New America School leader recognized nationally for charter school work

LAS CRUCES — A local school leader has won national recognition for her work supporting charter schools in the community.

New America School-Las Cruces Superintendent and Principal Margarita Leza Porter received the 2022 Changemaker Award from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools – an annual award given to 10 individuals nationwide for their work with schools chartered.

“The accolades I’ve received are just wonderful,” said Leza Porter. “It just affirms that I do what I love and love what I do.”

Leza Porter said she was happy to represent Las Cruces and New Mexico with this award. She hopes more parents will recognize the value of charter schools for some learners.

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His recognition was broadcast during a virtual ceremony on Thursday.

Leza Porter said she was honored when she was first appointed by Matthew Pahl, executive director of New Mexico Public Charter Schools. She said she learned of her nomination at the beginning of March and learned that she was in the top 10 at the end of March.

“I was in tears. I was speechless,” Leza Porter said. “Even now when I think about it, I’m just, I’m just surprised. I’m so, so honored and incredibly grateful for this recognition. I come to work and do my best every day because that’s what I do it for my students and my learning community, I don’t do it for recognition.”

A community advocate

Leza Porter was named a Changemaker for “her ongoing efforts to serve her community and improve the quality of academic achievement for disadvantaged students.”

Leza Porter said her work in opening the daycare at New America School, community service projects on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and supporting the homeless community were aspects that stood out to her. earned the nomination.

She added that a recent initiative to secure STEM funding for charter schools in Las Cruces was a factor.

The New America School noticed that an old source of revenue hadn’t arrived in some time: the County Regional Spaceport Gross Receipts Tax, which is intended to fund STEM activity for public schools in the county. county of Dona Ana.

With the change of superintendents, there was a misunderstanding. Las Cruces Public Schools received all the money, although some of the funding was earmarked for charter schools.

“I got our team on board and we had several meetings with Las Cruces Public Schools, and now our schools have access to those funds again so we can help our STEM programs,” said Leza Porter. “I think that’s one of the main reasons they tagged me, because I’m making changes for Las Cruces.”

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Leza Porter said she could have easily solved the problem for New America School on her own, but she reached out to the other six local charter schools to help everyone benefit from spaceport funds. She is happy that the communication problem has been resolved and expects the funding, which is allocated once a year, to arrive soon.

She said LCPS did a great job of communicating and correcting the error.

Share the news

Leza Porter gradually shared the good news of the Changemaker Award, first announcing it to her family. She said her daughters, 19 and 22, did not understand the “seriousness” of the appointment. She explained that of all the principals, teachers, and staff at New Mexico’s 96 charter schools, she was chosen to represent the state.

The New America School charter high school is seen in downtown Las Cruces on Monday, September 27, 2021.

She also shared the news with New America School staff who were excited about Leza Porter. She added that the award was not hers alone, she owes much of her success to the staff who have supported her along the way.

“This recognition belongs to all of us; to the school, to the parents, to the community, to my board, to the city and to the state,” said Leza Porter. “I don’t do this job alone. I do it with everyone, together.”

Leza Porter read one of the comments she received in response to an alumni award. The message was sent to her daughter: “Your mum is an amazing woman. She has helped so many people. She deserves all of this and more.”

She said she was touched by the response from the community.

More to do

Leza Porter is not done after receiving Changemaker recognition. She plans to continue supporting students and making sure everyone feels included. The New America School just received a five-year charter renewal to allow it to continue serving students.

The New America School currently has 159 students and offers a more personalized education for students who may not fit into a traditional school setting.

As a first-generation American, Leza Porter said she sees herself a lot in her students, many of whom come from disadvantaged backgrounds – economically, linguistically or otherwise.

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Of the 159 students, 58 are between the ages of 19 and 22.

“My platform would be to keep fighting for adults to graduate from high school, that will always and forever be my fight,” said Leza Porter. “Most of our students are disadvantaged, so this continues to give them every possible chance to achieve the American Dream. Every student has their own idea of ​​what an American Dream is and how can I help them achieve it. For me working here, working in the community where I was born and raised is my American dream.”

Report for America staff member Miranda Cyr can be reached at [email protected] or @mirandabcyr on Twitter. Show your support for the Report for America program at

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