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News from 2021-2022

Posted: January 5, 2022

Manzano's College-Bound and Career-Ready Culture

The high school is providing innovative programs, internships, resources, and even a "human library."

Note: Staff who support New Mexico lawmakers visited schools as they prepared for the 2022 legislative session. We are featuring some of the APS schools and programs they learned about.

Communication skills, collaboration skills, and self-advocacy are focus topics at Manzano High School, topics that manifest in multiple ways.

“We wanted to be able to serve our students and their families, and that’s such a beautiful thing about being a community school,” says Jessica Dinsmore, Community School Coordinator at Manzano. “We teach our students to advocate for themselves, and one of the things we kept hearing was ‘We want real-life experience. We want things that are going to help us outside the traditional high school experience.’”

Manzano’s staff has gathered a number of resources to provide that experience, including sourcing internships and jobs for students in local organizations. The school is also participating in a “human library” program, where students can meet with people of different backgrounds to learn about the diversity of lived experience firsthand.

“It’s really cool because we’re inviting the community to come and tell their story to our students,” Dinsmore says. “I can read something all day long and maybe comprehend 50 percent of it, but if I hear a story and I’m interacting with a human, have that eye contact and ability to ask questions, I learn so much more. And our students have asked for that.”

“It’s the embodiment of community, community schools, and how we can all come together and work together to provide opportunities for our students and the future,” Dinsmore adds.

The Manzano Teen Tech Center and Community Robotics Shop provides additional opportunities for learning technical and vocational skills. The center has a lab with a small machine shop and test facility for competitive robotics and has classes in coding, programming, and game development where students can learn to utilize cutting-edge technology to develop the next generation of virtual reality entertainment.  

“We’re introducing the kids to the same tools the professionals use so that if they’re transitioning from Manzano to CNM, to UNM, or into a professional career, they’re going to be prepared,” says Dr. Chris Forsythe, whose nonprofit, Brain Hackers Association, partners with another local nonprofit, Tech Workforce New Mexico, to make the lab a reality. “I believe that the most certain path to prosperity for students, their families, and their communities comes through pursuing careers in technology.”

Manzano students can refine their acquired communication and collaboration skills in the lab as they interact with the program’s mentor network that consists of about two dozen professional engineers and computer scientists. But the lab isn’t just for those who attend Manzano—the facility is open to any high school student.

“We want to provide innovative programs that not just maintain our student enrollment, but build it as well,” says Rachel Vigil, Manzano’s principal. “And if we’re giving our students the avenue to leave Manzano with some really good skills intact, I feel we’ve done well.”

The Manzano Teen Tech Center and Community Robotics Shop is open Tuesdays 2:30–9 p.m., Wednesdays 2:30–5 p.m., and Saturdays 9 a.m.–9 p.m. Students who want to join or learn more about the program can contact Dr. Forsythe at