New Mexico Connections Academy Students, Hailing From All Four Corners of the State, Attend In-Person Graduation

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Online School Celebrates Senior Accomplishments, Including Military Academy Acceptances, During Traditional Commencement Ceremony

student graduation speaker

Salutatorian Kylie Smith addresses her online school classmates

Online school affords our students the flexibility and personalized educational approach they need, and it is so exciting to play a role in the achievements of our accomplished students

New Mexico Connections Academy (NMCA), an online school that serves students statewide in 4th through 12th grades, celebrated its senior class this week in a traditional graduation ceremony at Kiva Auditorium in Albuquerque. The Class of 2017 includes over 120 students from all over the state who made the choice to enroll in online school to better meet their academic and social needs.

The graduating class includes a number of high achieving students, including:

  • Valedictorian Jason Brenholdt of Albuquerque, who intends to become a figher pilot after graduating from the United States Air Force Academy in 2021.
  • Kylie Smith of Santa Rosa, the senior class salutatorian, who is graduating two years early. She plans to attend community college in the fall.
  • Track star Shalom Keller of Ruidoso, who recently took first place in four events at the 4A State Track & Field Championship, and will attend the University of New Mexico on a full-ride athletic scholarship.
  • Matthew Orlando of Rio Rancho, who played AAA ice hockey while attending NMCA and plans to play junior and then collegiate hockey while pursuing a degree in sports management.
  • Grace Simmons of Albuquerque, who plans to pursue a career in prosthetics and orthopedics.
  • Hannah Chadwell of Rio Rancho, who will attend Central New Mexico Community College and pursue a degree in veterinary medicine.

“There is nothing more satisfying that watching our students succeed in the ways they had hoped, and for some, in ways they never thought they could,” Jodie Dean, New Mexico Connections Academy principal, said. “Online school affords our students the flexibility and personalized educational approach they need, and it is so exciting to play a role in the achievements of our accomplished students.”

The Class of 2017 was accepted to numerous colleges and universities, including New Mexico State University, University of Arizona, University of New Mexico, and Western State Colorado University, among others.

Students attend New Mexico Connections Academy for a variety of reasons. Some students seek flexibility in their school day in order to pursue other passions such as competitive athletics or performing arts. Others seek a more personalized learning environment, desire more family time, or are searching for an education model that will allow them to either catch up or get ahead of their grade level.

About New Mexico Connections Academy
New Mexico Connections Academy (NMCA) is a tuition-free, high-quality, highly accountable statewide online charter school that serves students in grades 4–12. The virtual school combines high-quality resources from leading publishers with cutting-edge yet easy-to-use technology and hands-on materials. New Mexico Connections Academy provides students with the flexibility to learn from anywhere there is an Internet connection and with an innovative online school curriculum that meets rigorous state education standards. The combination of state-certified teachers, a proven curriculum, unique electives, technology tools, and community experiences creates a supportive and successful online learning opportunity for families and children who want an individualized approach to education. For more information, call 800-382-6010 or visit

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Lisa Nicita
New Mexico Connections Academy
+1 (480) 368-7999
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