by Kim Burgess, Albuquerque Journal
Aug. 18, 2017

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Barcelona Elementary third-grader Kristalee Jaramillo hopes to one day become a businesswoman. Her friend, Anya Tucker, is aiming for a career in teaching.

On Friday, the two girls and their classmates at the Title I school were pushed to follow those “big, gutsy dreams.”

Barcelona Elementary Principal Katherine Trujillo invited several local business and community leaders to talk to the students about their successes and offer some encouragement — part of the school’s new “Dream Big” theme. The speakers and other businesses also donated $5,000 and classroom supplies, along with Starbucks gift cards for Barcelona Elementary employees.

Realtor Joe Maez brought his hot air balloon, which was inflated on the school’s field.

“I love what I do,” Maez said. “My advice to you is when you grow up, I want you guys to do what you love to do because you’ll never work a day in your life.”

For attorney and mayoral candidate Brian S. Colón, the key was finding encouraging teachers and principals. When Colón was a child, his parents were ill and the family struggled, but the support helped him get through.

“These folks said, ‘Yes you can,’” Colón added. “You just have to stop, take a deep breath and make sure that you know that your altitude can be higher than anybody who’s ever come before you.”

Many Albuquerque children are facing challenging circumstances: APS has 105 schools that are part of Title I, a federal program that combats poverty. More than 70 percent of the district’s students qualify for free or reduced-price meals.

The latest New Mexico Kids Count Data Book, a project of New Mexico Voices for Children, reported that more than 141,000 children live in poverty across the state, a rate of about 29 percent, and the second worst in the nation.

At Barcelona Elementary, some families are struggling with homelessness and living in motels or shelters.

Jack T. Vigil, founder of Harmonix Technologies, a design engineering corporation, told the students that he was able to achieve his dreams despite “growing up in a tiny little town in northern New Mexico.”

“There is no substitution for hard work and dedication,” he said. “I believe in every single one of you.”

Vigil revved his Lamborghini to cheers from the crowd and told them they could also drive a sports car one day.

Josiah Tucker, father of two Barcelona Elementary students, said the assembly was inspiring.

“The kids deserve this — it is all about the kids,” he said.

Copyright 2017, Albuquerque Journal