The Bridge of Southern New Mexico has always been an organization ahead of its time thanks to the shared vision and commitment of its leaders. Business, education, economic development and government leaders working in unison have accomplished what some thought impossible (or at least improbable) over the past ten years.
As you may know, The Bridge is what’s called a “backbone” organization of a collective impact initiative – which is basically philanthropy’s lingo for an organization that keeps moving a set of mission-aligned partners toward a shared goal. Backbone organizations facilitate strategic conversations, build partnerships between those with the resources and programs that can help, develop and track shared metrics for success, report to the community, and hold partners accountable for their progress toward goals.
There are a lot of communities in New Mexico who wish they had a “Bridge” between business and education, because of the power of this kind of collaboration. We know…we hear that a lot!
One year ago, I was so fortunate to come back and work alongside this organization’s amazing leaders and its strong network of community partners in implementing their vision and keeping success for students at the center of all that we do. Collectively, they are lining up the people, programs, and resources to move students, and therefore all of us, forward. I am privileged work alongside all of them to connect the assets we already have to forge the future we’ve always wanted!
You can measure the success of a backbone organization by how it was able to leverage funding, share indicators of progress, show evidence of systems change, and be perceived as an organization of value to the community’s stakeholders. We’ve come a long way over this past year, and here are just a few milestones of progress in our journey so far:
- Celebrated a record-breaking 80 percent high school graduation rate countywide that outpaced the state by 11 percent! (Ten years ago, it was 49 percent.)
- Formed a Workforce Talent Collaborative to “collect and connect the dots” and create a plan to build the skilled and ready workforce talent we need. We now have:
- Created eight workforce talent pathways
- Built community awareness about the opportunities available for young workers
- Helped youth understand that success happens at many levels: career certifications, as well as two-year and four-year degrees
- Secured a $140,000 investment from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to fund the planning process
- Brought in other resources and research from outside the community to help us in the planning
- Established thought leadership in the region
- Developed the first draft of a first-ever plan! (which is in the process of being reviewed by those who helped us put it together)
- Highlighted the power of Career and Technical Education Pathways as the best way to expand upon the success of the Early College High School model to help even more students graduate and achieve college completion while in high school
- Worked with Doña Ana Community College (DACC) and Las Cruces Public Schools to create a clear, connected set of Career and Technical Education pathways to propel students toward career certifications alongside their high school diplomas
- Worked with those partners to host a Pathways to Student Success Summit for 400 Las Cruces and Gadsden high school students and more than 100 community members
- Worked with New Mexico State University, DACC, and the school districts on The Bridge’s first-ever federal grant request, seeking support for STEM instruction for 8th to 10th graders (still waiting on word of the outcome)
- Faced the dual credit funding crisis head-on, assembling cross-sector leaders in building an irrefutable case for funding dual credit courses to support sustainability and expansion for even more students
- Worked with the New Mexico Public Education Department on standards for effective Early College High Schools statewide
- Facilitated a partnership for Las Cruces High School EXCEL students to have work-based learning internships with budding entrepreneurs at the Arrowhead Center
- Shared the amazing story of what this community has done and is doing with audiences across the county, state and nation
NONE of this is possible without those who continue to support and invest in The Bridge with their time, their resources, and their willingness to keep young people at the center of all we do. Thank you for your involvement and investment!
There’s great strength in unity. It’s clear…we really can go far when we go together.