Mike Hughes

A Mesa school will be renamed after Mike Hughes, executive director of A New Leaf and a longtime education advocate.

During his 41-year career at A New Leaf, Mike Hughes has noticed a direct relationship between education and the ability of people to reach their potential and live a better life.

Hughes, 65, spent 20 years on the Mesa Public Schools governing board helping to get Mesa residents the best education possible.

Now, Nathaniel Hawthorne Elementary School is being renamed Michael T. Hughes Elementary School in honor of the staunch education advocate.

“One thing that is a constant is the need for education. A higher level of education breeds success,’’ Hughes said. “Education is the driving force. It improves your lot in life.’’

Hughes is CEO of A New Leaf, a Mesa non-profit that helps disadvantaged families rise above difficult circumstances. A New Leaf offers homeless and domestic violence shelters, youth services and behavioral health counseling.

“I am very humbled and very proud to be considered and recognized,’’ Hughes said. “It’s quite an honor. It means a lot to me and my family.’’

A program distributed at the dedication ceremony Thursday, April 19, said:

“As a respected community leader and former Mesa Public Schools Governing Board member, Michael Hughes believes every child is important and can succeed. His compassion, purpose and unique melding of personal and professional qualities connect him with the community’s heartbeat.      

“Hughes is dedicated to promoting the importance of education and achieving self-sufficiency. His goal is to ensure generations of Mesa’s youth have access to highly qualified teachers, challenging curriculum, top-notch facilities and the support needed to ensure every child succeeds.”

Helen Hollands, a Mesa Public Schools spokeswoman, said the board wanted to recognize Hughes and approved the name change through a resolution. Workers began changing the signage at the school during spring break in March.

Hughes Elementary, in central Mesa near Stapley Drive and 8th Street, was originally named after Nathaniel Hawthorne, the 19th century American author of “The Scarlet Letter.”

Hughes said he is disappointed by the crisis in education funding, with teachers threatening the walk out in protest of poor pay.

He said teachers are not fully recognized for their importance to society. “They should not be taken for granted. They are molding our future,’’ he said.

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