LAS CRUCES – This isn’t a headline we see often: “Doña Ana County excelling in education.” However, for the past four years a diverse group of more than 100 organizations has been busy exploring how Southern New Mexico can improve the educational benchmarks in our schools and community.
Much of this work does not include a dramatic increase in funding. Early steps simply involved an inventory of the assets we already have at hand. Many of these resources are in plain sight. Licensed childcare providers and school districts were analyzed for data in Southern New Mexico and discussions began to assess needs, gaps and opportunities.
Credit must go to Ngage New Mexico and the Success Partnership vision. Former Ngage NM Executive Director Frank R. Lopez provided strong leadership in corralling the babel of voices into constructive, civil discussions.
As with most community organizing, there were moments when questions arose: Why are we doing this? Are we making any progress? When will be able see concrete results?
Ready To Learn (RTL) is a U.S. Department of Education and Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) collaboration on early childhood education. The program began in 2005 and strives to coordinate local PBS stations and educators to deliver programs to “unserved and underserved” communities. Funding has been reduced over the years, so the number of stations that could be involved has fallen. The emphasis is now based in Community Collaboratives for Early Learning and Media (CC-ELM).
For a change, New Mexico’s low national standing was an asset. Who is more unserved than a state that ranks 50th in 4th grade reading proficiency? What communities are more underserved than the 50th state in child well-being?
The KRWG-Success Partnership coalition was accepted into the first round of 30 stations that will compete for a dozen $175,000, two-year RTL grants. This is a highly competitive process, with major market stations in the mix. They have resources small stations like ours don’t.
However, after years of meeting and planning, KRWG and Doña Ana County do have a valuable card to play. We have all that Success Partnership research and planning.
Ngage NM Interim Executive Director Lori Martinez joined me in Washington D.C. last month for CPB’s Ready To Learn orientation. Other station applicants were amazed by the materials we had in hand. While there is much work to be done before the April 30 deadline, our strong foundation should serve us well.
Whether we receive one of the RTL grants or not, the groundwork is in place to be competitive in other grant opportunities. It is clear that we have educational resources in our community to help claw our way out of 50th place; all for the benefit of generations.
I strongly encourage you to read the wealth of information available at successdac.org. More importantly, please join the conversation about how we can transform our educational opportunities through the collaborative models that have emerged.
This is one sure way to improve our communities.
SUCCESS Snapshots is a biweekly column highlighting the SUCCESS Partnership education initiative in Doña Ana County. Read more at ngagenm.org.
Glen Cerny is the Executive Director of University Broadcasting at New Mexico State University who is responsible for the KRWG FM/TV’s PBS and NPR operations, and sits on the Executive Board of the National Educational Telecommunications Association. He is also honored to be a member of the Success Partnership Leaders Circle.