New Team to Lead Northern New Mexico’s Largest Scholarship Program

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(From left: LANL Foundation Scholarship Program Manager Mike Ammerman, Program Associate Sarah Gissinger, Vice President of Advancement & Scholarship Tony Fox. Courtesy photo.

New Team to Lead Northern New Mexico’s Largest Scholarship Program

Española, NM — Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) Foundation, the nonprofit dedicated to strengthening education in Northern New Mexico, welcomes two new staff members to its scholarship program. Mike Ammerman joins the Foundation as scholarship program manager, transitioning into the position from John McDermon who is retiring in March. Sarah Gissinger was chosen to serve as program associate, a new full-time position to accommodate program growth.

Ammerman has more than 20 years of experience supporting New Mexico youth and at-risk populations in areas of outdoor experiential education, leadership development, substance abuse prevention and wellness. Most recently from 2007–2018, he served as New Mexico Simon Scholars program director at the Simon Charitable Foundation. His leadership role in the Santa Fe-based comprehensive college access and scholarship program involved scholar recruitment and selection, academic and college readiness assistance, curriculum design, scholarship administration, college completion support and alumni engagement.

Having recently moved to New Mexico from southern California, Gissinger brings with her diverse experiences in the field of education and passion for creating opportunities for equitable and affordable college access, especially for first-generation college students like herself. Previously, she worked as a tutor, a volunteer English teacher in Costa Rica and an intern at the U.S. Department of Education in Washington, D.C.

“Mike and Sarah create a dynamic team that will continue to build stronger pathways to higher education, encourage the dreams of local students and support them on this journey of learning and career development,” said Tony Fox, LANL Foundation vice president of advancement and scholarship. “We sincerely thank John McDermon for his dedicated program leadership over the last three years and the prior decade as a donor and advisory committee member.”

Future changes in the scholarship program will include a deeper focus on serving students with financial need, emphasis on trades and other promising careers and employment opportunities in the region and college access and engagement. In addition to assisting with the daily operations, Gissinger will also oversee the burgeoning alumni network.

Together the new scholarship team will continue to manage the program and the Los Alamos Employees’ Scholarship Fund (LAESF), the largest scholarship pool in Northern New Mexico with contributions primarily made by LANL employees, contractors and retirees. Additional program oversight, fundraising, outreach and scholarship selection activities are provided by a volunteer advisory committee made up of elected donors.

The scholarship program currently provides financial support for residents of Los Alamos, Mora, Rio Arriba, San Miguel, Sandoval, Santa Fe and Taos counties pursuing post-secondary education—four-year bachelor’s degrees, two-year associate’s degrees and professional certifications—from accredited colleges, universities or trade schools in any field of study. Some awards highlight specific qualifications and are reserved for first-generation college students, Native Americans, nontraditional students, higher financial need, outstanding leadership, resiliency, residency in certain communities, teaching degrees or careers focused on science, technology, engineering, and math.

Since 1999, LANL Foundation and LAESF have awarded a total of $6.8 million to more than 1,500 students.

Ammerman says that he is excited to join such a dedicated group of staff and volunteers working toward common goals.

“Our scholarship team is committed to creating equity and access to education and career pathways for the people of Northern New Mexico. In addition to providing much-needed financial assistance, scholarships are a powerful tool for spreading hope, acknowledging a commitment to excellence and inspiring people to pursue their dreams. I look forward to engaging with our community of scholars and hearing their stories.”

For more information, visit or contact Mike Ammerman at or 505-753-8890 ext. 102

About the Los Alamos National Laboratory Foundation (

Since 1997, the Los Alamos National Laboratory Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, has worked to inspire excellence in education and learning in Northern New Mexico through innovative programming, collaboration and advocacy. By investing in human potential, the Foundation’s vision is that all New Mexicans have the skills and confidence they need to be self-sufficient, lifelong learners who are engaged in their communities. Work is focused on early childhood education, K-12 programs, inquiry STEM, scholarships, grants, professional development for teachers and support for students in Northern New Mexico communities in Los Alamos, Mora, Rio Arriba, San Miguel, Sandoval, Santa Fe and Taos counties.