I photograph a lot of high school seniors and over the years, I’ve had the great fortune of meeting some incredible human beings. Too many to even begin to count, really. High school students with amazing attitudes and stories; students who might not be the star quarterback or homecoming queen, but whose lives are making a difference in this world. And so we partnered years ago with the APS Education Foundation to honor these unsung heroes who walk the corridors of our high school every day.
Kids who do the right thing not for glory or accolades, but because it’s the right thing to do.
We give our all to the Selfless Senior program because we believe in putting our money where our heart is…and our heart is with the incredible young men and women who will one day be our future.
The 2017 Class will be honored tonight at a huge presentation filled with family, friends, teachers and lots of happy tears. And while they are the ones being honored, I am so very honored to know them.
Natalie Chambers: Next+Gen Academy
Natalie coordinates events at Nex+Gen as part of the ambassador program. She spearheaded the Buddy Program, which pairs juniors and seniors with incoming freshmen. She lives on her own with no car, but always finds a way to attend school events and volunteer in the community. Teacher Krystal Irby writes: “Natalie leads by quiet example. She is humble and very quick to notice and recognize the contributions of others. She has overcome many obstacles in her own life and always seems to have so much to give to others.”
Kawai’ola Wong: Eldorado High School
Kawai’ola has become a leader in the programs he serves, including Boy Scouts, the Eldorado High School choir program, Youth Ministry, Ukulele Club, and the Gay Straight Alliance, among others. Matthew Aguilera, his mentor and youth director, writes of Kawai’ola: “The biggest difference I see between Kawai and other giving students is his ability to commit and tenacity to stay with it for more time than he is needed to ensure the program’s success and his individual success.”
Clarissa Morales Chacon: Atrisco Heritage Academy
Clarizza will be a first-generation high school graduate. Along with her academic achievements both at Atrisco Heritage Academy and through courses provided by UNM, Clarizza also serves as the co-president for the MESA/Dream Makers Club and as the president of the Bilingual National Honor Society. Diane Russell, at Atrisco, writes, “This student continues to humble me.” Clarizza plans to finish college and continue on to dental school.
Pholopater Faltas: Highland High School
Pholopater, also called Phil, donates his time to the Saint Thomas of Canterbury Church, Explora, Princeton Place Rehabilitation & Nursing, and UNMH Emergency Department. Phil was born in Egypt and last year became a U.S. citizen and now works to help other foreign students by organizing study groups. Teacher Mark Ramirez writes of Phil, “He will leave behind a lasting legacy of … an established tradition of student body commitment to the school, to APS, and to the community of Albuquerque.”
Wendy De La Cruz: Manzano High School
During her freshman year, Wendy’s mother was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Wendy took her mother’s shifts cleaning offices at night to help support the family as well as take care of her younger brothers. She also gives her time to the community through the AVID program, Educators Rising and the Spanish Honor Society. Teacher Francesca Martinez wrote of her: “… Wendy will take the initiative and do things without being asked or told.”
Timothy Mondloch: Del Norte High School
Tim participates and has taken leadership roles in numerous activities including band, National Honor Society, Tri-M Music Honor Society, Black Student Union, Environmental Club, and Speech and Debate. Tim also finds time to care for his elderly grandmother and tutor elementary school students. Stephanie Cooper writes of his panel participation, “His knowledge of current events and his articulate position on rights for people of color drew applause from an audience of community leaders.”
Susan Hastings: Volcano Vista High
Susan volunteers with Children’s Miracle Network and Sunset View Elementary. Susan also serves as a caregiver for her father, who lives with a traumatic brain injury, and works with patients who also suffer from similar injuries. Susan herself has a genetic eye retinal detachment, which impairs her vision, but not her attitude. Friend Joshua Moorhead writes, “She is able to make my friends and I smile, laugh and enjoy our time together with jokes and creative ideas.”
Kelsey Clark: Cibola High School
The numerous individual organizations, community events, individuals and programs Kelsey has supported, include the Suicide Awareness Program with the Jason Foundation, Operation Smile, her elderly neighbor, Roadrunner Food Bank, “Days for Girls” Project, the Palmilla Senior Center and many more. Her basketball coach, Lori Mabrey, writes of her, “She does not wait for someone to ask, she acts. Kelsey makes you want to do more.”
Amanda Miner: Sandia High School
Amanda’s determination to succeed is evident through her engagement in several school activities as well as her dedication to the International Baccalaureate Program at Sandia High. Amanda started the Students for Students club, providing over 400 survival bags for homeless teens last year. Counselor Candice Kuhlman writes: “It isn’t easy to motivate teenagers to get out of their comfort zone, so Amanda has shown true leadership skills to make this happen.”
Adela Castaneda: Rio Grande High School
Adela not only volunteers through the National Honor Society but also volunteers with Presbyterian Hospital. She also volunteers her time at her church daycare and at an elementary school reading to students. Laurene Pena, sponsor for the NHS, wrote of Adela, “She doesn’t volunteer for her own recognition … she does it because she truly cares about other people and wants to make a difference in the lives of those she helps.”
Reagan Vice: La Cueva High School
Diagnosed with autism, Reagan took part in La Cueva High School’s Best Buddies program and was paired with Wes Swainston, a 2015 Selfless Senior. Reagan has shown a passion for helping other students. Wes writes, “What separates Reagan from his fellow seniors isn’t his disability, it’s his drive to make people happy, to make people feel good about themselves and to make sure everyone knows that they have a friend so no one feels the pain of being alone.”
Adriana Torrez: Valley High School
Adriana has been involved in the Valley Senate, MESA Valley Academy and the National Honor Society. She also volunteers at the Boys and Girls Club. She has worked with young students on STEM activities and helps collect donations for the homeless. Serri Grube, MESA sponsor at Valley High, writes, “She has the best attitude about life and is so willing to help in any way. I have never seen her without a smile. She has an amazing personality.”
Ana Kilgore: Albuquerque High School
Ana currently serves as the Student Body Vice President and National Honor Society Secretary. She is a member of Bettering Lives in Small Steps and Mathematics Engineering Science Achievement. She is also involved with Make-A-Wish, Roadrunner Food Bank and her church. Albuquerque High’s Stephanie Dunn wrote of Ana, “She sincerely gives her entire heart and soul to helping out Albuquerque High School and her community.”
Guadalupe Moreno: West Mesa High School
Lupe has dedicated herself to helping those less fortunate by collecting food and clothing donations. She has also packed snacks for those getting ready for the PARCC exams. She volunteers with her community senior center, and she and her mother help care for an elderly neighbor. Counselor Emilia Ramirez writes, “She always acknowledges everyone, is kind hearted and is one of the most humble teenagers I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing.”
Oh, New Mexico…I do love you.
I love you in the Winter, when your mountains are covered in snow;
I love you in the Spring, when your tender leaves unfurl and welcome the sun;
I love you in the Summer, when all is green and warm and days are long.
But, dear New Mexico, the Fall is when I love you best.
©Frank Frost Photography 2016
Our lives are overwhelmed with pictures. A cell phone holds thousands. We take them haphazardly, in passing. Thousands and thousands of pictures. Our food, our drink, a blurry sunset.
We take them not because they are important; we take them because we can.
And when our phones are full, we delete the food, the drink and the blurry sunsets. We might even wonder, as we look back, why on earth we took that image to begin with.
And once deleted, we will never miss it, because it didn’t really matter.
A portrait is different, because it is made with purpose. It is made to mark a time in history; a moment in life. There is nothing haphazard about it. It is special because of the people in it. It is made with care…
it is made to be remembered. It is made to last.
Not every occasion in life will require a professional photographer….
Only those times that really matter.
© 2016 Frank Frost Photography
Reminded again today how precious Life is and how quickly it changes. We get caught up in the day-to-day of Life and all its little grumblings and irritations (“Where is all this traffic coming from?” “The Starbucks line is so long-this is going to take forever.” “What do you mean, I can’t get in for a hair cut for two weeks?”) and we allow it to zap the joy.
So with that in mind, a little reminder:
Live every moment.
Don’t confuse problems with inconveniences.
Hold your babies close, no matter how old they are.
Be careful who you admire.
Believe in yourself but be honest with yourself.
Pick the shortcut only after you’ve mastered the regular route.
Speak your truth.
Never stop learning but remember that no one has all the answers-the most important lessons only experience can teach you.
Hug your friends.
It’s a carb, not poison. Just eat it and enjoy it.
Stand still and watch the sunset
Go ahead and drink the juice from the carton.
Don’t fall victim to flattery.
Be kind to animals.
Laugh some more.
Say “yes” as much as possible.
Nobody but you cares how you look in a bathing suit.
Perspective is everything and can easily get out of whack. Guard against that.
It’s no big deal if there are dirty dishes in your sink.
Take pride in your accomplishments.
Take pride in your weirdness.
Take this life and squeeze from it as much as joy as possible, because no matter how long it is, it’s still too short.
And last but not least, make NO EXCUSES.
When the thunderclouds of Life open over you, and the rain falls down, stand firm in your confidence, look trouble in the eye, and like Prince performing at the Superbowl say, “Can you make it rain HARDER?”
I have lived in New Mexico for a very long time. We moved here from Michigan when I was just a boy, and, like most children, I didn’t appreciate the beauty of my new surroundings. They were oh, so different from what I had known. I had come from the Great Lakes region filled with water and green farmland to the desert southwest, filled with mountains, open mesas, and sky.
But all of that changed when I became a photographer.
See, there’s something about New Mexico that’s different: maybe it’s the quality of light; maybe it’s the way you can see for miles and miles; maybe it’s the way we go about most of our days under a cornflower blue sky and because of the elevation, so close to the clouds you feel as though you can touch them; or maybe it’s the warmth and friendliness of the people who are lucky enough to call this place Home.
And don’t even get me started on that Hatch green chile.
I’ve yet to put my finger on exactly what it is, but I still pinch myself every day that I get to photograph such amazing people in such an amazing place.
I am proud to be New Mexico True.