Mora HS students close out the school year at the governor’s mansion

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SANTA FE, N.M. — It hasn’t been an easy school year, but students in Mora wrapped it up Thursday. For seniors, it doubled as prom night at the governor’s mansion.

“Very challenging to say the least,” is how Principal Lefonso Castillo described this year, and seniors’ high school careers in general.

Between two years of virtual learning, COVID-19 scares, and a historic start to this wildfire season, he feels they’ve been robbed of a typical high school experience. They lost 50 days just this year to virtual learning and the Calf Canyon/Hermits Peak Fire.

“I remember the day we had to evacuate we were at our house, the fire was coming over the mountain, and you could just see cars taking off,” said Castillo. “I think it is a catastrophe – the students will have to bounce back.”

Thankfully, they have school buildings to go back to next fall. The fire got within a quarter mile of the district’s campus, which firefighters and crews are still using as a home base.

“It’s just an awful feeling. You’re always looking over your shoulder ‘when’s the next spark going to come,’” said Castillo. “I’m just proud of our community for pulling together during this time of need.”

He said donations came in by the truckloads, and volunteers didn’t hesitate to stay at school to hand out meals and supplies to families.

And when the district superintendent mentioned to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham that they had nowhere to host prom, she opened the doors to the governor’s mansion for the seniors’ high school rite of passage.

“This is the biggest prom we’ve ever – the most participation that we’ll have for any prom,” said Castillo. They far surpassed last year’s record of 80 students.

But he mentioned some harsh realities in Mora also. Three district staff members lost their homes, and at least a few students’ families did too. The district plans to fundraise for them in the coming weeks.

“We’re there for the community and we want to bounce back,” Castillo said.