The Good News File: People need smiles

(Albuquerque, N.M.) – KKOB

Jesus Padilla is a high school senior in Albuquerque. He’s the kind of student whose smile brightens the whole room. But it’s more than just his charm that got him recognized as Rio Grande High School’s 2022 Selfless Senior. Jesus has a deeply compassionate heart and a drive to make the community he’s living in a better place. Over the course of his four-year high school career, this impressive 18-year-old has chosen to focus on a basic need in his community: access to healthy food. “Being outside is my favorite thing. I love working with my hands, I love helping people, and I love gardening – so doing stuff with agriculture makes sense to me,” Jesus said. Outside of regular school work and JROTC, where he holds the rank of Cadet Sgt., Jesus somehow managed to find the time to help build a community garden on campus, teach demonstrations on growing edible crops, volunteer with farmers in the South Valley, help neighbors with garden and pet care, work with the Roadrunner Food Bank and local farmer’s markets, and mentor younger students in the school’s agricultural program. “When you grow vegetables and fruit, you learn new things, when you learn new things you can expand your mind and go places you’ve never gone before,” Jesus said. We met outside the hoop house on campus where he volunteers. There he has helped grow tomatoes, jalapenos, watermelon, herbs, and other edible crops for teachers and students to take home and enjoy. He’s the kind of person who exemplifies the One Albuquerque Spirit, and that’s why his teachers nominated him for the honor of Selfless Senior. 

In its 14th year, the Selfless Seniors program aims to shine a spotlight on students who work behind the scenes to make the Albuquerque community a better place to live. Sponsored by Frank Frost Photography, the program highlights kids dedicated to helping others without expecting praise or recognition. One student from each APS high school and one magnet school are selected from hundreds of nominees each year. Then, each Selfless Senior receives a free portrait photo shoot which is displayed on the APS website, electronic billboards, the Albuquerque International Sunport, and other local businesses. They’re then honored at a special awards gala hosted by the district in April. It’s a way to celebrate students for all that they do while encouraging freshman, sophomores, and juniors to find their passion and give back to their community.  

Jesus says, thanks to his mentors both at school and at home, he feels lucky to have discovered his passion at such a young age. After graduation in May, Jesus plans to attend CNM where he’ll further his knowledge of local agriculture. “By planting a seed in the ground, loving it, nurturing it, you get to help that seed become life, and sustain life. I love it,” he said. “I’ve learned so much from growing things: responsibility, and how to care for something. I think in the long run, having this passion is going to make me a good parent, and a better person.” Jesus tells us he hopes to one day work professionally cultivating healthy and sustainable crops to help feed the people of Albuquerque.