By MIKE COOK – Las Cruces Bulletin, September 13, 2019
New Mexico Lt. Gov. Howie Morales visited with students, staff and volunteers at Hillrise Elementary School Tuesday, Aug. 28, as he came to see first-hand the school’s award-winning after-school program. The Hillrise Elementary program, operated by Enrich the Kids, Inc. of Las Cruces, received a five-star rating (the highest possible) from FOCUS on Young Children’s Learning, the state’s tiered quality rating and improvement system for daycare and out-of -school-time programs.
Morales served 11 years in the New Mexico State Senate representing Grant and Catron counties before being elected lieutenant governor last November.
“I’m pretty much the vice president of New Mexico,” he told students and staff at his Hillrise visit.
Morales, who has a Ph.D. in education from New Mexico State University, said his success as a teacher and coach and in state and local politics “goes back to education.” Children “learn by exploring,” he said, “not by over-testing.”
“They care about you,” Morales told the children about their teachers. “I always advocate for teachers.”
In addition to Hillrise Elementary, East Picacho Elementary and J. Paul Taylor Academy have after-school programs operated by Enrich the Kids, Inc. The East Picacho Elementary program has also received a five star FOCUS rating, said Angie Montes of Enrich the Kids, and J. Paul Taylor Academy is expected to receive the rating later this month. She said they are the only five-star out of-school-time programs in the state at present.
Morales participated in a national panel discussion of after-school excellence sponsored by the Mott Foundation earlier this year in Chicago, his office said in a news release.
“After-school programs help children and families in schools by providing care, enrichment, homework help and guidance in social-emotional development during their out of school time,” said Angie Montes of Enrich the Kids. “The schools are hubs in the community where many great things happen, so it only makes sense to have after care right there in the school building. We support the students while they learn and grow after school by providing high-quality care by dedicated future educators.”
“I am in complete support of the Enrich the Kids program at Hillrise Elementary,” said Hillrise Elementary Principal Karen Hite. “Enrich the Kids provides a quality opportunity for students to have a safe place to go after school, and housing it at the school site makes it an easy transition for students. The program staff plan and provide time for students to get their energy out, play, complete homework, and even participate in enrichment classes such as baking and sign language. It is so much more than just after-school care. Our students love the program, parents appreciate the option to have kids stay at school, and I appreciate the excellent supervision they provide. Our partnership with Enrich the Kids truly benefits our students.”
Hillrise Elementary is located at 1400 S. Curnutt St. For more information about Enrich the Kids, Inc., call 575-300-5829 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit enrichthekids.org.