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Posted: November 13, 2017

Meet the Class of 2018 Selfless Seniors

For a decade now, the APS Education Foundation has been recognizing high school seniors who selflessly give back to their communities.

The APS Education Foundation will be celebrating 10 years of Selfless Seniors in 2018. For the past decade, photographer Frank Frost has partnered with the Foundation to recognize seniors in high school who have selflessly given back to their communities, usually without recognition or praise. These young adults have already made a difference in their schools and neighborhoods and inspire their peers and all of us to do the same.

Selections were made by a committee of community partners and volunteers, and the decision was not an easy one. Each Selfless Senior not only represents themselves and their families, but the amazing work of countless high school students who are making a positive difference in our city each and every day.

The 2018 Selfless Seniors will be formally recognized at the Foundation’s Gold Bar Gala on April 27. The Gold Bar Gala raises money to fund innovative programs in our schools and classrooms so that our students have more opportunities to succeed. For more information on the Gold Bar Gala please visit or contact Lawren McConnell at or by calling 505-855-5273.

Meet the Class of 2018 Selfless Seniors

Lev Zavala-Sweet, Albuquerque High School
Lev was a member of the National Dance Institute of New Mexico where he served as a mentor to other youth. He is currently a committed member of BBYO, volunteering his time to support his local community through meaningful service projects. At Albuquerque High School, he is pursuing the bilingual seal after studying both Spanish and English at East San Jose Elementary. He and his family have continued to be advocates for dual language programs. He has also taken a leadership role as First Sergeant with the JRTOC. Lev has worked to provide food and assistance to the homeless, the elderly and veterans. He is focused on creating a safe and welcoming environment for his fellow students, always offering a helping hand and not expecting praise in return. 

Chantel Grave de Peralta, Atrisco Heritage Academy High School
Chantel understands that one person truly can make a difference. She has served as a wildlife rescue volunteer, a nature guide at Albuquerque Biopark, a member of the Atrisco Heritage Environmental Stewardship Club, a volunteer at the Rehabilitation Center of Albuquerque and as a tutor at George I. Sanchez Collaborative Community School. Chantel even volunteered at Carlos Rey Elementary School by reading to kindergarteners. The list of Chantel's efforts to help others goes on and on. 

Marceliano Varoz, Cibola High School
Marceliano is an inspiration to everyone he meets. He faces many challenges every day because he lives with cerebral palsy, but does not let those challenges keep him from participating in many activities, and also helping others to do the same. Marceliano has worked to ensure that Cibola High School is more accessible by helping to secure funding for school improvements that allow students and community members in wheelchairs to enjoy sporting events. Marceliano participates with many organizations including San Gabriel the Archangel Church to help feed the less fortunate, and Dogwood Therapy Services to help train service dogs. Marceliano works hard each and every day to not only learn and achieve good grades but to make sure fellow students and teachers feel part of a larger school community. He is dedicated to making sure that everyone feels included and appreciated. Lori Mabrey of Cibola High School writes, “He reminds us of our commonalities, and how people, ALL people, deserve respect, to be treated with dignity, and given a chance to live life to their potential.”

Cade Wilson, Del Norte High School
Cade isn’t the type of student to walk away from a problem. If one of his peers is in need, he is there. Cade offers rides to students in need of transportation, shoes to students who need them and, with the support of his parents, has offered his home to students who have nowhere else to go. When adult volunteers are not around, Cade steps up, showing empathy, dedication, respect and generosity beyond his years. 

Juliet Velhagen, Eldorado High School
Like many high school seniors, Juliet is a member of numerous clubs, organizations and teams both inside and outside of school, but what makes her stand out is what she does through them. She uses her time to help build up others. No matter how busy she is, Juliet will take every opportunity to help someone in need, from taking on large school projects to just being there as a listener and friend. She has been a volunteer through the National Honor Society and the Spanish National Honor Society and volunteers at the Presbyterian Hospital Pediatric Urgent Care and Montebello Assisted Living Facility, helping people of all ages and backgrounds. An aspiring doctor, her list of volunteer roles has been extensive. Juliet is an accomplished athlete and academic, but when people talk about her, they talk about her incredibly generous spirit. Juliet does not pick favorites; she simply goes where she is needed. 

Dominick Apodaca, Highland High School
Dominick is a defender and advocate, and his courage inspires his peers and gives us hope for a better future. He served as president of the Empower Anti-Violence Club, where he helped to create a presentation on unhealthy relationships to help his peers identify and find refuge from unsafe situations. He encouraged 247 of his fellow students to sign the Anti-Gun Violence Pledge, and he organized the Anti-Gun Violence Walk. He serves as a New Mexico Advocate Against Child Abuse. Dominick devotes time to help the hungry, homeless and disabled. He even volunteers with the Petroglyph Little League to share his love of baseball. Despite his own struggles, and even because of them, Dominick is always ready to do anything and everything he can to help those less fortunate.  

Zachary Marshall, La Cueva High School
When volunteers are needed, Zach already has his hand raised. Zach works to ensure that everyone has the support they need to face their challenges, whether it be a health condition, a bully, poverty, hunger or just a lack of guidance and friendship. Zach has the reputation of being the quiet helper, never seeking praise, always offering help. Zach participates in a very long list of clubs and organizations with a focus on service to others including Best Buddies, the Salvation Army, the Safe Student Alliance, the Albuquerque Kiwanians and Key Club, Locker 505 and many more. Zach is an accomplished athlete, student and artist. Even though he has plenty to brag about, Zach is known most of all for his humility. 

Raidel Lozano, Manzano High School
Raidel is ready to put everyone else first, but also to take the lead when action is needed. He led a community service project to work with the residents of Los Colinas Retirement Home, identifying a need and working hard to meet it. He has also served Special Olympics through the Monarch Madness BBall Tournament and UNM Hospital through the Color Run. And he has been a part of Adopt-a-Student at Youth Development, Inc. 

Rachel Sanchez, Rio Grande High School
Rachel has always been active in numerous clubs and activities. She’s passionate about being committed to her school and the people around her. Rachel has volunteered her time to the community through the AVID Program and Student Senate. Being Junior Class Vice-President and currently Senior Class President really has made Rachel more accountable and a leader. Several service projects have been accomplished with Rachel’s help over the past few school years. Rachel not only volunteers with Roadrunner Food Bank but also coordinates the volunteer efforts of her class. Rachel enjoys participating in Thanksgiving Lunch with local senior citizens and APS elementary school students. She organizes different school drives to help benefit those in need such as the victims of Hurricane Harvey, beneficiaries of the Make a Wish Foundation, and many others. Volunteering at church has also allowed her to reach out to new people, and help others in greater ways. With the support of her parents, Rachel still manages to maintain a job and a high GPA. She not only focuses on being successful in her own life but always encourages others to do the same. So many people look up to her as a role model, and she always plans to make them proud. Rachel’s a firm believer in, “Act without expectation.”

Chris Nance, Sandia High School
Cries for help never go unanswered when Chris is around. If a fellow student needs supplies or a teacher needs help cleaning, Chris is there. Tech support? Chris is there. Outside of Sandia High School, Chris volunteers to feed the less fortunate and he also volunteers his time to assist his tennis coach with practice at Eastern Hills Christian Academy. His family provides a temporary home for APS students waiting to be placed in foster care. Chris helps these students with their homework and ensures that they are not missing any assignments. He still makes additional time to serve his community even as he strives for perfect attendance at school -- he hasn't missed a day yet this year. Chris has been accepted into the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology where he plans to study computer science.

Leticia Munoz, Valley High School
Leticia is a blessing to those around her. She is the steady volunteer who helps plan and execute events both on and off campus to engage her school and community. She babysits so her neighbors and family friends can have date nights. She considers her grandfather to be her very best friend. Leticia helped her mother earn her teaching degree by taking care of her younger sister. She holds the title of Cheer Captain and thrives to inspire and encourage her team to the best of their ability. She spends her summers and spare moments helping in the bookroom at Valley High School and even serves as Eucharistic Minister in her parish. Leticia plans to continue her service to others by joining the US Air Force after she graduates.

Sasha Butcher, Volcano Vista High School
Sasha strives to provide a safe and inclusive school environment by helping students interact with each other during lunch, a feat that can seem impossible to an outsider. Sasha volunteers outside of school by helping provide food and clothing to the less fortunate and has been involved in various ways with the patients at UNM Carrie Tingley Hospital. Sasha also volunteers her time as a teen ambassador for Ronald McDonald House Charities. 

Gilbert Carrillo, West Mesa High School
Gilbert has excelled at West Mesa High School through this participation in hands-on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) programs provided by the Navy JROTC. Gilbert, or “Gil” as he’s known to his friends, has already faced serious adversity in his young life, including becoming a homeless student during his sophomore year. Gil was given a place to live by a very generous and kind family, and now he spends his time helping his fellow students. He serves as a tutor and mentor to his fellow students, helping them not only with their schoolwork, but also as a guide and friend when they face difficult situations at home. Gil is dedicated to improving his community by volunteering for various organizations that support veterans as well as a host of organizations that help those with chronic health conditions. Major Mark Hendricks of West Mesa High School’s Navy JROTC writes, “I’ve been the Senior Naval Science Instructor at West Mesa High School for 20 years. In that time, I’ve seen many students who have folded up under life’s pressure, and who have lived limited lives because of it. Gil’s tenacity and sheer will to succeed drive him to success. He is absolutely uncommon among most high school students. When others are failing and blaming their circumstances, Gil succeeds and moves ahead."

McKenna Gold, Early College Academy/Career Enrichment Center
McKenna is ready and prepared to represent her school to the community and to advocate for her fellow students as well as those that need someone to speak for them. She tutors her peers in math as part of the Lunchtime Support for Academics intervention program. She raises funds and volunteers her time to support all those impacted by Children’s Miracle Network, UNICEF, Roadrunner Food Bank, and Ronald McDonald House Charities. She doesn’t even rest on Sundays, where you will find her teaching Sunday School to 1st and 2nd graders. She’s the first one to lead a project and the one that will stay to clean up at events and fundraisers. McKenna is described as focused, dedicated and compassionate. Rebekah Floryance, Assistant Principal, writes, “In my experienced career as an educator, McKenna is one of the most impressive students, and individuals, I have met and ever been able to work with. She stands out above her peers as a person who possesses strong leadership skills and a willingness to work with others towards a better community and world.”






Tags: Core Schools