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Board of Education Recognitions

Posted: March 7, 2021

Equity Champions

Joseph Salazar, Carol Leyendecker, Mbarak Hussein, and Gulsoom Qurbanzada were recognized for being named Albuquerque Public Schools Equity Champions

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.  At the direction of the Board of Education, the award was set up as a quarterly award. The first Equity Champions were named in November 2020.  Equity Champions are nominated in three categories:  student, district, and school champions.

Joseph Salazar, an eleventh grader at Atrisco Heritage Academy High School, is our newest student equity champion.  He embodies the characteristics of a leader, capacity builder, and an advocate who is actively engaged in the community and understands that there are minority groups who are disproportionately affected by social inequalities and systemic racism.  Joseph ensures and promotes equity in his community through his work with Together for Brothers. In an effort to achieve transit equity among youth of color and of low-income families, Joseph and Together for Brothers worked hard with the city and Mayor Tim Keller to provide free bus fares for youth 18 years old and younger. These efforts have increased access and opportunities for youth and their families, to go to city parks, open spaces and school. Joseph’s efforts toward transit equity continue as he is currently working toward making bus fares free for youth ages 19-24 years old and seniors 65 years old and older.

Carol Leyendecker, a gifted liaison in the Special Education Department, is a district equity champion. Carol promotes equity in education by championing for the traditionally underserved student in gifted education. She has obtained a grant from the APS Education Foundation to provide professional development for teachers from leading researchers so that they are provided with flexible tools to see, understand, challenge, and advocate for underserved gifted students.  This is an expansion of the work she has also been instrumental in bringing to the district with the School Wide Enrichment Model.  Students across the district are able to participate in challenging and rigorous problem solving and creative activities that help them to realize their own self-actualization so that they can reach their full potential in identifying and achieving their own goals. Families and students are excited to experience these opportunities.  Students who would have not had these experiences are growing and learning from their gifted and non-gifted peers.  Attendance for some of these students has increased because of that excitement in learning. By organizing a collaborative working environment with different departments in the district such as Indian Education, Language and Cultural Equity, Title I, and the McKinney-Vento Program the enrichment clusters with the School Wide Enrichment Model have been expanded.  This has enabled entire school populations to experience the enriching opportunities. 

Mbarak Hussein, a specialist at Highland High School with the Refugee and Newcomer Supports Program, and Gulsoom Qurbanzada, an educational assistant at Highland High School have been named school equity champions. Mbarak and Gulsoom are an integral part of the Highland High community. They both work tirelessly to ensure all students have access to school resources and class content. They spend time each week doing "parking lot" visits with students and their families and check in on them to see how school is going, how the family is and to provide support to families in any way.  Gulsoom is in the Google Classroom Family Center from 8:00-2:30 every day. Students can go there any time to get help with class work, apply for classes at CNM, apply for jobs, and access their work in Google Classroom. She also goes into virtual classrooms to help students and teachers. Mbarak tirelessly works with students who are struggling to find a place in a new country by seeking out those students, offering his time and expertise (linguistic and otherwise), and simply helping students to negotiate an unfamiliar environment. Mbarak and Gulsoom are willing to help any student with classwork, projects and access to community resources.  Both Mbarak and Gulsoom spend time meeting with new families to help them register for school, answer any questions regarding the internet, jobs, English classes, set up personal emails, log into Google Classroom and show students how to use the program. They also help make phone calls home to parents to let them know how their children are doing and express any concerns they might have. Gulsoom registers students for the APS Clothing Bank and then goes to pick up the items. Both of them will go and deliver clothes to students. They also inform students about food banks and if students are unable to come in person (due to lack of transportation), they will deliver the food to students’ homes. Mr. Hussein has been especially critical in helping students with limited technical skills and sometimes limited proficiency in English be able to take part in online classes. He translates and encourages students during class and meets with them in the Family Center after class to support them further.

Congratulations on being named equity champions Joseph, Carol, Mbarak, and Gulsoom!


Tags: Core Schools