Alumni Days

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Alumni Days

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By: Sophia McCellon

Nex+Gen Academy is a public magnet school in the Albuquerque Public Schools (APS) system that focuses on collaborative, project-based learning using integrated technology and rigorous, standards-driven instruction. With nearing 400 students, nex+Gen’s unique culture is basically one big family. We strive to achieve peace within our little community with our five pillars: trust, respect, responsibility, perseverance, and integrity.

All students, current, former, and future, are welcome here at nex+Gen, and we recently had a celebration of the alumni that have helped form nex+Gen’s culture; Alumni Days were in November on Monday the 19th and Tuesday the 20th, and they were a blast! Nex+Gen had alumni from the first graduating class–2013– all the way to the most recent graduates. The alumni sat on panels where they presented to the current juniors and seniors, explaining what life is like beyond high school and answering a multitude of questions from the students.

Some alumni talked about their experience with their new jobs, some gave advice to current students about how to succeed throughout college, and there were even some alumni who talked about how nex+Gen prepared them for the “real world”. Some topics that came up frequently were the fact that here at nex+Gen, it seems normal to be a good group member who holds up your part of the bargain, but in quite a few colleges, universities, and workplaces, those skills are scarce. There were discussions about how to help teach your peers beyond nex+Gen the skills that Griffins (our mascot) have learned and mastered over the years. Students were able to ask for advice ranging from how to get into certain professions, how to have fun and be productive in college, what did the alumni wish they had done better in their high school years, etc.

Among the attending alumni were Markus Berumen and Alec Melendez, whom I interviewed to see the effect that nex+Gen has had on its Hispanic students and some of the struggles that they have faced after graduating.

Markus, who graduated in 2014,  is currently in school to become a police officer. I asked him about how nex+Gen has prepared him for the real world, both in broad terms and in terms of being a Hispanic young person. We discussed how having such an extensive language program in high school helped him feel accepted and acknowledged. Here at nex+Gen, we require students to take two years of foreign language classes; their options are French and Spanish. With fully bilingual teachers and an inclusive PBL teaching style, our language classes are extremely unique. Many students take advantage of this excellent program and enroll in a third and even fourth year of foreign language. He also mentioned that since he is bilingual it was nice to help the other students learn Spanish and get to help everyone else be exposed to other cultures. He also mentioned how, in general, being able to present and collaborate well has made a monumental difference in his post-high school experience. He says, “I will always remember my nex+Gen years.”

Alec Melendez, a graduate from 2018, is currently a firefighter and EMS worker. He discussed how, once again, giving access to other languages was very helpful. In our interview, he touched on the fact that nex+Gens ability to form such a respectful and accepting culture made his high school experience much more enjoyable, and how learning multitasking skills have helped him quite a bit.

Another very successful, student from nex+Gen was Lacey Reece. Lacey, who graduated in 2013, got a full-ride scholarship to McMurry University in Abilene, Texas. The scholarship she received was one only given to two students a year. The deciding a factor of who got the scholarship was an interview, which Lacey was able to ace because of the presentation experience nex+Gen provided (students typically give over 300 presentations by the time they graduate). She earned a B.S. in sociology and a B.S. in theater in only four years. This may sound nearly impossible, but with nex+Gen’s focus on dual credit, she graduated with 13 college credits already out of the way.

Overall nex+Gen, with its collaborative, project-based learning environment, has helped so many students from so many backgrounds to succeed and have the life and career they always wanted.