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Las Cruces educator is Heinrich's guest for State of the Union


A Las Cruces educator has been tapped to visit Washington for President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address on Thursday evening.

Tatiana Del Toro-Frank, community school coordinator at MacArthur Elementary School, is attending the speech as a guest of U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M. Heinrich’s office said she was chosen in order to highlight her efforts “to bolster New Mexico students’ education, health and wellbeing, and also to underscore the work that still lies ahead to expand access to early childhood education and increase funding for full-service community schools.” 

The community school initiative is a collaboration between school sites, the district, and other agencies and governments to establish programs and services benefitting the immediate community close to the school. The added social and health supports have been shown, according to research from the state Public Education Department, to correlate with improved student engagement and educational outcomes for students, and beneficial to families and neighborhoods. The first community school established in Las Cruces was at Lynn Middle School in 2017. Since then, it has expanded to seven with the addition of Alameda Elementary, Booker T. Washington Elementary, Conlee Elementary, Doña Ana Elementary, MacArthur and Mesilla Park Elementary.

“By partnering with our local community and nonprofits, we offer our school communities a whole-family approach, providing free onsite school-based health centers, counseling, supplemental nutrition services, childcare and afterschool programs, parenting classes, community outreach classes, family engagement events and professional development opportunities,” Del Toro-Frank explained in a news release. Del Toro-Frank’s role is to coordinate all of the services offered at MacArthur’s community school program and work with various providers from the private and public sectors while defining strategies for aiding the specific populations served at her school.

Heinrich, who is running for third six-year senate term, has been an advocate for community schools and early childhood education. The statewide hub for community school formation in New Mexico, the Southwest Initiative for Transformative Community Schools, or SWIFT, was established a year ago with federal funding Heinrich secured in 2022, and has also supported federal grants supporting community schools in Las Cruces, Taos and Bernalillo County.

“New Mexico’s kids deserve a future as bright as they are, and champions committed to delivering exactly that. Tatiana Del Toro-Frank is one of those champions,” Heinrich stated in a news release.

State of the Union guests

Presidents, members of congress and other officials regularly bring guests to attend the president’s annual address to a joint session of Congress. The guests and their personal histories often represent issues and events of importance to those officials, especially in election years.

Southern New Mexico House Representative Gabe Vasquez, D-N.M., is hosting Treva Riley, an educator from Laguna Pueblo, for the speech. Sen. Ben Ray Luján, New Mexico’s junior senator and also a Democrat, has invited Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium cofounder Tina Cordova.

Biden is scheduled to give his address at 9 p.m. EST Thursday at the U.S. Capitol.