Our Staff

Picture of Lori MartinezLori Martinez

Executive Director

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. She serves as an Assistant Professor and Certified Field Instructor for the NMSU School of Social Work.

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, suicide prevention and intervention, 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.

Photo of Abeer Al-Ghawi Abeer Al-Ghawi

Assistant 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.

Photo of Candace Cichuniec

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.

Vanessa KnoxVanessa Mobley Knox

Family Engagement Coordinator

Vanessa joined Ngage in March of 2021. After working for years as a Tax Examiner for the U. S. Treasury Department, Vanessa decided to pursue her real passion — serving her community.
She graduated from NMSU with a Bachelor’s degree in Family and Child Science. With this degree and her years of experience in volunteerism and community service, Vanessa is eager to provide support for the students and families of Southern New Mexico.
Being a Texas native, Vanessa has enjoyed discovering the Land of Enchantment — the history, the beauty, the culture, and all that New Mexico has to offer.

Photo of Kimmi Cravens

Kimmi Cravens

Museum Development Coordinator

Kimmi Cravens joined the Ngage New Mexico team in July 2021. Before moving to Las Cruces, she spent more than a decade in her hometown of St. Louis working in nonprofit development, event management, and volunteer engagement.

Kimmi received her Bachelor of Arts in Sociology & Anthropology and Business from Lake Forest College in Lake Forest, Illinois.
Throughout her career, Kimmi has developed a passion for locally impactful organizations, especially for those that support access to quality education. She is excited to continue the work of developing a children’s museum in Doña Ana County and looks forward to the next phases of the project.

Photo of Esther HernandezEsther Hernandez

ECE Coordinator Southern Doña Ana County

Esther was born in Los Angeles, CA, during the time that Martin Luther King Jr. opened his campaign in Chicago.  She pursued her education at New Mexico State University and obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Family & Consumer Science with an emphasis in Child Science.  She came to Las Cruces, NM, at a young age and was fascinated by the green-luscious agriculture and the most beautiful mountains.  Her love and passion for families, as a whole, began when her life took a turning point at the young age of 13 years.  One that would change her forever, giving her a sense of purpose and belonging.  This allowed her to see and listen to people with dignity and respect; after all, each person has a unique life experience worthy to be heard.  She became active in her community by engaging in people’s needs through life skills and educational resources.  Having a good sense of humor, a favorite hobby and being surrounded by a fun-loving family has made life’s challenges easier to handle.  To be a part of Ngage NM and the ECE Coalition has opened more doors to serving the community.  After all, “It takes a village to raise a child” – African Proverb

Key Partners

Picture of Cesia OternoCesia Otero

Doña Ana County Early Childhood Education Coordinator

Cesia Otero is the Doña Ana County Education Coordinator for the prenatal to career readiness education initiative called the Success partnership. Her role focuses on addressing educational policies and outcomes for children and families. Through the dedication of the Doña Ana County Early Childhood Education (ECE) Coalition she facilitates the county-wide education plan. Mrs. Otero received her bachelor’s degree from New Mexico State University in family and consumer sciences with an emphasis on family and child science. Her passion for early childhood continues to drive her career. She has over 10 years of experience working with infants and toddlers in various programs. As a former Early Head Start Home Visitor she possesses extensive knowledge in working with low income children and families.

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 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.

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.

Our Board

Cheryl Carreon

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.

Alejandro Lugo

Vice President

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.

Rich Ferrary

Treasurer

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.

Gema Suggs

Secretary

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.

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.

Rosy Villalobos

Board Member

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