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Board of Education Recognitions

Posted: November 20, 2020

APS Equity Champions

Agustin Leon-Saenz, Gabino Noriega, and Dr. Sheryl Williams-Stapleton were recognized as the first-ever APS Equity Champions.

At the Board of Education’s suggestion, several meetings ago, the idea of an equity recognition was born.  An Equity Champion:

  • Demonstrates sustained support for advancing diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion
  • Raises awareness of diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion, and/or
  • Serves as a catalyst for change in the areas of diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion

Agustin Leon-Saenz, a senior at Albuquerque High School, embodies equity by advocating and supporting individuals, in particular students, who are of color, bilingual, low-income, and non-citizens, reflecting on his own experience as an English and Spanish speaking Latino immigrant. Agustin stresses equity by organizing community outreach programs and promoting advocacy by challenging the injustices of current practices. He is a member of the Diversify Our Narrative APS, a student-led initiative that questions state standards and recommends authors of color and other culturally sensitive literature to be implemented into the classroom, ensuring awareness and support of Black, Indigenous, Latino, and other students of color.  He also catalyzed and is a youth organizer for the CROWN Act New Mexico, a statewide legislative movement ensuring statutory protection against race-based hair discrimination targeting people of color, especially Black girls and women, in public schools and the workplace.  Agustin has done more to influence equity than most by emphasizing support, empowerment, and pride, and he has just begun.

Gabino Noriega has worked with various community groups to promote equity in APS schools, specifically at the Career Enrichment Center and Early College Academy.  He has helped students of color prepare for college through his work with the UNM college prep program and Advancing Out-of-school Learning in Mathematics and Engineering as well as being a dual credit instructor for ethnic studies, Curanderismo, and Chicano Studies.  Gabino maintains the school garden and uses it as an extension of his classroom to enrich the curriculum emphasizing healthy living, sustainability, equity, and access.  He has also started and sponsors a Dream Team chapter at ECA/CEC, which is focused on educating and addressing issues of social justice in the school community and attempt to inspire change.  Mr. Noriega has mentored numerous young adults from marginalized groups by promoting education in Chicano Studies, Africana Studies, Native Studies, Women’s Studies, and law and teaching students how to navigate the university system and acquire funding for their further education.  Many of his students have gone on to acquire STEM and law degrees, areas that have low populations of marginalized people of color.

Dr. Sheryl Williams-Stapleton is a life-long equity advocate.  She is a new generation American who earned her education, including a doctorate, and has strong influences on local, state, and national politics.  Sheryl has been a driving force to support students in college and career opportunities as part of her professional role as director of Career and Technical Education programs. Through that work, she has ensured that equitable opportunities are given to students no matter what their location, circumstance, or ethnic status and has given students access to career opportunities they did not know were possible.  Dr. Williams-Stapleton has been selected by Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham to serve on her Racial Justice advisory group. The focus of the group is to counsel the administration and monitor state institutions, hold them accountable for taking action to end systemic racism, and ensure that all persons receive fair and equal treatment and opportunities.  Dr. Williams-Stapleton also serves as a state representative in the New Mexico state legislature where she serves as the House of Representatives Majority Floor Leader. In that role, she tackles equity on behalf of our state, families, and students.  In addition, she worked with Agustin Leon-Saenz to introduce the Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair (CROWN) Act.  For the upcoming legislative session, she is working with the community to bring a national conversation of racial discrimination to New Mexico. 

Congratulations to Mr. Leon-Saenz, Mr. Noriega, and Dr. Williams-Stapleton!