Dr. Dulcinea Lara speaking at the 2019 Early Childhood Education Summit on July 11, 2019.

The SUCCESS Partnership and the Doña Ana County Early Childhood Education Coalition hosted 64 attendees at St. Paul’s Methodist Church in Las Cruces on July 11th for the 2019 Early Childhood Education Summit. ‘Succeeding Together’ was the theme this year, with the hope to increase stakeholder involvement, reunite with current coalition members, and continue to improve early childhood education and care for families in Doña Ana County. Early childhood partners and champions gathered with the intent  of creating action networks targeted at specific needs within the field to support better outcomes for our children across the county.   

 Ngage New Mexico’s Children’s Museum Coordinator, Michael Radtke, feels strongly about approaching education as a community. Radtke spoke at the summit, saying, “We know that addressing the issue of education is not as simple as changing curriculum or creating a standardized test. Education is a multidimensional issue that factors in a child’s whole health and well-being into the equation.” Following his presentation, the crowd received regional data to examine the specific challenges and disparities within early childhood education.

 Dr. Dulcinea Lara is an Associate Professor in the Criminal Justice Department at New Mexico State University, who facilitated conversations in the afternoon session. She was intrigued by the event, due to her extensive research in cultural studies, critical race theories, and Chicano history. “We have something more than our poverty. We have to do our part to shift the paradigm of conversation from scarcity to working collectively,” said Dr. Lara.

 During the school year, educators face challenges in attending such events in addition to their other responsibilities and are often unable to participate in these valuable conversations about educational transformation  on a large scale. Full-time educator and Director for the Las Cruces High School Graduation, Reality, and Dual-Role Skills (GRADS) program, Katrina Diaz-Castillo, recognized the opportunity to join the community conversation, “ I was excited to attend the full day event, outside of my working contract and to be part of the system change. My major takeaway from the event was in creating momentum, united, through systems across the county and state is key to creating positive change for all children.”

 The summit closed with partner pledges to commit to one of the coalition’s goals, which each represented action networks. The audience shared final comments about engaging in this landmark event to better support families and childcare providers. Dr. Lara continued, “The event was well organized and there was positive, hopeful, energy in the room. There’s a lot of energy to improve childhood well-being in our county.” The next meeting for the Doña Ana Early Childhood Education Coalition will be held in September and press the agenda forward, tasking action networks with the message that education is a shared responsibility.