Melissa Candelaria

Melissa Candelaria is the Education Director and a member of the plaintiff’s legal team for Yazzie/Martinez v. State of New Mexico. The Center represents families and schools in this landmark lawsuit against the state for failing to provide public school students a sufficient education as guaranteed by the New Mexico State Constitution. Ms. Candelaria has many years of legal, policy, and advocacy experience on a variety of issues including education, health, child welfare, tribal courts, and governmental relations involving tribes and federal, state and local governments, and the promotion and protection of tribal sovereignty. She currently serves as an Oversight Commissioner for the 19 Pueblos District located in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and is a citizen of the Pueblo of San Felipe.

Ms. Candelaria has a Juris Doctor with a Certificate in Indian Law from the University of New Mexico School of Law, and a B.A. with a Minor in Education from Dartmouth College.

Maria Archuleta

Maria Archuleta has over 20 years of experience in communications at nonprofit legal and social justice organizations. Ms. Archuleta joined NMCLP in 2017 to support the organization’s expanding strategic communications efforts. She oversees NMCLP’s public messaging, media relations, social media, public documents, and the website. A major focus of her work at the Center has been building program staffs’ media relations and communications skills. Prior to joining NMCLP, she managed media and messaging at the ACLU National Headquarters on issues that included women’s rights, immigrants’ rights, racial justice, and voting rights. Later, as Communications Officer at Open Society Foundations, she coordinated communications efforts to advance work on racial justice, drug policy, democracy, equality, black male achievement, and economic advancement in the United States. Ms. Archuleta grew up in Española, New Mexico.

BA in Spanish and Mass Communications from the University of California, Berkeley
MFA in Creative Writing from the New School for Social Research

Sovereign Hager

Ms. Hager has more than 10 years of experience working to advance economic and social justice. In the last five years, as an attorney at the Center, she worked extensively to increase access to public benefits in state and federal court, as well as in community, administrative, and legislative forums. She is an established expert in New Mexico on the complex regulatory framework for public benefits programs, eligibility for families that include immigrants and frequently provides expert testimony to the legislature. Ms. Hager has secured major court victories on behalf of her clients to increase access to food and medical assistance, drivers’ licenses, and other programs.

Before joining the Center, Ms. Hager worked for two years on the Navajo Nation for DNA People’s Legal Services’ Medical Legal Partnership, where she handled a broad range of legal issues impacting the health of patients at an Indian Health Service facility. Her advocacy included public benefits, domestic violence, special education, housing, consumer and workers’ rights. Ms. Hager has past advocacy experience working to improve farmworker pay and living conditions and enforcing fair housing laws.

J.D. and MA from Syracuse University in 2011.

Sireesha Manne

Ms. Manne joined the Center in 2008 as an attorney and has been a key part of its leadership team over the last decade, engaging in the Center’s legal and advocacy work, strategic planning and management. As supervising attorney for the healthcare team, she led the Center’s successful legislative and advocacy campaigns to expand Medicaid in New Mexico, prevent budget and service cuts to Medicaid and county health programs, and advance best practices including home visiting services for young children. Her work in partnership with community leaders significantly improved hospital services in Bernalillo County and reduced medical debt for uninsured children and families in immigrant and Native American communities. She has provided numerous trainings and expertise on the healthcare system for policymakers, community groups, providers, and state and local taskforces and agencies.

Ms. Manne has nearly 20 years’ experience in nonprofit work to advance social, economic, and racial justice. She served as the board chair for Young Women United, a community organizing project for women of color in Albuquerque, and was the board vice-chair for the Highlander Center, the 85-year old education and training institute for movement leaders in the South and throughout the country. She has provided litigation support for civil rights law firms and was twice awarded the Daniel H. Pollitt fellowship with the American Civil Liberties Union in North Carolina.


J.D. from the University of North Carolina School of Law in Chapel Hill in 2007; B.U.S. magna cum laude, in Economics, Biology, and Asian Studies, from the University of New Mexico in 2000.

Stacey Leaman

Since joining the NM Center in 2004, Ms. Leaman has contributed to the Center’s administrative, communications, research, fundraising, and program work. She has been leading the Center’s development (fundraising) team since 2007. Prior to joining the Center, she spent several years conducting research for nonprofit organizations based in Washington, DC, including Catholics for a Free Choice and the American Institutes for Research.

M.A. in Political Science from the University of California, San Diego
B.A. from Wake Forest University