Skip to main content
A man in a red shirt plays the ukulele
Magazine

A Teacher’s Future Hangs on a Supreme Court Case

While he waits for the U.S. Supreme Court to rule on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a teacher serenades his community.

By Faviola Leyva

February 19, 2020

For Alejandro Fuentes Mena (Colorado ’13), knowledge feeds his mind, but the arts feed his soul. When he’s not teaching sixth grade math at KIPP Northeast Denver Middle School, he sings in an all-male vocal quintet, The Storytellers, who aim to uplift community through stories and song. 

That’s just one way Fuentes Mena goes all-in for his Denver community. He coaches students who lead civic change campaigns through the Colorado Youth Congress. He recently bought a home with his partner, Tania Chairez (Phoenix ’14) in the Far Northeast neighborhood, where he’s been teaching for almost seven years.

But the threat hangs over Fuentes Mena that the Supreme Court will clear the way for the Trump administration to terminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. He worries about whether he’ll still be able to pay his mortgage and invest in his community.

© Photo Rachel Woolf Alejandro Fuentas Mena was born in Chile before moving to San Diego, California at age four. “I’ve lived here for so long,” he says. “And to a certain degree, I feel like I’ve had to prove my worth.”

In 2013, Fuentes Mena was one of the first two DACAmented teachers (a term for undocumented immigrants protected under the DACA program) to join the corps in Denver, at the time the only school system in the country that hired DACAmented teachers. This past fall, Teach For America filed an amicus brief urging the court to prevent DACA’s end. Fuentes Mena was one of ten alumni to tell their stories in briefs filed with the court. “I strongly believe in the power of stories,” he said. “If you are willing to actually listen, stories have the potential to change hearts and minds.”

Fuentes Mena stays hopeful he’ll be able to act on his ambition to establish an arts-integrated school in the Far Northeast neighborhood. He already has a name in mind: RAAD, the Radical Arts Academy of Denver. Stay tuned.