Source for Educational Empowerment and Community Development


Ariella Robbins graduated Magna Cum Laude from Wilmington College in 1971, with a degree in English Literature.  For several years after that she lived in Chicago, Illinois and worked as a free-lance journalist. In 1985, she took a teaching job in the Los Angeles public school system where she developed an innovative teaching methodology that became the basis for an after-school enrichment program called AIM For Success.  In 1982, she brought a group of Latino students from East Los Angeles to El Rito, New Mexico for a five-day retreat, a “vision quest” that was intended to give them an opportunity to get away from the struggles they faced on a daily basis, in order  to see their futures in the most positive light. The students went back to L.A, determined to live their lives according to their individual inspirations.  While in El Rito, Ariella got to know members of the community, many of whom had offered their services as workshop leaders for the retreat.  When she was offered a teaching job at Northern New Mexico Community College, she realized how much she had come to love the land and its people. She decided to stay.  For two years she was the English department head at the El Rito branch of the college, and she taught in Espanola as well. In 1995, she took a break from teaching and moved to Santa Fe to begin a new adventure, resuming the work on a novel she had started several years before, while working as a private health-care manager for elderly and disabled clients.   This school year she returned to teaching, when First Serve – New Mexico, an afterschool program that combines academic coaching with tennis instruction, invited her to develop a writing course for their participants.

Christian Casillas came across Manish Jain's "Learning City" in Udaipur, India, and brought the concept of self-directed learning back to Santa Fe, his hometown. A freelance educator and scientist, Christian has been involved in education, design, and implementation of renewable energy projects in schools and communities in the United States, Central and South America, India, and Africa. He collaborating on the development of the City of Santa Fe's 25 Year Sustainability Plan and public outreach and led the development of the City's greenhouse gas emission inventory. His policy analysis related to green sector economic development and emission reductions.  Christian is an advisor for the Microgid Systems Laboratory, an independent contractor with the Santa Fe Community College, and a co-founder of the Inspire Santa Fe program. He received his PhD in Energy and Resources from UC Berkeley, a Masters from Johns Hopkins University in Applied and Computational Mathematics and his Bachelor's degree from Harvard University in Environmental Engineering.

Owen M. Lopez served as the Executive Director of the McCune Charitable Foundation in Santa Fe, New Mexico from 1994-2011. From the very beginning, his approach was unusual for a foundation executive. He began his work at McCune by asking people both inside and outside the community what nonprofit organizations really needed from foundations. He responded enthusiastically to what he was told: Find outstanding people who were doing good things and had great leadership abilities, give them and their organizations the money they need, and then get out of their way. Innovation and risk-taking have been part of his philanthropic DNA. Before that he was the Managing Partner of the Hinkle Law Firm, Santa Fe, New Mexico, from 1982 to 1993. Owen has been actively involved with a number of charitable and community organizations, and was formerly a trustee of the International Folk Art Foundation, a board member of the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, a regent of New Mexico Tech, a commissioner of the National Museum of American Art of the Smithsonian Institution, a board member of St. John's College in Santa Fe and a trustee of the Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation. Owen is a graduate of Stanford University, B.A., and University of Notre Dame, J.D.