Governor visits Farmington to take part in celebration

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FARMINGTON — The staff and students at the San Juan College High School took time Thursday morning during a visit by Gov. Susana Martinez to celebrate being part of the top-performing school in New Mexico.

The high school, which serves all four San Juan County public school districts, was the top-performing school from the 2018 school grades released in August by the New Mexico Public Education Department.

The school allows students to graduate with a high school diploma and an associate degree in four years.

It had an A school grade with an overall score of 95.99 for 2018, according to state education data.

San Juan College High School was the top-performing public school in 2017, according to Farmington Municipal School District spokesperson Renee Lucero.

The Albuquerque Institute of Math & Science had an A letter grade with an overall score of 97.08 as San Juan College High School's score was 95.90 in 2017. The Albuquerque Institute of Math & Science's overall grade for 2018 was 93.63.

School grades are based on student performance on state assessments including the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers exam.

"As governor, as passionate as I am about education. I could never leave being governor without coming here and congratulating these students," Martinez told The Daily Times.

Martinez's second term in office ends on Dec. 31.

High school students and staff members, along with officials from area school districts and San Juan College, were on hand for the presentation.

Students made signs welcoming Martinez, which were displayed in the lobby, where the governor and local officials spoke in front of a mural of the school's logo.

English/language arts teacher Robbin Lewis and third-year student Emma Cillessen were two of the speakers during the presentation. Lewis said it is the student body that makes the school unique, and the school wouldn't be the same without them.

"These kids are resilient, they are hard working and they will pretty much do whatever it is they need to do because they see the value of the program," Lewis told The Daily Times.

Lewis was happy for the opportunity to join the early college high school faculty after working at other high schools in New Mexico and Texas.

"I know their future is awaiting them, and I want to make sure they are ready for it," Lewis said.

Cillessen is a third-year student in the high school. She and her fellow third-year students have finished their high school courses and are focusing on college courses to earn their associate degree in May 2020.

"It's awesome. We worked so hard, and to be rewarded for that is such a good feeling,' Cillessen told The Daily Times.

Cillessen thought it was important in her speech to note the sacrifices the students had made by enrolling at the early college high schoo,l along with the things they have achieved.

Some students gave up the ability to perform in extracurricular activities and sports that are not offered at San Juan College High School. 

"Personally, I wanted to be in (Virginia Nickels-Hircock's) choir at (Piedra Vista High School)," Cillessen said. "That was a big deal for me."

Describing herself as a very social person, Cillessen said she was nervous about graduating with a smaller class but it has worked out.

She stated while it might sound a little "cheesy," she feels like her fellow students are like family now.

"I made the right choice, that this is where I belong," Cillessen said.

Joshua Kellogg covers crime, courts and social issues for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 or via email at jkellogg@daily-times.com.

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