New charter school wins Kellogg grant

July 08, 2016

Albuquerque Journal
July 08, 2016

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Siembra Leadership High School, a new business-focused charter school opening in Downtown Albuquerque this fall, has won a major grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

The three-year $353,100 award will fund a coding-capable computer lab and makers’ space with 3-D printer to help students develop apps or new products. It also allowed Siembra to hire an entrepreneurship coach who will ensure that the classes offer “an authentic experience,” according to Jessica Aranda, director of community engagement.

Aranda noted that the incoming coach, Leonora Amaya Gualeni, has a unique background mixing education and business. Amaya Gualeni was most recently a reading specialist at Corrales International School, but she previously ran a printing business with offices in Mexico City and New York.

“We’re excited,” Aranda said. “We were lucky to find someone whose experiences are really relevant to our model.”

At the heart of that model is hands-on, real-world experience.

Siembra is one of four members of the Leadership High School Network, an Albuquerque charter group offering vocational training in health care, technology, construction and now business.

Moises Padilla, Siembra’s executive director, explained that the schools use a project-based curriculum that engages students’ creativity and team-building skills by giving them a problem to tackle – for instance, develop a marketing plan for the Albuquerque Sol soccer team.

“These types of unique, hands-on opportunities for youth are really important,” Padilla said. “Siembra means sowing or seedtime in Spanish. Our school plants the seeds of leadership and entrepreneurship as students work directly with real businesses to solve the problems they are facing. These project are not theoretical, they are part of the real world.”

Siembra received its charter from Albuquerque Public Schools in September and recently signed a four-year lease with the Anasazi Building, placing them in the heart of downtown at 524 Central Ave. SW.

The first-floor space needs renovations, so classes will be held at the nearby Verge Building until October.

Siembra is currently open to freshman students, with 75 to 100 expected for the first year, eventually rising to an enrollment of 350 to 400 when every grade is filled, Padilla said.

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