The Organizations

The Academy for the Love of Learning

The Academy for the Love of Learning and its president and founder, Aaron Stern, attend to the learning and growth of Inspire mentors and brings the program into public eye as a way to rethink education and reimagine learning.

Founded in 1998 and part of the Santa Fe community since 2003, Aaron Stern's Academy brings to Inspire years of research and facilitation to help people develop their capacity to discover their unique expression and remain alive as learners. The Academy's mission is to nurture, awaken, enliven and sustain the natural love of learning in people of all ages. The Academy’s portfolio of programs include courses in leadership training, organizational learning, arts and community engagement, and programs for teachers through its Institute for Teaching.  More at | 505.995.1860.

SEED: Source for Educational Empowerment and Community Development

SEED oversees school relationships, identification and screening of mentors, and mentorship supervision. 

SEED, a New Mexico nonprofit corporation, was incorporated on December 8, 1997, for the purpose of providing alternative, holistic non-sectarian education to the communities of northern New Mexico. The original mission of the organization was to empower individuals, through a practical and heuristic curriculum, toward greater self-fulfillment and service of the community at large. In 2017, Todd Lopez, who co-founded Inspire Santa Fe while ED of a non-profit called Siete del Norte, became Executive Director of SEED. Sky Lopez is the President and CEO of SEED. More at

The Visionaries

Aaron Stern is the president and founder of the Academy for the Love of Learinng, and has long held the vision of an out-of-school learning network and mentor learning workshops, key elements of today's Inspire Santa Fe. Aaron conceived the Academy with famed musician Leonard Bernstein, and serves as its President. As educational leader of the Academy, Aaron designed and directs the Academy's core curriculum and foundational program, Leading by Being®. Aaron is a composer, teacher, and internationally recognized consultant on learning. He conducts consultancies and seminars throughout the United States and in Europe, and is a board member of the Mind & Life Institute.


Paquita Hernandez is a master transformative educator now based in Puerto Rico, where she grew up. Paquita founded CelebrateYouth! and the still robust Mentorship Program at Monte del Sol, through which thousands of New Mexicans engaged in  transformative mentoring relationships. In 2013, Paquita generously donated materials, practices, and wisdom that helped make Inspire Santa Fe possible.


The Founders


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Christian E. 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 continues to support Inspire Santa Fe by evaluating and consulting to the program.


Todd Lopez Executive Director of SEED, Todd provides vision, direction and oversight of Inspire Santa Fe. Formerly the Executive Director of Siete del Norte, Todd helped found Inspire Santa Fe as part of a lifelong dream to create learning systems that tap into the local resources and wisdom of Santa Fe, NM, his hometown. Todd is currently Co-Director of Inspire Santa Fe.


Seth Biderman Seth is Manager of the Institute for Teaching and a faculty member at the non-profit Academy for the Love of Learning. He is currently located in Washington, DC, where he is Co-Director of Inspire Santa Fe while also spearheading efforts to disseminate Inspire to other communities. Seth was "mentored" into mentorship learning by Paquita Hernandez, with whom he led the Monte del Sol Mentorship Program from 2006-2008. A teacher with 9 years experience with pre-schoolers to adult learners, Seth is a graduate of Brown University, where he worked with the late Professor Ted Sizer, and holds an Ed.S in Educational Leadership (May, 2017).

The 2016-2017 Team


Monica Caldas | Mentorship Facilitator
Monica, currently working towards her masters in counseling, works closely with Inspire field facilitators to identify mentors, and set up and support mentorships.


Kira Jones | Mentor Learning Facilitator
A former public school teacher and consultant for the national Big Picture network, Kira supports the learning of mentors by designing mentor learning workshops.


Jessica Smyser | Relationships and Reciprocity
Jessica coordinates Relationships and Reciprocity at the Academy for the Love of Learning. She leads efforts to vision, plan, and implement the Academy’s marketing and communications strategy across all program areas, including Inspire Santa Fe.

Zach Taylor | Field Facilitator, The Masters Program
Zach, a Santa Fe native, has merged The MASTERS Program Charter High School's mentorship program--which he founded--into Inspire Santa Fe to help make the program possible. He continues to facilitate mentorships, as well as provide program vision and evaluation.


Mikey Baker
Mikey, a Santa Fe native, was Inspire's first official mentor in 2014-2015, and helps coordinates performing arts and events.


Canton Becker
Canton, a Santa Fe native, designs and maintains inspireconnect, Inspire's innovative online database and journaliing system.

The Partners

Inspire Santa Fe works closely with the following schools and organizations to select youth participants.

Santa Fe High School | Field Facilitators Myoko Costello and David Esquibel

The Masters Program Charter School | Field Facilitator Zach Taylor

Mandela International Magnet School | Field Facilitator Katie Buttram

Communities in School, El Camino Real Community School | Field Facilitator Emily Folks

Communities in Schools, Engage Santa Fe | Field Facilitator Sinte Torrez

The Collaborators

Inspire Santa Fe would not be possible without the collaboration and support of the following individuals and organizations.

Communities in Schools New Mexico | Julia Bergen, Sinte Torres and Emily Folks

The MASTERS Program | Anne Salzmann and Zach Taylor

Mandela International Magnet School | Tony Gerlicz and Katie Buttram

Santa Fe High School | David Esquibel, Myoko Costello and Carl Marano

The City of Santa Fe and Mayor Javier Gonzales

The Sofia Council for Transformative Education

Monte del Sol Charter School | Robert Jessen and Giselle Piburn

Academy for the Love of Learning | Kevin Brown, Kim Carr, Hayley Horowitz

Funders & Sponsors

City of Santa Fe

Rock, Paper, Scissor Salonspa

Anonymous Foundation

Sarcon Construction

The Susan and Conrad de Jong Fund

The Castagnola Family Fund

The Jack and Mary Gilliam Endowment Fund

The Infinite Possibilities Fund

The Eric Fund