By: Sommer Mitchell

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.

The Doña Ana County Early Childhood Education Coalition is strategically moving forward in efforts to mobilize Early Childhood Education (ECE) across the County. The abundant energy present during the ECE Summit in July was still going strong when the Coalition met again for a follow-up meeting on September 4th.  This meeting is just the first in a progression of bi-monthly meetings that members have pledged to attend.  In addition to whole Coalition meetings, the July ECE Summit launched seven Action Networks, engaged around specific goals.  “The purpose of these Action Networks is to ensure that every goal in the plan is getting the person power it deserves,” says Lori Martinez, Executive Director for Ngage New Mexico.  Cesia Otero, Education Coordinator for the Early Childhood Education Coalition adds “by having consistent bi-monthly meetings, we are creating the infrastructure for the coalition to be more cohesive, sustainable and strategic and the structure within the Action Networks to follow adds to this unified approach.”

On September 4th, Coalition members showed up excited and ready to work.  Action Networks engaged in a focused conversation analyzing the objectives and tasks for each of the goals.  Coalition members were invited to reflect upon what reminded them of their own experiences at work and home and which of the aims would have the most significant impact.  From these focused conversations, key points and next steps were identified for each of the goals, and individual Action Network meetings were set by the teams, respectively.  “Each of the Action Networks has some homework to do” says Lori, “we want each group to determine next steps for themselves.  We’re working to mobilize the coalition to be active in a way that has not been done before in Doña Ana County and trying to make sure we’re listening to the people who are on the ground doing the work, utilizing the expertise we have access to within the Coalition.  Cesia also stating,  “by letting the professionals in each Action Network take the lead and come up with objectives on their own, we will produce more advancement for the goals and set up the Coalition for sustainability.”

Otero and Martinez shared the sentiment that the follow-up meeting was both successful and encouraging.  Otero noting that there was a lot of positive feedback from participants saying that it was inspiring to see the big picture and to reconnect with the mindset that Education is a Shared Responsibility.  Martinez remarked, “it was a great opportunity and reminder for us to be asking who else needs to be at the table and making sure we are utilizing community resources and collaborating.”

When asked about an anticipated timeline for the new structure to bear fruit, Otero responded: “This type of work is a marathon, not a sprint, and some of the goals will show faster and more immediate progress than others, but we do want to keep up our momentum.”  Similarly, Martinez returned, “As we move forward, we’ll continue to keep our eye on the big picture and recognize where we can support each other and help each other do our work.  The timing of this restructure is exciting with the creation of the Early Childhood Education and Care Department, and we want to make sure we are using our voice at the state level to ensure that every young child and family in Doña Ana County has access to the tools they need for success.”

The current progress of the Doña Ana County Early Childhood Education Coalition is five years in the making.  It was formed in 2014 and comprised of over 19 Organizations and 60 individuals dedicated to providing access to quality care and early educational opportunities for our children.  The Coalition is gaining new members all the time and has not deviated from the Early Childhood Plan.  Recognizing the need for more structure is part of the process of refining the Coalition’s practice. If, as Aristotle says, “We are what we repeatedly do,” then the Doña Ana County Early Childhood Education Coalition is displaying a prime example.  Collectively, we are forming the habit of creating a better Doña Ana County.