A group of middle school students at Sandoval Academy of Bilingual Education are working together to provide leadership for their fellow  students.

SABE is the first kindergarten through eighth grade dual-language charter school in the city of Rio Rancho. The academy offers distinctive curriculum that provides bilingual education to about 80 students. SABE uses a 50:50 Dual Language Immersion (DLI) program that maintains 50% of instruction in Spanish and 50% in English throughout each day. Typically, the elementary (through fifth grade) model focuses on English language arts, math, and science and social studies in English, while Spanish language arts and science and social studies are in Spanish.

“Our focus is bi-literacy; that’s our main mission work,” SABE principal and director Jackie Rodriguez said. “Our focus is on three populations of students, which include all kids: native Spanish speakers, enrichment for native English speakers and then a heritage piece for the community at large who are of Latin descent or Spanish-speaking descent to recapture their language. So that’s quite cool for all kids because they’re here for the purpose of learning language.”

Of the 225 students at SABE, 40 are middle school students. Rodriguez, who has spent more than two decades working in the education field, formed the ambassadors with a vision of giving the school a leadership group similar to a student council.

“Part of my vision for our school ambassadors, as a school and middle school that’s really small, was kind of the idea of student council but not student council,” Rodriguez said. “I don’t want it to be about grades or you have to reach a certain GPA, didn’t want to go around for the votes in that because that small group doesn’t lend well to that same process. So we started with ambassadors. They’re student leaders. It’s about what are we going to do to support the school; we established goals. I’ve since then turned it over to a middle school teacher, so they’re still trying to meet my vision.”

The 18 ambassadors at SABE are planning a trip to Santa Fe on March 3 to take part in Bilingual Day and are planning an open house to introduce parents and students to the school as it prepares to move into a new building.“So they’re part of our recruitment efforts as well, and that’s the idea behind them,” Rodriguez said. “I’ve been involved with talking to the parents and doing all of that, but also with the recruitment and builds our budget to support the new building and excitement behind the new building.”

The ambassadors met with the Observer Thursday at SABE to talk about the program and some of the work they’re doing.

What do you like about being an ambassador?

“It’s really exciting,” one ambassador said. “I think it’s a really good opportunity to learn how to be responsible. It’s also fun to be with other people and, for example, this experience where they’re not in our classroom, so we also get to talk to them and see their perspective of things.”

What are some of the projects you’ve been working on?

“We’ve had our touring and for this month, we’re doing the candygram sales,” another ambassador said. “We also have decision making, so we’ve made changes for our schools as well. We have also dinners or whatnot. Those jobs as well. Fundraising open house, yearbooks.”

What do you like about being an ambassador?

“You learn a lot of stuff like leadership skills and how to communicate with people,” a third ambassador said. “I’m not really that good at communicating because I don’t know how to explain stuff. But as an ambassador, I’ve learned more how to explain.”A fourth ambassador said: “I think one of the things is the tours. It’s exciting to to brag about our school because I feel like the people in our group really do love the school, and I like the fact that we get to have the opportunity to talk to them about our school and see if they like it. And I think it’s also cool because a couple of them here have tried the have actually been in the tours and are here because of the tour. So it seems like it’s bringing up a really big opportunity and just a realization of that they can they see what we’re doing and they came because of that.”