LOS LUNAS — It may have seemed like any regular Thursday afternoon for Katherine Atencio, a sixth grade teacher at Sundance Elementary, but little did she know $1,000 dollars was headed her way thanks to the efforts of three Los Lunas High School sophomores.
“I had (Ms. Atencio) as a teacher,” said Addie Stacey, one of the three sophomores. “We heard she had a rough couple of months, so we decided to nominate her through Ving because she was a real good teacher to me and my sister.”
According to Ving’s website, the Ving Project is a national movement that gives teens an opportunity to give an individual in need an encouraging boost by surprising them with $1,000.
“By providing them with small grants to give to people in need, we hope to provide an opportunity for them to experience the joys of giving – that feeling you get when you take the time to care about someone else who may be vulnerable,” Ving’s website read.
John Walker, who teaches criminal law classes at LLHS, said this is his second year having students submit nominations to the Ving Project as a class assignment.
“This year, 20 groups submitted something to Ving and out of those 15 were selected,” said Walker.
Through Walker’s classes, students formed small groups and worked together to decide who they would nominate. Once decided, they made and submitted a short video to Ving explaining why they are nominating this person and how the money would benefit them.
Walker said the idea came to him from a middle school teacher who suggested it could be something of interest for his classes.
“I thought, how did I tie Ving into criminal law? Then I thought of community policing, the idea of building a relationship between law enforcement and the community and I thought perfect, there’s my in right there,” said Walker. “We’re going to give back to the community and teach the kids how it’s good to build that positive relationship.”
The three students surprised Atencio in her classroom Dec. 7 with the $1,000 dollar check. Atencio said she was shocked to receive the check and she’s not quite sure what to do with the money yet.
“I really am speechless, so thankful,” said Atencio, welling up with tears. “When your students leave you, you don’t know if you’ve had an impact on them. You like to think you do, but knowing you actually have is reward enough.”
Walker said he has accompanied a few students so far to present the money to their recipient and it’s always a fun time.
“I love to watch the kids be excited and show them how good it feels to give back to their community,” said Walker.
Felina Martinez was born and raised in Valencia County. She graduated from the University of New Mexico in 2021. During her time at UNM, she studied interdisciplinary film, digital media and journalism. She covers the village of Los Lunas, Los Lunas Schools, the School of Dreams Academy and the town of Peralta.