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Talking while walking, founding members envisioned a space where they could truly develop youth leadership and positive community change. The founding members decided to take action.


With the help of local youth, colleagues and parents, the LAB (Learning Action Buffet) was created in 2017. Since then, the LAB has brought the community together in various settings, partnering with the city, public schools, and other nonprofit organizations.


Through the LAB’s projects and events, LAB youth leaders have acquired important skills for their careers and life.



Dr. Cornel West



Armando Arellano

Armando Arellano is an actor and local musician. He is also the Producer of the LAB Radio Hour on KTAL LP 101.5 and he co-facilitates LAB Drumming Workshops.


Annie Quintana

Annie Quintana is a recent graduate of NMSU, now at UNM pursuing a Master's degree in Geography. As a remote LAB Youth Leader, Annie continues to conduct interviewers for the LAB Radio Hour.

"To support youth in creating sustainable and healthy community through the arts, communication, and action"

Our Mission

Andrés Uribe

Andrés Uribe is a high school student in the Las Cruces Public School District. Andrés is working toward a high school diploma and an associates degree from DACC. Andrés has been with the LAB since 2017. Today he is a Youth Leader for the LAB's Youth Voice Matters project.


Carmen Bell

Carmen Bell is a high school student at Alma d’ Arte Charter High School. She plans to teach Kindergarten but currently she is a Youth Leader for the LAB Youth Voice Matters project.

"A community where youth and adults work together to identify and address critical issues of the day, where youth voice and leadership are harnessed in ways that result in positive social and economic change"

Our Vision


Joie Hernandez

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Kellin Acree

(a.k.a. DJ Kelz) is an audio engineer and performer, born and raised in Springfield, MA. He is involved in numerous projects spanning film, radio, and music. Kellin brought the LAB Radio Hour to life in 2017.

Joie Hernandez is a student at Las Cruces High School. She is an athlete and is interested in media production. She was on the Radio Hour team for over a year and shadowed DJ Kelz.






Our Values


Kiara Banka

Kiara Banka is a student at Alma D' Arte Charter High School. She is the facilitator of a social justice group at her school and works with NMCafé on projects involving social issues and activism. Currently, Kiara is a member of the LAB Youth Voice Matters project team.


Kathryn Trujillo

Kathryn Trujillo also known as Kat, is a founding member of the LAB. As a former SNM ENLACE participant, she guided the LAB from day one. Kat has two Associates degrees (Arts and Science) and is currently taking courses at NMSU.

Michelle Valverde

has been a passionate equity advocate for 30 years. Her current work revolves around addressing disparities in the education system. The LAB allows Michelle to partner with others in creating a more just world.


Lamaia Vaughn

has been working directly with young adults in the Las Cruces area for over 30 years. She is a firm believer in the power of career technical education and the arts to transform lives and communities.



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Lamaia Vaughn is a professor of film and digital media at Doña Ana Community College (DACC).  She was instrumental in developing the film production program at DACC and its collaboration with NMSU’s Creative Media Institute. The main focus of her teaching is guiding students toward meaningful careers and developing a talented and creative workforce.


Judith Quintana is a School Psychologist for the Las Cruces Public Schools.  She has worked in community mental health and school based mental health settings for forty years.  In these positions, she has worked as a strong advocate for tolerance, diversity, and equity to meet the individual needs of each student.


Olga Chavez has been a lifelong advocate for children and youth in the Las Cruces area. She has touched the lives of many young people while serving in various capacities as a volunteer and also as a leader within a well-established local social service agency that supports children and families. 


Federico Almarez is a fulltime English Instructor at Doña Ana Community College. He is a poet, a song writer, musician, and an archaeological consultant. He believes in the power of student voice.


Andrew Montoya is a founding member of the LAB. He is a first-generation college graduate and high/middle school classroom educator who believes in the power of community and our youth. Andrew is currently serving as an organizer for the NEA-Human & Civil Rights Department. He brings educators, youth, and community together to create a racially and socially just learning, teaching, and living environment so that our students can become architects of their own future.

Thank you to Chris Acosta, Chris Adams, and Luisa Bannister, all founding board members of the LAB!

Thank you…!

Other youth who contributed in the LAB’s early years include Eunice Martinez Campos, Marina Vasconcellos, Alexis Armendáriz, Kobe Teal, Kathryn Grupp, and Sebastian Santiago.