Doing more for our kids

Dec 16, 2017

Participants at the Opportunity Santa Fe Summit 2017

Source: Santa Fe New Mexican

By: Javier Gonzales and William Smith

December 16, 2017

Our community is much more than a statistic. Our community is one of great beauty and great potential. However optimistic we feel about Santa Fe’s future, we must also be realistic about the challenges we face — particularly those facing our youngest residents, the future of our community.

For example, state child-poverty rates are the highest in the country. Almost 60 percent of 4-year-olds do not attend preschool. And in Santa Fe County, 16.4 percent of our youth ages 16 to 24 are not attending school and not working, compared to the national average of 12.3 percent.

If we’re going improve this, we need something big. We need something collaborative. We need something high-level and grass-roots. We need accountability and commitment — from everyone from parents to legislators — to help our children and youth succeed from birth to career.

We are confident that Opportunity Santa Fe, one of the most ambitious collective impact efforts in city history, is the big idea that we need. This initiative brings together a broad cross-section of community leaders, agencies and partners under one unifying mission: to improve the lives of Santa Fe children from birth until they enter their careers.

You’ve probably heard, “It takes a village to raise a child.” It’s an age-old saying for a reason; it takes everyone working together to give children and youth a step up. But not every student or family has the same support. This initiative aims to increase kindergarten readiness, math and reading proficiency, high school graduation, college enrollment and other major success factors. The ambitious goal is supported by several community organizations and partners, including the city of Santa Fe, Santa Fe Public Schools, Santa Fe Community College, the Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce, United Way of Santa Fe, Santa Fe Community Foundation and hundreds of other community partners and nonprofit organizations across the birth-to-career continuum. Opportunity Santa Fe helps connect the fragmented efforts of individual organizations across the city already doing great work in reading workshops, math tutoring, mentoring and child care assistance, and creates a coordinated force toward a more holistic (and successful) outcome. Together we can go further than we ever could alone.

The early stages of this work are already showing success. Over the past five years, Santa Fe’s high school graduation rate has increased by 14 percentage points. The number of associate degrees and certificates awarded by the Santa Fe Community College has increased by 95 percent over the past five years. Cumulatively, these strides mean that hundreds more Santa Feans have higher earning potential, are likely to remain employed and, on average, will live longer, more fulfilling lives. Now, we’re aiming higher…

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Javier M. Gonzales is mayor of Santa Fe. William Smith is chief executive officer of Santa Fe Community Foundation.