Originally published in the Las Cruces Bulletin on April 20, 2018.
Collaboration continues to be the driving force transforming the future of Las Cruces and Dona Ana County — as consistent and persistent as a heartbeat and proving the power of possible.
Collaboration was at the heart of this year’s Greater Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce Gala, where The Bridge of Southern New Mexico was privileged to be named the 2017 Nonprofit of the Year. It was an awesome recognition of the ground-breaking work this group of cross-sector leaders continues to do to transform the future of our city, county and region.
Each one brings their passion and commitment to the table that creates this “bridge” across our community. Each mobilizes their wisdom and respective resources to work in harmony toward a shared set of goals that are and will profoundly shape the future for those who live here – always keeping young people at the center of all we do. Our future rides on what we invest in them. We need them to build the future we will all live in, including new careers and new industries we can’t even imagine today.
2017 proved the power of possible when we work together.
Through the mission-aligned Workforce Talent Collaborative, a broader set of community partners have come alongside us to “crack the code” on how to harness our collective assets to build the skilled and ready workforce that will ignite economic transformation of our region.
Last year, we became even more passionate about the dual credit courses that propel students toward college completion points alongside their high school diplomas. Thanks to the work of the Dual Credit Committee, we did what no one had done before – quantified a direct return on investment for families and the state if we sustainably fund these courses. We also showed how important they are to closing the pervasive middle-skills gaps in our state’s workforce.
Arrowhead Park Early College High School, the first outcome of The Bridge’s collective work, was named a Blue Ribbon School by the US Department of Education and continued to lead the way in near 100% graduation rates. There are now 20 early college high schools across the state working on behalf of students and their families.
By coming together as a community, we have proven that we can achieve what we set out to do. We wanted to achieve the highest graduation rates in the state. And we did! We want to build a skilled and ready workforce capable of driving economic development across the region. And we are!
Thank you to the Greater Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce for this recognition that is, in many ways, a demonstration of coming full circle. The Chamber was the place where the seeds of The Bridge were first planted back in 2007. And now, those seeds are coming into full bloom across this community.
How do I know? Because of what happened earlier on the day of chamber’s event.
The Bridge was invited to join an astronaut, the reigning Miss New Mexico (who’s also an engineer at White Sands Missile Range), and a host of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM)-focused community partners for a STEM career fair at Gadsden High School hosted by U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich’s office.
A gym packed with students had the opportunity to explore a host of STEM education and career options that are literally right here in their back yard. New Mexico State University’s numerous engineering programs had a ton of interactive demonstrations of STEM in real life. Dona Ana Community College’s Nursing program spoke to the abundant opportunities in Healthcare.
Students learned about internships and job placement opportunities through New Mexico Workforce Connections. They got to speak with Marines about STEM careers in the military and learned about the Las Cruces Space Festival.
Students heard the message that, “We need you to build the future we will live in, including new careers and new industries we can’t even imagine today.”
Those students heard the same message we heard at the chamber’s event…we have everything we need to be successful right here in our community – specifically because we are working together like nowhere else in the state.