The Heart of a Community: Lake Arthur Municipal Schools

The Heart of a Community: Lake Arthur Municipal Schools 

Some New Mexicans pose in front of the CASEL sign

Lake Arthur students pose with their rockets on the sports field. 

innovation in rural new mexico

Being a small district has its advantages: highly personalized attention and lots of close relationships to make you known by adults and peers. Unfortunately, it also comes with a unique set of challenges--especially for the most rural and remote parts of the state where things like internships have usually been much harder to come by. We're highlighting these small towns and rural districts in New Mexico because we're so impressed with how they've been able to create new opportunities for growth for their students. 

If you've read our coverage of Santa Rosa Consolidated Schools, you'll recognize some of the ingenuity of that's also happening in Lake Arthur. 

Transformative Paths to Student Development

Students are launching rockets into the air at Lake Arthur Municipal Schools. Yes, rockets. 

Courtesy of their partnership with Systemsgo New Mexico, Lake Arthur students are building their own rockets and learning about careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics in the process. 

This is just one of many programs at Lake Arthur where students are learning technical skills through hands-on projects. From building rockets to growing gardens to feed themselves and other students, Lake Arthur students are exposed to a huge range of possibilities in order to make education relevant to each and every student. 

“We want our students to be exposed to different opportunities, things they have never experienced,” says Superintendent Elisa Begueria. 

Lake Arthur is a small town in Southern New Mexico, located 30 minutes outside of Roswell, NM. With a population of only 400, Lake Arthur Municipal Schools (LAMS), the town’s only school, serves K-12 graders and acts as a resource to the community in more ways than one. 

One of their popular programs teaches students how to weld and allows students to receive a professional welding certification once they graduate. They can then decide whether they want to join the workforce or pursue higher education in welding. According to Superintendent Begueria, “There are a lot of oil fields and farming where they need welders.” Several Lake Arthur students have graduated with the certification and are already working in the industry.


Lake Arthur FFA students at the National Convention. 

the heart of a community

The Lake Arthur school is more than just a space to educate students. Because of its size and location, Lake Arthur does not have access to many resources. There is only one store in the whole town. The school steps up to the plate to provide not just for the students, but the entire community. 

“We have a small store at the school, everything is free,” says Begueria. 

The store has school supplies, clothes, hygiene products and other basic needs. The school also opens up their gymnasium to the community, and the school social workers work with the families of the students. This support is what makes the school the heart of the community.

Begueria says, “We take care of our people, that's what we do.” 

The first thing Begueria did when she joined Lake Arthur Municipal Schools was buy a bus that says “Lake Arthur Panthers” decorated in red and white. “When the students go places, they need to feel proud,” says Begueria. 

It’s little things like these that allow for the self esteem of the students to go up. The school has been making other changes like serving healthier food at the cafeteria, undergoing renovations, and making sure that the school is spotless. The goal of all of these changes is making it feel like a place where students are proud to attend. 


The newly planted garden and outdoor learning center at Lake Arthur Municipal Schools in January 2024.

Community partnerships

Creating opportunities through partnerships helps to tailor education to each individual student’s benefit—something that LAMS excels at. 

For example, last year, the school ended up sending a student to another school, one that was better suited to his talents and goals. When he first started attending Lake Arthur, he would show up every day, but receded into his hoodie. The student seemed bored and withdrawn, and often never said a word in class. Then, a woman from the Santa Fe School for the Arts who facilitated a creative writing workshop at Lake Arthur came to Superintendent Begueria’s office in tears because she was so moved by what the student had written.

“We decided to take him to Santa Fe and tour the school,” says Begueria. “We went to dinner and after that he just wouldn’t stop talking. He said it was the first time that he saw himself somewhere.” 

Begueria and the school then took it upon themselves to commit to making sure the student could attend the Santa Fe School for the Arts. They helped him register the following school year and assisted in his driving lessons so that he could drive to Santa Fe in order to attend. This is the kind of commitment that they show each and every student, even when it might mean fewer tax dollars in their own district. 

Overcoming challenges

Similar to other small communities, the COVID-19 pandemic was daunting for Lake Arthur. To make sure that the town had the support that they needed, the school took care of the students and community. They gave each student a laptop in order to accomplish schoolwork and attend classes virtually. 

“During Covid, we were extremely worried about our families,” says Begueria. “Our goal was to see their faces every single day, to make sure that they were okay.” 

The school itself is small, some classes only being 10-12 students. When they were given the okay to meet via social distancing, the school split up into a morning and afternoon group to make sure that each student had the opportunity to leave their house each day and socialize.

Superintendent Begueria is not originally from Lake Arthur and found that it took some time for the community to trust her. 

“The first thing that our students ask is ‘how long are you going to stay?’” she says. The students at Lake Arthur are used to having new people come into their town and leave quickly due to the challenging nature of working at the only school in town. It is a constant reality for students to be losing adult role models in their life. Superintendent Begueria has been there for six years and doesn’t plan on going anywhere. She told the students, “I'm going to retire here.”


Community members playing Bingo at the Lake Arthur Fall Carnival. 

the Graduate profile

Lake Arthur Municipal Schools created a graduate profile to show what their students want to learn. A graduate profile  is a snapshot of the student’s learning journey and includes their education, career aspirations, courses they have taken, and their work experience. They also get to highlight their accomplishments and skills.  

LAMS divides this into six sections of skills that they want their graduates to acquire. Critical thinker, lifelong learner, connected citizen, effective communicator, health & safety, and leader. A senior high school student demonstrating these six skills will be able to be ready for their next steps into adulthood.  


The Lake Arthur graduate profile. 

Many students at Lake Arthur have already entered the workforce in welding, working at a mechanics shop, or in agriculture. “We are providing work-based learning opportunities for our students,” says Begueria. These graduate profiles allow the students to capture what they have learned in school and on the job–things that might not be captured in traditional grades or standardized tests 

Superintendent Begueria says, “We're not looking at the students as a point of data. We’re looking at students as a whole.” 

LAMS is putting in the work to uplift students and make them the priority. To other schools looking to make changes, she says: “It's a shift. It is worth it, the best advice is just do it. Make sure the curriculum is benefiting the students. Don't do it just to put it on paper. It has to become your goal for your kids.” 

The students at LAMS are invoking joy into the Lake Arthur community. Shooting rockets, growing gardens, and extracurricular classes all help keep the spark alive in this small town. Superintendent Begueria’s efforts and dedication to make sure each student feels heard is important for these young people’s  futures. The students, teachers, staff, and Lake Arthur community all come together at LAMS to uplift each other and their entire community. They have each other's backs. 

Not every school district has the ability to make sure each student’s education is being tailored for their success, and LAMS is proving that it will make New Mexico better because of it. 

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