to interact with all the other club and sports leaders seeing how they affected student life. I started to dedicate my time in school towards making all students have fun at school, because it was the happy students and teachers who performed the best. I am grateful for all the teachers, staff, and students who have made me who I am today. For me, and many students, it will always be great to be a Hawk!”

EBUELA SHINDANO
Highland

“I come from Democratic Republic of the Congo, and I came to the U.S. in 2016. I started as a Youth Leader and later on I became a Youth Organizer. Later, the same year, another guy and I started leading a small group of 10 people at Highland High School. I got my friends involved in that program as well. Also, they didn’t have transportation. … We met with APS, and we talked about transportation. We went to the Mayor’s office to talk with him and told him how the bus passes are very important for young men of color. We got about 700 bus passes to help young men of color. Additionally, I started working in the International District as a youth partner.”

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