2017 American Graduate Champions

NM PBS General Manager Franz Joachim poses with American Graduate Champions Marvin Procter and Angela Reed Padilla at the 2017 Awards Luncheon held on September 8, 2017 at the Albuquerque Convention Center.

An American Graduate Champion commits their time, skills and resources to make sure that young people succeed. He or she is an individual who plays an active role in improving educational outcomes for students. A champion is a parent who is active in the lives of young people or a volunteer who creates a positive environment daily for youth in their community. Here are our 2017 Champions.

Marvin Procter
CEO, The Improve Group

Marv collaborated with the New Mexico Center for School Leadership to place six students from Health Leadership and Technology Leadership High Schools in paid internships with his company. These schools serve students with great potential who have dropped out or find themselves off track to graduation.  He has hired two of these interns at his company. Two others (both young parents) have been placed in paid professional positions in other organizations.  He has shown students a way to stop trading off their future with dead end jobs.  Marvin is committed to helping recruit more companies into the project and scale it to serve all 250 graduates from the Leadership High Schools.  Marv is a true American Graduate Champion.

Angela Reed Padilla
CEO, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central New Mexico

During her tenure, Angela has increased the number of children who have an adult mentor from 300 to over 1,200. Four years ago she launched a pilot mentoring program at two Albuquerque high schools. In both these schools, every student is matched with a mentor who is there to help them acquire life skills that prepare them for college and career. The mentor 2.0 program that she piloted is now being replicated in 10 other Big Brothers Big Sisters agencies throughout the country. Now her agency has launched mentor 3.0 which is designed to provide mentors for high school graduates through their first couple of years of college. Angela also finds time to mentor high school students herself. She is truly an American Graduate champion.

American Graduate Champion Nominees

Charles L. Ashley III is President & Founder of Cultivating Coders, a New Mexico based nonprofit that provides technical training in web application development to rural, tribal, inner-city and underserved urban areas that lack resources in coding education.  The coding “boot camps” empower traditionally underserved young people with the skills necessary to gain employment in the technology sector.

Antonia Roybal-Mack  provides internship opportunities to recent high school graduates and college graduates, later employing several as full time employees at her law firm Roybal-Mack & Cordova, P.C. Ms. Roybal-Mack is an active participant in the Program for Empowerment of Girls, an intensive juvenile probation and therapeutic program, offered by Children's Court in Bernalillo County, serving girls between the ages of thirteen and eighteen who have a history of trauma or violence as a victim, witness, or offender. 

Cindy O'niell is our RFK Charter High School’s student and family support officer.  She mentors students as well as parents to support changes that leads to growth, graduation and success.  Although she focuses on attendance her work runs so much deeper.  She works closely with probation and juvenile justice to teach, model and mentor student through difficult times in their lives. 

Cabinet Secretary Celina Bussey developed a partnership between New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions and the Jobs for America’s Graduates (JAG) Program at Rio Grande High School. JAG students participate in a range of career exploration activities leading to internships and job placement. Secretary Bussey provides opportunities for students to practice their skills at a real workplace in the Tewa Building in Albuquerque. 

Desiree Beltran has a deep commitment to first generation college bound, LGBTQ and immigrant youth. She is the Community Engagement Director and 21st Century Community Learning Center program manager at Working Classroom, a 30 year old organization that cultivates the artistic, civic and academic minds of youth by providing access to in-depth art, theater and new media training.

Kristine Moore is a Jobs for America's Graduates (JAG) Specialist at Rio Grande High School in Albuquerque.  Kristine provides guidance as her students make significant career and life decisions and connects them to other social and education services in the community.  Kristine is in contact with her former students to ensure they are reaching their individual goals for success.

Kimberly Chase was nominated by her student Lily Heuertz. She wrote this about her teacher, “This person was my 10th Grade English Teacher and she is a champion because of her dedication and commitment to insuring all her students become proficient writers in a world where we seem to value quick texts, sound bites and ideas captured in 140 characters or less.”  “Ms. Chase encourages us to attend college and career fairs and will even give us advice on what kinds of questions to ask, when we have no idea what to say to a college recruiter.”

Kathy Mirr Gonzales voluntarily works with high school seniors on their FAFSA paperwork and invests time to review their applications and essays. She also helps parents understand what financial aid is available for their child's college education. She also works with college students through reviewing their resumes and coaching them for interviews as they pursue careers, medical school, or graduate school.

CNM Associate vice President, Eugene Padilla mentors students and pays special attention to Hispanic students who are older than traditional college students. He helps students leverage scholarship money to start and complete their education and his work has significantly increased CNM's graduation rates and degree awards.

Ezra Spitzer is Executive Director of New Mexico Child Advocacy Networks (NMCAN).  He is champions the educational rights for youth involved in the foster care and juvenile justice systems. Ezra and NMCAN have a huge impact on the graduation prospects for these youth.

Although Cindy Nava is an undocumented immigrant she interned for 7 years without any pay at the NM state legislature where she became a leader and champion, defending the accessibility of the NM lottery scholarship for primarily minority low-income students. Through ENLACE NM, she trains legislative interns on the political and legislative process during their one-week internships in Santa Fe.

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