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Under mayor’s initiative, workers aim to improve lives

June 13, 2016

Mayor Javier Gonzales (right-center) with AmeriCorps VISTAs Tom Dubois, Salome Block, and Vanessa Martinez

Source: Santa Fe New Mexican

By: Daniel J. Chacón

June 13, 2016

An initiative launched by Mayor Javier Gonzales nearly two years ago to improve the lives of children and young people in Santa Fe soon will have boots on the ground.

At an informal gathering Monday at City Hall, Gonzales welcomed three of six grant-funded members of AmeriCorps’ Volunteers In Service to America program, also known as VISTA, who will work “in the trenches.” Each will be in one of six different concentration areas, including early childhood education, tutoring and workforce development. The other three are in the process of being hired or recruited.

Among the new workers is Tom DuBois, a former teacher, whose job duties include re-engaging youth, such as the hundreds of students who drop out of public school annually.

“I’ve got no delusions that I’ll fix the problem in a year. But even if you get just one, then we might prevent two or three children 20 years from now,” DuBois said. “It’s not just a Santa Fe problem. It’s a problem everywhere, and the more we do as humans, maybe someday we’ll figure it out.”

Gonzales said the workers represent an “important milestone” in his initiative because they show that the efforts of the city and others, such as the Santa Fe Community Foundation, are “yielding very positive results.” Gonzales, who made education and collaboration key platforms of his mayoral campaign, created a Children, Youth and Families Community Cabinet in 2014 to align financial resources with an array of organizations that serve local kids and young adults.

“We recognized that there were a lot of people funding youth development in our community, but we were doing it in silos,” Gonzales said.

Joohee Rand, vice president for community investment and strategy for the Santa Fe Community Foundation, said it took two years “just to come up with the alignment of outcomes and goals.”

“Sometimes it frustrates me that it’s taken so long to get there,” she said. “But if you’re thinking about behavior and culture change, we needed it.”

The work upfront paid off.

Michael J. Garcia, state program director for the Corporation for National and Community Service, said the city “had already done all the legwork” for the AmeriCorps grant, valued in excess of $120,000…

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Contact Daniel J. Chacón at 505-986-3089 or dchacon@sfnewmexican.com. Follow him on Twitter @danieljchacon.