“Every year is amazing when you are working with students.” That’s what Magdalena Schools Principal Leslie Clark said recently in summing up the 2018-2019 school year.

“I have continually been astounded by the passion and dedication our students take with their interests,” she said.

Superintendent Glen Haven shares Clark’s appreciation for the progress made by the Class of 2019.

“The number of accomplishments that were set by these students is immeasurable and has set a standard of high expectations for future graduating students both in the classroom and interscholastically,” Haven told the Defensor Chieftain. “Our teachers, support staff, administrators and school board members would like to extend our congratulations to our graduating Class of 2019 seniors.”

It’s been two years since Haven took over the mantle of superintendent.

“The goals and objectives that I first introduced when I arrived are starting to come to the forefront as we attempt to seek improvement in our schools,” he said. “The opportunity to share our educational direction and philosophy for the betterment of our schools and to watch our students grow academically was such a pleasure to observe the last two school years.”

“A few changes that were introduced at the beginning of this school year, designed to be beneficial and essential for making our schools better, were the reorganization of our administrative team,” Haven said.

Major changes were the assignment of Leslie Clark as K-12 Principal and Jory Mirabal as K-12 Assistant Principal and Athletic Director. Haven believes those changes helped bring about a sense of continuity and constancy for the student body.

“We also added several teachers and counselors to our staff to enhance our intervention programs focusing on those students who are in need of additional assistance academically,” Haven said. “Although we are still awaiting the results of these decisions to see what effect they had with our students, we are confident that we are headed in the right direction with the recommendations that were implemented.”

However, he said that there are no plans to be content with the status quo.

“It will be our continuous goal to improve upon our academic and interscholastic environments here at Magdalena,” Haven said. “We strive to seek out the best programs we can offer to develop responsible and proud ‘Steer’ citizens. This will always remain a priority.”

A possible reflection of that may be found in some Magdalena graduates who have already firmed up plans following high school. One is Shondiin Billy, who is confident about what’s coming up next for her. This fall she is headed for the University of New Mexico’s Valencia campus to study criminology.

“The science of crime had always fascinated me,” Billy said. “I come from a rough community, so I thought criminal investigation would be the career to go into to help my community.”

She hopes to end up with a career with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, “working in Indian Country.”

She also enjoys enthusiastic support for her decision at home. “My family has a background of criminal justice, so my whole family is supporting me,” Billy said.

A Registered Nursing degree is the aim of Senaida Romero, who has spent her senior year working toward that goal.

“For my senior year I was in a Certified Nursing Assistant dual credit class through Western New Mexico University,” Romero said. “Our school nurse taught it. I really enjoyed it, especially the clinicals we would do on a weekly basis.”

She said ever since she was young she has been interested in the medical field, “even in the ugly things. I never shied away from the blood and stuff. Now, I really want to follow through in achieving my RN degree

She will continue her studies at UNM-Valencia this fall.

Senior Liam Ryan is graduating one year early. Clark said it was due to the extra credits he gained through New Mexico Tech, “as well as attending the Summer Science Program, a prestigious and difficult program doing an orbital determination of an asteroid.”

Ryan sees his career path in both physics and computer science, and has committed to a double major in those disciplines at the University of Colorado in Boulder, Colorado.

“Most of my interest in physics comes from the ability to formulate problems, and seeing a relationship between things to solve those problems,” Ryan said. “I think the coolest thing about learning physics is not necessarily physics, but you learn how to think...”

His interest in computer science is in the programming and the software side of it.

“There is so much rapid development in programming that by the time I apply for a master’s degree the field will be very different than it is today,” he said. “Breakthroughs in artificial intelligence are happening all the time.”

Not to belabor the point, but Clark was quick to brag on a few other students.

“One young lady was invited to New Mexico Highlands University to play basketball. We had a signing at our school,” she said. “A young man was elected Vice President to the National High School Rodeo Association and served in that capacity this year. Another young man signed up for the armed forces and he is an independent, humble and kind student.”