Kathy Chavez sworn in as new SODA Governing Council member

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The School of Dreams Academy Governing Council appointed a new member, Kathy Chavez.

Deborah Fox-News-Bulletin photo: Magistrate Tina Garcia, left, swears in new School of Dreams Academy Governing Council Member Kathy Chavez, center, while her husband, Eddie, right, holds the Bible for the ceremony.

Chavez, one of the founders of the Los Lunas charter school, was nominated by Kenneth Griego, the governing council president, and sworn in by Magistrate Tina Garcia at the meeting Tuesday.

“I’ve worked with this lady for such a long time, and her heart is what makes her go,” said Griego. “She believes in kids. Everything she does revolves around community. I cannot say enough.”

Chavez is a founding member of the charter school, along with Principal Mike Ogas and his wife, Teresa.

The school was formed in partnership with the nonprofit organization, Youth Development Inc-Valencia, where Chavez was the associate director.

The partnership is the first of its kind, Chavez said, but her position posed a conflict of interest and precluded her from a council position.

Now that she has retired from her position at YDI, she is free to be on the governing council, and has more time to devote to the school, she said.

“I didn’t retire from the community, from life,” Chavez said. “I like being involved. I like to think I still have some things to contribute with my life and career experiences, and being a native of this county.”

The three SODA founders have been friends for 21 years, and held a common dream of an alternative school for county youth who did not do well in a traditional school setting.

Chavez originally met Ogas early in her career with YDI when she was working in gang prevention, and he was with Los Lunas Schools.

“And Kenny Griego was with the Belen Schools,” she said. “We just started working directly together trying to make things better — bring resources to these kids and give them alternatives, choices and show them a better way.”

They realized that children learn differently, and they wanted to create an environment where students would have choices and could learn at their own pace, she said.

Eventually, they put their ideas for a Los Lunas charter school down on paper, and started researching charters and how to start one.

Their vision for the school was to provide opportunities that would allow each individual student to flourish and become an upstanding citizen of the county.

Chavez grew up with many of today’s county leaders, and said at the time, they would have laughed if you would have told them they would one day be community leaders, she said.

She believes it is very important to help the youth of the county, because one day, they will be the political and business leaders, nurses and doctors.

“A lot of these kids are going to be educated here, and we want them to stay here,” she said. “We want them to become the county commission, the city councilmen and mayors of this community.”

The charter school is centered around the arts and digital arts, as well as E2020, a computer based educational system that allows students to learn at their own rate.

The vision also includes developing internships with local businesses and creating other opportunities that expose students to a variety of career paths.

Chavez and the Ogases started the charter school four years ago and will have their first official graduating class this spring.

“I think the school is in a really good place right now,” Chavez said. “It’s had its glitches starting out, but the credibility is there. Mr. Ogas has done a marvelous job, not only with the kids, but with the community and building the school. I’ve seen a lot of these kids come out of their shell, you know, (kids) that have gone in kind of quiet and reserved, and they come out through the arts, and through dance and through the robotics.

“They have been exposed to national competitions and they have no problem standing up and expressing what they’re doing, and explaining the school (mission).”

Chavez has always been led to work with the youth, especially troubled youth. Helping young people better themselves and their lives, seeing how they flourish with a little support, encouragement, opportunity and choice gives her supreme satisfaction.

“You know, they always tell me that when you do something from the heart, it works,” she said. “You do it from the heart and for the right reasons — it works, and I’ve always lived by that.”

Chavez replaces former Belen Mayor Richard Aragon, who resigned from the governing council in the fall.

Another seat, which the governing council hopes to fill in February, was held by Dorothy Griego, who also resigned.


-- Email the author at dfox@news-bulletin.com.