Imagine how the health and well-being of families in Doña Ana County could be transformed if higher education, traditional public schools, charter schools, private schools, early intervention agencies, nonprofits, military institutions and local governments worked together to improve the lives of all children in Doña Ana County.

The Success Partnership has been bringing regional leaders together since 2014 to do just that, and I am honored to represent NMSU as a member of this collaboration. As the director of The Alliance for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning in the College of Education at New Mexico State University, my work includes engaging with the community, encouraging high school students to become teachers as the state director of Educators Rising (, and conducting research as the director of the Southwest Outreach Academic Research (SOAR) Lab.

I see myself as someone who works with others to find solutions. Over the past few years my efforts have been focused on recruiting new teachers, honoring current teachers and finding ways to help children gain access to after-school programs.

It is not a secret that there has been a measured decline in respect for educators. This has led to a decrease in the number of students interested in becoming teachers. My job is to identify high school students across New Mexico who still want to become teachers even though it is not the popular thing to do. Part of this work is recognizing the value of our local teachers.

From 2014 to 2016, The Alliance, the NMSU College of Education and The Bridge of Southern New Mexico established The Bridge Academy of Excellence, a teacher recognition program where thousands of students and parents nominated teachers for recognition. Eighteen teachers from Gadsden, Las Cruces and Hatch were honored. Local business leaders donated money and Adventure Travel donated cruises for some of the recognized teachers. This is an example of the business community, the university and the schools coming together to honor our amazing educators.

 Another example of the community coming together was the NMSU College of Education Symposium.  In 2017, The Alliance, The NMSU College of Education, The Kellogg Foundation and Don and Sarah Kidd hosted the College of Education Symposium where over 400 educators and community members gathered to discuss how we can improve education in New Mexico and in Doña Ana County. We hosted focus groups with administrators, surveyed teachers, and now we are starting to implement the changes recommended by various stakeholders. We are listening and taking action.

In the end, everything I do is about serving children and families. In 2016, The Alliance collaborated with the NMSU STEM Center and the Hatch Valley Public Schools to obtain an additional $3 million for after-school programs in Hatch through the 21st Century Community Learning Centers grant. This effort allowed the NMSU STEM Center to extend their reach to all three school districts in Doña Ana County and will continue for another two years. These students are gaining skills that will hopefully lead them to pursue STEM careers after they graduate from high school.

Other efforts include advocating for community schools where services, including after-school programs, can be provided at every school to serve the needs of the families in that community. As part of the initial planning and outreach team at Lynn Middle School, it was exciting to meet with the teachers and families. As part of the data team, I worked with other faculty and the Center for Community Analysis here at NMSU to develop questionnaires for the students, teachers and families because it is important to know what the community wants and needs before providing services.

Most recently my work includes creating partnerships between NMSU faculty, community agencies and schools. These partnerships will lead to community-based research where NMSU faculty, teachers, administrators and community agencies work together to identify and answer real questions that affect our community.

During the next 10-20 years, the relationships we have fostered in the Success Partnership will continue to grow stronger and this will have a positive impact on the families in Doña Ana County. As a faculty member at NMSU, I am excited to be a part of it.

Karen Trujillo Published 2:23 p.m. MT March 24, 2018