Only a few things in life are one-size-fits-all: Plastic rain ponchos, school lunch servings, for example. And let’s be honest, even those don’t work so well.

For us, like so many young people in New Mexico, traditional public schools don’t always work. We’re not “regular” students, and through some painful trial and error, we found we didn’t fit into “regular” schools, either. Across the country, students are uniting to draw attention to the need for more and better school options, and we are among them.

My name is Kenia, and this is my second time at Mission Achievement and Success Charter Schools. When I was first there, I got pregnant and my whole world changed. Fortunately, there is another school of choice in Albuquerque called New Futures, which helped me continue with my education and access the support I needed as a young mother. I always wanted to return to MAS because I knew the focus on college would help me to pursue my dreams. Now, thanks to MAS and my college counselor, I have so many more opportunities available to me. This fall, I’ll enroll at Eastern New Mexico University, where I received a scholarship that will cover all my tuition to study nursing.

My name is Byron, and as a kid, I didn’t believe I’d grow up to be much of anything. My dad worked three jobs just so we could get by, and my future looked written for me: drugs and jail time, like some other family members. At MAS, I learned to set my goal at getting into college. The college counselors sometimes seemed pushy, but I completed the applications and made the deadlines, something I might not have done if I’d gone to a school with less college prep support. I applied to 12 different schools across the country, and so far I’ve been accepted to every one I’ve heard from. I’m excited to move to Arizona at the end of this school year to study computer information systems — on a $24,000 scholarship.

It’s possible we wouldn’t be as successful anywhere else, and we believe every student deserves a shot at finding where they belong, too. We hope you’ll join us in standing up for every New Mexico student’s chance to get the same kind of support, whatever that means for them and whatever kind of education that comes from. School choice is important and should be celebrated and encouraged.

The students at risk of falling through the cracks of a system that doesn’t fit them — the students we once were — depend on it.

Kenia Caballero and Byron Lueras Jr. are high school seniors at Mission Achievement and Success Charter Schools (MAS) in Albuquerque. Kenia and Byron were most recently guest speakers at Public Charter Schools of New Mexico’s school choice event in partnership with National School Choice Week. MAS has been an A-rated state charter school since 2015 and serves over 1,300 students across Albuquerque.

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