(See this article in the Las Cruces Sun News)

Recent reports have characterized our state as failing when it comes to education and child wellbeing. And yet, if you were to ask any 10 Doña Ana County residents how they define success for children in our schools and our community, you would likely get 10 different answers. Believe us, we’ve tried.

The SUCCESS! Partnership, a growing movement in Doña Ana county that is focused on supporting children at each stage of their education and development, has gone door to door over the past year talking with over 800 parents, surveying hundreds of students, and convening hundreds of community members to ask this very question: how do you picture success for our children here in Doña Ana county?

What we’ve learned is our community is rich with people who care deeply about the success of children. No one we have talked to has shrugged off the importance of investing in and supporting kids, from ensuring prenatal care to offering meaningful skill-building experiences after graduation. Moreover, folks from every walk of life are willing to come together to tackle the challenges schools and the community are facing related to education, recognizing that we are all stronger when we join forces.

However, in our conversations with groups involved in education and child wellbeing, one critical barrier to collaboration continues to surface: silos. When organizations concentrate on their own efforts, without having the community as a whole in mind, it is sometimes referred to as working in “silos.” This silo approach creates a disconnected patchwork of organizations and institutions. All of them could be doing wonderful work for a group of children, but they might not be making a dent for the collective 55,000 children in Doña Ana County.

In order to make sure we are having an impact for all children, instead of some children, our county needed to set shared goals that represent our collective vision for education.

This April, over 80 representatives from every sector of the community attended an education summit here in Doña Ana County, including teachers, parents and students, as well as school districts, businesspeople, nonprofit leaders, community advocates and elected officials. Reflecting on a year of listening sessions and cross-sector dialogue, the group agreed on a shared community agenda that includes: early childhood education, high school completion, post-secondary access/Success, career opportunities for graduates, cultural and bilingual competency, community-school integration; parent/student voice, creative, student-centered education, educational workforce development, childhood wellbeing, and equitable and sufficient education resources.

Now, with help from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, we can help strengthen and expand projects and initiatives that already exist in these areas, and align our community’s resources to maximize our impact toward our shared goals. By working together in partnership instead of in silos, Doña Ana County can be a model for the state and the country in how we value and support our children.

If you are currently working in the above-mentioned areas, or would like to be, please email info@NgageNM.org or call Ngage New Mexico at (575) 521-1957. Ngage New Mexico is a nonprofit in Doña Ana County that is helping to support the SUCCESS! Partnership by providing logistical assistance and providing some administrative staff. The United Way of Southwest New Mexico is also supporting the backbone infrastructure of SUCCESS! by providing communication assistance.

Countless other community organizations and individuals have been volunteering and providing continuous support to the SUCCESS! Partnership as we lead the way in improving the prospects for children in our community and state. Please join us!

Bill Soules, D-Las Cruces, represents District 37 in Doña Ana County in the New Mexico Senate, where he is vice chairman of the Education Committee. He also is chairman of the SUCCESS! Partnership Leaders Circle and has also been a long-time educator. David Greenberg works with Ngage New Mexico supporting the SUCCESS! Partnership.