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Selfless Seniors: APS Education Foundation honors students

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The Albuquerque Public Schools Education Foundation’s inaugural Gold Bar Gala is set for Friday night to honor this year’s 14 Selfless Seniors, recognize the district’s first Hall of Honor recipients and highlight five unique programs making a difference in the lives of students.

This districtwide recognition dinner is at 5:30 p.m. Friday at Sandia Resort and Casino.

Speakers at the gala will discuss how community donations and outstanding corporate partners have helped thousands of APS students as the Foundation honors some of its top “Best in Class” grant winners.

In addition, the inaugural inductees into the APS Hall of Honor will be featured. This award of distinction is for those who have made a positive and long-lasting impact on public education in Albuquerque.

The Selfless Seniors program is designed to celebrate everyday APS students who have given of themselves at home, in their schools or in the community at large.

APS Education Foundation executive director Phill Casaus has characterized these young people singled out every year as “the heart and soul of our schools.”

The event is open to the public and will give them a chance to meet some of the most community-minded students in Albuquerque Public Schools, organizers said. Tickets are available at

Sponsors of this year’s gala recognition event include Comcast, Technology Integration Group and University of Phoenix, and APS officials said, as always, a special thanks to Frank Frost Photography.


Ana Kilgore

Albuquerque High

Ana currently serves as the Student Body Vice President and National Honor Society Secretary. She is a member of Bettering Lives in Small Steps and Mathematics Engineering Science Achievement. She is also involved with Make-A-Wish, Roadrunner Food Bank and her church. Albuquerque High’s Stephanie Dunn wrote of Ana, “She sincerely gives her entire heart and soul to helping out Albuquerque High School and her community.”


Clarizza Morales Chacon

Atrisco Heritage Academy

Clarizza will be a first-generation high school graduate. Along with her academic achievements both at Atrisco Heritage Academy and through courses provided by UNM, Clarizza also serves as the co-president for the MESA/Dream Makers Club and as the president of the Bilingual National Honor Society. Diane Russell, at Atrisco, writes, “This student continues to humble me.” Clarizza plans to finish college and continue on to dental school.


Kelsey Clark


The numerous individual organizations, community events, individuals and programs Kelsey has supported, include the Suicide Awareness Program with the Jason Foundation, Operation Smile, her elderly neighbor, Roadrunner Food Bank, “Days for Girls” Project, the Palmilla Senior Center and many more. Her basketball coach, Lori Mabrey, writes of her, “She does not wait for someone to ask, she acts. Kelsey makes you want to do more.”


Timothy Mondloch

Del Norte

Tim participates and has taken leadership roles in numerous activities including band, National Honor Society, Tri-M Music Honor Society, Black Student Union, Environmental Club, and Speech and Debate. Tim also finds time to care for his elderly grandmother and tutor elementary school students. Stephanie Cooper writes of his panel participation, “His knowledge of current events and his articulate position on rights for people of color drew applause from an audience of community leaders.”


Kawai’ola Wong


Kawai’ola has become a leader in the programs he serves, including Boy Scouts, the Eldorado High School choir program, Youth Ministry, Ukulele Club, and the Gay Straight Alliance, among others. Matthew Aguilera, his mentor and youth director, writes of Kawai’ola: “The biggest difference I see between Kawai and other giving students is his ability to commit and tenacity to stay with it for more time than he is needed to ensure the program’s success and his individual success.”


Pholopater Faltas


Pholopater, also called Phil, donates his time to the Saint Thomas of Canterbury Church, Explora, Princeton Place Rehabilitation & Nursing, and UNMH Emergency Department. Phil was born in Egypt and last year became a U.S. citizen and now works to help other foreign students by organizing study groups. Teacher Mark Ramirez writes of Phil, “He will leave behind a lasting legacy of … an established tradition of student body commitment to the school, to APS, and to the community of Albuquerque.”


Reagan Vice

La Cueva

Diagnosed with autism, Reagan took part in La Cueva High School’s Best Buddies program and was paired with Wes Swainston, a 2015 Selfless Senior. Reagan has shown a passion for helping other students. Wes writes, “What separates Reagan from his fellow seniors isn’t his disability, it’s his drive to make people happy, to make people feel good about themselves and to make sure everyone knows that they have a friend so no one feels the pain of being alone.”


Wendy De La Cruz


During her freshman year, Wendy’s mother was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Wendy took her mother’s shifts cleaning offices at night to help support the family as well as take care of her younger brothers. She also gives her time to the community through the AVID program, Educators Rising and the Spanish Honor Society. Teacher Francesca Martinez wrote of her: “… Wendy will take the initiative and do things without being asked or told.”


Adela Castaneda

Rio Grande

Adela not only volunteers through the National Honor Society but also volunteers with Presbyterian Hospital. She also volunteers her time at her church daycare and at an elementary school reading to students. Laurene Pena, sponsor for the NHS, wrote of Adela, “She doesn’t volunteer for her own recognition … she does it because she truly cares about other people and wants to make a difference in the lives of those she helps.”


Amanda Miner

Sandia High School

Amanda’s determination to succeed is evident through her engagement in several school activities as well as her dedication to the International Baccalaureate Program at Sandia High. Amanda started the Students for Students club, providing over 400 survival bags for homeless teens last year. Counselor Candice Kuhlman writes: “It isn’t easy to motivate teenagers to get out of their comfort zone, so Amanda has shown true leadership skills to make this happen.”


Adriana Torrez


Adriana has been involved in the Valley Senate, MESA Valley Academy and the National Honor Society. She also volunteers at the Boys and Girls Club. She has worked with young students on STEM activities and helps collect donations for the homeless. Serri Grube, MESA sponsor at Valley High, writes, “She has the best attitude about life and is so willing to help in any way. I have never seen her without a smile. She has an amazing personality.”


Susan Hastings

Volcano Vista

Susan volunteers with Children’s Miracle Network and Sunset View Elementary. Susan also serves as a caregiver for her father, who lives with a traumatic brain injury, and works with patients who also suffer from similar injuries. Susan herself has a genetic eye retinal detachment, which impairs her vision, but not her attitude. Friend Joshua Moorhead writes, “She is able to make my friends and I smile, laugh and enjoy our time together with jokes and creative ideas.”


Guadalupe Moreno

West Mesa

Lupe has dedicated herself to helping those less fortunate by collecting food and clothing donations. She has also packed snacks for those getting ready for the PARCC exams. She volunteers with her community senior center, and she and her mother help care for an elderly neighbor. Counselor Emilia Ramirez writes, “She always acknowledges everyone, is kind hearted and is one of the most humble teenagers I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing.”


Natalie Chambers

Nex+Gen Academy

Natalie coordinates events at Nex+Gen as part of the ambassador program. She spearheaded the Buddy Program, which pairs juniors and seniors with incoming freshmen. She lives on her own with no car, but always finds a way to attend school events and volunteer in the community. Teacher Krystal Irby writes: “Natalie leads by quiet example. She is humble and very quick to notice and recognize the contributions of others. She has overcome many obstacles in her own life and always seems to have so much to give to others.”

Best in Class honorees

John Adams Middle School

Paul Newcomb and Anamargarita Otero: Newcomb and Otero created an effort that identified some of the school’s poorest-performing students, using both test scores and teacher recommendations. Those students were paired twice a week with teacher “Blue Sky Mentors” — who monitored their progress, helped with assignments and even obtained needed school supplies.

Manzano Mesa Elementary School

Kirsten Sanchez and Peggy Candelaria: Sanchez and Candelaria created a daily mentorship and reading program aimed at first- and second-graders who were struggling in reading. They recruited 60 community volunteers who read with the students each day. They also provided books that could be taken home on a nightly basis so the student could continue to build skills.

New Future High School

Sara Winsett: Winsett’s program bought books to create a culture of literacy, both for young parents and the small children who depend on them. According to studies, parents who read to and with their children create stronger bonds with kids — an especially critical element for teen-headed families. Lap Time Reading has been part of New Futures’ program since 2001, and the effort has received multiple grants.

STEM Trajectory

Alma Ripley, Charles Newman, Mark Hendricks: These educators created and executed a multi-school program that allows students at a variety of different APS sites to experience hands-on learning in science, technology, engineering and math. Ripley, of Carlos Rey Elementary, and Newman and Hendricks, of Valley and West Mesa, respectively, created high-altitude balloon launches, rocket launches and every-day programs that engage students in as many as 14 schools.

RayLee Homes: A New Generation

The company has been a critical supporter of APS students for decades, playing a role at both the single-school and district-wide level. In recent years, with the help of its partners, RayLee built several “Apple Houses.” Proceeds from these home sales go to the Foundation for its many grant programs

Hall of Honor inductees

FOR THE RECORD: The section on John Milne has been updated to reflect that APS had only five public schools when he became superintendent in 1911.

A wall has been constructed at the APS administration building to recognize these honorees. Each year, the Foundation plans to add to that place of pride.

You can learn more about the individual Hall of Honor Inductees at

Janet Kahn

e01_jd_17apr_kahnThe Highland High and UNM grad is credited with reviving elementary school art and music after devastating budget cuts, Kahn was critical to a Fine Arts renaissance at APS. She helped create community partnerships that supported Fine Arts and was the driving force behind programs such as Art in the Open, the Metro Show, the Focus Show, Art Is Elementary, the Elementary Honor Choir and A is for Art!

Dale Kempter

e01_jd_17apr_kempterHis 36-year career at APS began in 1956 as the orchestra director for McKinley Middle School (annual salary: $4,000). For decades, he was the district’s music coordinator, and was credited with hiring and inspiring young music teachers. His presence created a close partnership with the renowned Albuquerque Youth Symphony, for which he was the conductor and music director. He was involved with AYS for more than 50 years and continues to serve as its music director laureate.

John Milne

e01_jd_17apr_milneAPS superintendent for more than 40 years. Milne is perhaps the central figure in Albuquerque Public Schools history, serving as superintendent from 1911, when the city had five public schools, until his death in 1956. He is credited with the transformation of APS from a small, sparsely populated district into the diverse, multi-faceted organization that exists today. Milne was a visionary; his work as superintendent shapes APS to this day. He purchased hundreds of acres of vacant mesa land, creating sites for future APS schools when the city began to boom in the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s. He was committed to the concept of integration when segregation held sway in many parts of New Mexico and throughout the country.

Janet Montoya Schoeppner

e01_jd_17apr_schoeppnerA teacher’s teacher, Schoeppner worked at Eugene Field, Longfellow, Lew Wallace and Adobe Acres elementary schools before she died of cancer in 2009. She was just 47. The Albuquerque High and UNM graduate was fiercely committed to multicultural and multilingual education, preferring to work in financially challenged districts in hopes of making the biggest possible impact. After her death, Dual Language Education of New Mexico created the Janet Montoya Schoeppner Scholarship Fund, which supports paraprofessionals and high school students who wish to become bilingual educators.


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