Greetings and happy fall! Fall is one of the most beautiful seasons in New Mexico; the weather is often still warm and beautiful, and the summer crowds are gone. For our program, the fall signifies the start of our recruiting cycle. As we prepare, we want to thank the unseen advocates that work closely with our program to support our scholars from recruitment through high school graduation. In our partner high schools, our program liaisons are invaluable resources that we rely on heavily to support the needs of our students.  During our recruiting cycle, our liaisons provide applicants with essay support, recommendation letters, and help them collect documentation. It’s wonderful to see how much they care about their students! 

New Staff Member Announcement

The Simon Charitable Foundation is excited to welcome Phil Lucero as the Chief Program Officer. Phil is a native New Mexican who discovered his passion working with youth over 17 years ago. His work since, with organizations in Santa Fe and Albuquerque, has been toward promoting positive youth engagement. The skills and experience Phil brings are an asset to our team and we’re happy to have him on board!

“I am incredibly honored to serve in this capacity for such a great organization.  I have been on the job for almost 6 months now and I am very grateful to have landed in an organization that values a holistic and collaborative approach to fostering student success. The welcome I’ve received from both staff and students has made me feel right at home. I look forward to connecting with our community supporters and partners and getting to know our scholars better!”

In Focus: Sandra Aaron

Director of College Transition
South Valley Academy

“I think for many of us, education is not just for the beauty of being educated.  We use education as a vehicle to get somewhere.”

Sandra Aaron has worked closely with the New Mexico Simon Scholars program for the last 10 years. We’re excited to feature her in this issue of the Scholar Spotlight newsletter! As she prepares to retire from South Valley Academy at the end of the academic year, we sat down with her to learn more about how she supports SVA students. We are immensely grateful for all that Sandra has done for our program over the years!

As the Director of College Transition at South Valley Academy, Sandra has more than 23 years of public education service in the state of New Mexico. She joined the SVA staff during its second year and helped the fledgling school to establish an inclusion-focused Special Education program. In 2009 Sandra took on yet another pivotal SVA school need—developing and establishing a college guidance program for high school students that would be responsive to the particular needs of minority and first generation college-going youth.  In 2018 ACT bestowed the honor of New Mexico K-12 ACT College & Career Readiness Champion of the Year to her in recognition of advances made in establishing a program at SVA to increase student access and scores. This is the 20th anniversary year for South Valley Academy, and after 19 years of service, Sandra is proud of the legacy she will leave there for New Mexico’s most vulnerable students, those with learning disabilities, having special needs, and experiencing barriers to college access.

Read the interview

Annual Etiquette Class

“Good manners reflect something from inside – an innate sense of consideration for others and respect for self.”   Emily Post

Each fall our high school scholars participate in an etiquette class to learn practical skills that can be used at work, at school, in everyday life and into their future careers. Although etiquette may seem like an outdated term, a strong foundation in etiquette can increase self-confidence and help us feel more at ease in social and professional situations. Having good manners can make job seekers stand out in an interview; it can help college students make valuable connections on campus; and can open doors when a strong resume and a solid education isn’t enough.

For the first time in our program’s history, the class was taught by two of our NM Simon Scholars Alumni. Held at the Santa Fe School of Cooking, alums Jordan Gutierrez and Janeth Santos taught our scholars everything from how to properly introduce themselves, to dressing for various occasions, understanding table settings, writing thank you cards and more. It was a great day of learning and sharing among our scholar community!


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A Program of The Simon Charitable Foundation

Our mailing address is:
524 Don Gaspar Avenue
Santa Fe, NM 87507