Hope and Expectation Can Change the Future

As published in the Las Cruces Bulletin – December 21, 2018

The month of December brings out a lot of things – and I’m not talking about the credit cards and long lines at the mall.

There’s something about this time of year that is always tied to hope and expectation. Christmas and Hanukkah celebrations both ignite a spirit of hope and expectation for the future. Expectation is palpable among children who just can’t wait to find out what gifts are hiding inside those brightly wrapped boxes under the tree.

Hope and expectation also drive the students who cross the graduation stage at New Mexico State University and Dona Ana Community College at the end of their fall semesters – moving forward toward bright futures and new chapters. And of course, all students and teachers celebrate the expectation of a long winter break!

What I’ve discovered over the last 20 years of really innovative work that I’ve been privileged to be a part of is that hope and expectation are actually powerful forces for good at any time of the year.

In San Diego, a community once defined by blight and gang violence dared to believe that they could change the future of their community by changing a blighted 20-acre eyesore in their community…and they did. Hope and expectation were the glue that bound together 20 different cultural groups, who spoke 12 different languages, as they worked in partnership with a foundation to seed and grow things that had never been done before…not just in their community, but anywhere in the country.

Over several years, they transformed that eyesore into a vibrant hub for economic opportunity, arts and culture, community engagement, and community action. Their hope and expectation for that site rippled out across the community. It spread like wildfire across the community, sparking involvement and improvement in a host of outcomes: health and safety, education, and a higher set of expectations not just for them, but for their children and generations to come. And it changed the way philanthropy worked with and not for communities.

During my two-year detour to Washington DC, I got to see hope and expectation at work in communities across the country that had partnered with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Perhaps none of those experiences was more poignant than the 10-year commemoration of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. Thanks to the hope and expectation of people all over that city, the people of New Orleans had come together to undertake the herculean task of rebuilding their devasted city – home by home, block by block, community by community. And they did.

And now, in Dona Ana County, hope and expectation are alive and well in the unprecedented workforce talent development effort being led by The Bridge of Southern New Mexico and the Workforce Talent Collaborative. Community leaders, educators, businesses, nonprofits, and workforce program providers are all moving forward together in ways they haven’t before.

The collaboration led to plan for the future – the Doña Ana County/Borderplex

Joint Regional Workforce Talent Development Strategic Plan – and we’ve been working for well over a year to implement it. Systemic changes are underway: in policy, business engagement, boosting STEM proficiencies of our people, increasing high school and college completion, and in encouraging greater access to workforce programs and resources.

And, we are advancing a message that is the very essence of hope and expectation – telling our people that they are New Mexico True Talent – the greatest resources off our state.

No matter where I’ve gone in this community, and really across this state, there’s a hunger for hope and a craving for the expectation that we can lift families, and in turn our state, out of the cycles that have suppressed our potential and robbed too many of hope.

Harnessing the power of our systems in education, employment, and the myriad of supports for families, our New Mexico True Talent will become the embodiment of hope as they fulfill their own expectations for strong futures for themselves and their families.

Those futures give the rest of us tremendous reasons for hope and the expectation that our own future as a county, and as a state, will be bright!

Congrats to our graduates! And we wish you all a wonderful holiday season!