Our Staff

Abeer Al-Ghawi

Interim Executive Director

Abeer Al-Ghawi joined the Ngage New Mexico team in August 2018. Before coming to Ngage she was a stay-at-home mom for three years. Her experience in early childhood education began at the age of 18 as a Teacher’s Assistant in a Pre-K setting. Meanwhile she was pursuing her degree in International Business. In 2006, she started working for the British Council, the United Kingdom’s largest international nonprofit organization, as a librarian, and leaving as a Senior Examination Services Officer. She had a challenging and fruitful career focused on community engagement around bilateral relations, education, and literacy initiatives with partners spread across 120 countries.
Abeer left the British Council to focus on honing her skills in nonprofit and public sector management through New Mexico State University’s Public Administration program while interning for the Las Cruces Green Chamber of Commerce. Upon graduation she spent the next two years working as a clerk for the state of New Mexico’s Corrections Department.
Abeer decided to return to the arena of nonprofit work after struggling to find quality, affordable early childhood programming for her son. She was determined to help change that, and was drawn to Ngage NM because of their use of collective impact to improve the lives of children in Doña Ana County with affordable and accessible early childhood education.

Contact Abeer: Abeer@ngagenm.org

Picture of Lori MartinezLori Martinez

Special Projects

Lori Martinez joined the Ngage New Mexico team in March 2017, initially as the Assistant Director, then becoming the Executive Director in November 2017. Before coming to Ngage she worked at NMSU for 9 years overseeing the Social Work Services program and Aggie Cupboard food pantry under Counseling and Campus Health. She previously worked in Early Intervention providing Family Therapy and Social Work services.

Lori received her Master’s and Bachelor’s degrees in Social Work from NMSU. Having worked for years in Dona Ana County providing direct services, Lori became familiar with many of the challenges our county faces. She has experience working in early childhood, individuals with developmental disabilities, mental health counseling, case management, program development, hunger/food insecurity, and inpatient psychiatric services. She was drawn to Ngage because of the collective impact approach utilized by the Success partnership and is thrilled to be serving Dona Ana County with Ngage NM.

Candace Cichuniec

Program and Operations Coordinator

Candace Cichuniec joined the Ngage team in 2019. As the Program and Operations Coordinator she manages the day to day operations of Ngage New Mexico and the Success Partnership while overseeing some ongoing projects like the Symbify Referral Database, our Annual Celebrity Karaoke fundraiser, and assists with grant writing.

Candace received a Bachelor’s degree in Human Development and is currently obtaining her Master’s degree in Communication Studies at Eastern New Mexico University.

She has a passion for education and believes that all students deserve equitable access to opportunities to help them thrive in life. Candace joined the Ngage team because she believes in their mission and values.

Andrea “Andy” Triviz

Family Engagement Coordinator

Andrea Triviz, also known as Andy, joined the Ngage New Mexico team in January 2023. After being assigned to help tutor a student while in kindergarten, Andy knew that the world of education was her calling. She joined every after school program possible and gained a variety of skills through those experiences, including event coordination! Those skills helped her start off with the NMSU STEM Outreach Center as a student assistant for SEMAA, then later on as the Educational Resource Coordinator, and finally here at Ngage NM as the Family Engagement Coordinator.

Andy has a Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood and another in Spanish. Certifying that she is not only bilingual, but that she is also capable of translating and interpreting between English and Spanish, and also allowing her to connect better with her community.

With a passion for education, Andy realized the importance of equitable and accessible education. Bringing in her artistic spirit and reflecting on all her past experiences, Andy hopes to bring new and creative ideas for the community.

Headshot of Marisa DeWolf

Marisa DeWolf

Kinder-Career Coalition Coordinator

Marisa brings a background in nonprofit and education to Ngage NM and the Success Partnership, along with a lifelong dedication to meaningful work. Passionate about collective impact efforts, Marisa most recently led a local grassroots non-profit as the Executive Director, building collaborations and connections to better serve our community. 

Marisa first came to live and work in Anthony, NM in 2002 as an AmeriCorps member. After her year of service, she moved to Las Cruces and began extending deep roots here, earning her Masters in Sociology from New Mexico State University and subsequently working and learning in the nonprofit sector. Marisa is proud to be the Co-Lead of the Doña Ana Resilience Leaders Parent Support Sector and an active member of her neighborhood.

The birth of her daughter and Marisa’s years spent as an educator (middle school, ELA) impressed upon her the importance of wellness in community, which has been her personal and professional focus since. 

Marisa loves living in downtown Las Cruces in a 1940’s adobe home with her partner and husband, their daughter and two rescue dogs. When they’re not busy with home repairs, the DeWolfs are avid campers and cherish our shared BLM land.

Contact Marisa: Marisa@ngagenm.org

Key Partners

Picture of Alex Montelongo

Alex Montelongo

Doña Ana County Early Childhood Education Coordinator

Alex brings a dynamic blend of business acumen, personal passion, and direct experience to her role as the Coordinator for the Early Childhood Education Coalition, part of the Success Partnership. With a master’s in business administration and an entrepreneurial spirit, her journey in early childhood education began not in the classroom, but within the heart of her own family. As an actively involved parent of two, her seven-year-old son and two-year-old daughter have been her inspiration and her introduction to the world of early learning.

Before stepping into her current role, Alex served as a business manager for a local autism therapy services clinic, where she first engaged professionally with early childhood education. Over the past five years, she has combined her business and bilingual skills with her passion for inclusive and accessible education, driving forward initiatives that support children with diverse needs.

Alex also is an advocate for a balanced lifestyle, finding joy in staying active through weightlifting and yoga. Together with her husky, Wilbur, her family life is as vibrant and full of energy as my professional endeavors.

In her role with the Success Partnership, she will leverage her diverse background to advocate for quality early childhood education and care. Alex believes in the power of collective impact to create meaningful change and is dedicated to ensuring that every child in Doña Ana County has the opportunity to thrive from the start.

Alex is proud to contribute to a community where education, health, and well-being are accessible to all families, and she looks forward to continuing to make a positive impact in the lives of children and families across the region.

Cindy Durán

Southern DAC ECE Coalition Coordinator

Cindy joined the team in December 2023 bringing with her 10+ years of collaborating and volunteering for nonprofit organizations. She has been a community liaison and health advocate, specializing in domestic violence advocacy/awareness, as well as an ECE Teacher Assistant and is also a certified Home Health Aide (HHA) and PCA. Cindy is a community leader and a parent who is excited to continue connecting with and uplifting families and ECE workers in our community.

Photo of Sommer Mitchell

Sommer Mitchell

Success Partnership Communication Coordinator

Sommer Mitchell is the Communications Coordinator for the Success Partnership and has worked in multiple capacities for the collaborative since 2016. She started with an Associate of Creative Media & Technology from DACC in 2011. While receiving her bachelor’s in Communications, Marketing, and Studio Art from NMSU in 2017, Sommer served as a Graphic Design intern for Ngage New Mexico.

Over the years, Sommer has cultivated and realized a deep passion for the mission and ideals of the Success Partnership, such as “Education is a Shared Responsibility.” Striving always to include the Continuous Communications tenet of Collective Impact and pulling from her experience managing operations for Ngage’s start-up social enterprise, We Are IT, she consistently endeavors to create advancement and sustainability in the partnership’s structure and development.

Sommer has been instrumental in working toward streamlined communications processes within the Partnership’s leadership team and internally with close Backbone Partners. She has also nurtured and developed extended cross-sector partner relations throughout Doña Ana County and all three School Districts.

If you would like to know more about the Success Partnership or want to be involved in transforming educational outcomes for all children in Doña Ana County, you can contact Sommer. Sommer@NgageNM.org

Photo of Michelle SimonMichelle Simon

Success Partnership Marketing Specialist

Michelle Simon is the Marketing Coordinator for the Success Partnership and joined the team in November 2021. She has a BFA in Photography and a long history of entrepreneurial endeavors in the arts. She hails from Chicago where she ran a creative repurposing business as well as a photography business specializing in LGBTQ+ weddings and events. She’s worn many hats over the years and in 2020, Michelle decided to do a “hard reset” on life and headed to the Southwest where she lived and worked at off-grid homesteads. She loved connecting with the earth and working together in these intentional communities but eventually grew eager to root down and use her unique skill set for something greater. She fell in love with the people and pulse of Las Cruces and is passionate about getting the word out and connecting our community with the valuable resources Success Partnership offers.

Photo of Erica SurovaErica Surova

Director of CCA at NMSU

Erica Surova is the Director and Data Analyst for the Center of Community Analysis at New Mexico State University. Through surveys, assessments, and data analysis she works to centralize, analyze, and disseminate data to the community to improve evidence-based decision making and increase collective impact. Surova created the Education Context Report for Doña Ana County, conducted a gap analysis on early childhood education for the Success Partnership, and helped develop and analyze several surveys for partners at the Las Cruces Public Schools. She has worked in education for over 17 years and has two Master’s degrees in Sociology and Geography from New Mexico State University.

Our Board

Photograph of Mike Milam Mike Milam


Michael M. Milam is a third- generation retired career Army officer, graduate of New Mexico State University with a BS in Spanish, and Central Michigan University with a MA in Public Administration with extensive experience in community and economic development, political consultant, strategic planning, youth and community engagement board membership at the local and state levels in New Mexico. He has lived in Guatemala, Germany (4 times), Italy (2 times), Vietnam (2 times), Texas, Kansas, Arizona, Virginia and served in the Pentagon on three tours. His military education included Army Command and General Staff College, Industrial College of the Armed Forces, and the Italian Army War College. He retired after 28 years in the rank of Colonel and received military awards including two Bronze Star Medals and three Legions of Merit. After retirement, Milam studied for a doctorate in Higher Education Administration at NMSU, before becoming a career consultant in New Mexico. In 1992 he began as a political consultant registered in New Mexico participating in five mayoral campaigns and three congressional campaigns. He was also the Policy Analyst for the Mayor Ruben Smith of Las Cruces for 8 years, and a Constituent Services Representative for Senator Jeff Bingaman. By 2002 Milam concentrated on assisting communities in strategic and economic planning, and a successful path in Youth Leadership Development, Community Development, Non-profit Management, and mentoring. Previous organizational ties included the Doña Ana County Workforce Action Council, Court Youth Foundation, Maternal Child Health Council, member of New Mexico First, and New Mexico Advocates for Children and Families. He worked with the Las Cruces Mayor’s Youth Advisory Board for eight years, Anthony Teen Advisory Council for five years, and New Mexico Civic Engagement Partnership for eight years. In 2017 he was recognized by NMSU as a Distinguished Alumnus. Milam has maintained an eight-year relationship with NGAGE New Mexico and is the current Board President, and continues in his 14th year as the Chairman of the Alumni Association of Tau Kappa Epsilon Fraternity at New Mexico State University.

Photograph of Cheryl Carreon Cheryl Carreon

Vice President

Cheryl Carreon recently retired as an educator from Las Cruces Public Schools after 31 years of service. She most recently taught Developmentally Delayed Preschool at East Picacho Elementary.

Cheryl serves as Education Coordinator for Community Share Las Cruces. She supports teachers in engaging students with Project Based Learning by connecting them to community partners. Cheryl also volunteers with many non-profits in Las Cruces and New Mexico including The Children’s Reading Alliance, Community Schools and National Education Association. She is passionate about supporting students, educators and public schools.

She received the 2017 Award for Las Cruces Public School’s Teacher of the Year, the NEA-NM 2018 Award of Teaching Excellence, Delta Kappa Gamma Omega Educator of the year 2020, and Union Person of the Year: Dona Ana County Democratic Party.

Photograph of Richard Ferrary Rich Ferrary


Richard Ferrary grew up in New England and graduated from the University of Texas with a BA in Economics, and then obtained a Law degree. He decided that public service was his path after a brief engagement with private practice. He worked as a Special Assistant Attorney General for New Mexico Department of Transportation for 25 years.  For the Department of Transportation, he was either the lead or only attorney handling employment law matters for over 20 years. These matters included disciplinary actions, labor relations, and civil rights claims. Most important was the development of policies and procedures for the Department in these areas. He either drafted or gave final legal approval to virtually every existing personnel policy and procedure. He was responsible for both program development and implementation of a department-wide sexual harassment training program for supervisors and employees in the 1980s after a lawsuit. No civil rights lawsuits were filed against the DOT in his last years of employment. After retirement, he moved to Las Cruces, NM with his wife, Joanne Ferrary.

In 1997, he began doing a substantial amount of volunteer work for two organizations: Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the New Mexico Make-A-Wish Foundation. For Mothers Against Drunk Driving, he was trained as a victim advocate and maintains a passion for prevention of underage drinking. For Make-a-Wish, he was trained as a “wish granter” along with his wife. In Albuquerque and in southwestern New Mexico, they are given the task of interviewing families with children between the ages of 2-18 with life threatening illnesses to determine what would be a special wish for the child. The most relevant and distressing aspect of this work was seeing how a child’s illness could quickly financially destroy a family and how inadequate our healthcare system can be.

Photograph of Cindy SolisCindy Solis


Cindy Solis is a visionary leader and educator with over 34 years of experience in
school administration, instructional leadership, and strategic planning. She spent the
majority of her career serving the citizens of Las Cruces in various roles at Las Cruces
Public Schools before retiring from public service in June 2016. Throughout her career,
she held positions as a teacher, assistant principal, principal, professional development
specialist, and interim director. Cindy has extensive experience in professional
development and supervising diverse learning groups. She holds a Bachelor of Science
in Elementary Education and a Master of Education in Education Leadership from New
Mexico State University.
Currently, Cindy serves as the Lead Quality Management Consultant for the Nita M.
Lowey 21st Century Community Learning Center programs in New Mexico. She is also
an active member of the New Mexico Coalition for Community Schools. Education has
always been the rhythm of her life

Dulcinea Lara

Board Member

Dulcinea Lara is Director of the Borderlands & Ethnic Studies program and an Associate Professor in the Criminal Justice department at NMSU. She identifies as Chicana Indigena, honoring her Apache and Rarámuri ancestry that is deeply-rooted in the region now called southern New Mexico. Dulcinea earned a Ph.D. in Comparative Ethnic Studies from University of California-Berkeley (2006).

Her teaching and research center a critical viewing and questioning of systems and knowledges that are designed and operationalized to advance some people/groups while creating obstructions for other people/groups. Dulcinea’s work explores various kinds of residual evidence of colonization incolonias, poor and rural communities, and other “sacrificial zones.” Her generative work aims to restore these zones into sacred places through collective dreaming, healing, and making.

She is a co-designer of the museum exhibit, Pasos Ajenos: SocialJustice and Inequalities in the Borderlands, a fully-interactive, bi-lingual, intergenerational exhibit that makes visible the often unspoken ways that divisions are created and deepened in the Borderlands.

Photograph of RosyRosy Villalobos

Board Member

Alejandro Lugo

Board Member

I am very excited to be a member of the Board of Directors of Ngage New Mexico. My goal is to enrich the mission and ideals of Ngage NM through my 30 years of expertise and experience in higher education, both as a college professor and administrator as well as a cultural anthropologist with expertise in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands. I was professionally trained and educated in three universities (including Stanford Ph.D. ’95 and NMSU B.A. ’85) and I have taught at four universities across the nation, including the University of Illinois and Arizona State University. Currently, I am Affiliate Faculty of Anthropology at New Mexico State University, where I was awarded the 2019 Star of Arts and Sciences by the College of Arts and Sciences.

In addition to being a graduate of NMSU, I also graduated from Mayfield High School (Class of 81). As a member of the Ngage Board of Directors, this is the first time that I am able to serve my home State of New Mexico, particularly my beloved Doña Ana County. In the summer of 2018, I decided to move back to Las Cruces in order to contribute as much as I can to the success of all the local youth who belong to the local communities that helped me become the person, professional, educator, author, and senior scholar that I am today.

Photograph of Gema Suggs Gema Suggs

Board Member

Gema Suggs has been in public education for over 18 years. Twelve of those years were in a High School Math classroom. In the role of a teacher not only did she facilitate learning opportunities inside the classroom but also outside. In those twelve years she served as a Senior Class Sponsor, Student Council Sponsor, Freshmen Academy Lead Teacher and Math Department Leader. In the last 6 years she has served as a School Building Administrator. In this role she has been able to support and in some cases oversee new initiatives that would result in better serving our students in the Gadsden and Las Cruces District.

In Gadsden District she was part of the committee that worked in establishing its first Early College High School. Had the privilege to be its first building administrator. While at Lynn Middle School we worked on creating LCPS’ first Community School. Her focus was working for the student committee to ensure that the student voice was heard as decisions were being made.

Currently at Santa Teresa High School she oversees the Blended Senior Year program. The goal of this programs is turn a student’s Senior Year of high school into the freshman year of college.

Amber Romero

Board Member