Bringing the community together to plan, advocate, and provide programs from birth to career.
Over the last ten years, United Way of Santa Fe County (UWSFC) is committed to “creating lasting change in chronic community conditions” as its mission. This mission is realized through the Santa Fe Children’s Project (SFCP).
The SFCP is an innovative community development initiative that seeks to strengthen families, and the whole community, through a sequential pipeline of early intervention, education, and development opportunities. A fundamental component of the SFCP is public/private partnerships and alliances with other organizations in the community. Santa Fe Public Schools, Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center, the Los Alamos National Laboratory Foundation, and youth-serving providers are examples. Sustainable financing strategies are also a priority. The individual program components currently in place are briefly described in what follows.
Home Visiting Birth to Three
We utilize the First Born® Program (FBP) for children 0–3. The foundation of the FBP is the belief that a resilient family, beginning with a healthy, low-risk pregnancy, is the most effective and efficient unit for building a healthy and competent society. Weekly home visitation services may begin any time during pregnancy, or right after the birth of a family’s first child, and continue until the child is three years of age. Book Clubs provide support for early literacy and a social support network for families. The county-wide implementation of the First Born® Program in Santa Fe is a joint undertaking of United Way of Santa Fe County and Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center.
The Pre-K program is the primary vehicle through which we accomplish our goal of kindergarten readiness. During the past several years we have operated seven Pre-K classes located at three predominantly low-income public elementary schools. Our high-quality Pre-K offers an age-appropriate research-based curriculum and intensive family support. Beginning with the 2010-2011 school year we began operation of an early childhood center located on the campus of Santa Fe Public Schools new K-8 Aspen Community Magnet School.
Community Schools and Out-of-School-Time Programming
The primary intervention for elementary school children ages 5-12 years is a robust Community School model which includes support and enrichment during the hours that the school is not typically operating. The Community School model was pioneered and developed at Kaune Elementary. We are working with a number of community organizations to develop a dynamic afterschool program that supports and complements the formal in-school-day curriculum. In addition, we are utilizing the Harwood Institute’s approach to community engagement to understand the aspirations of parents and community members, to enlist the participation of parents and community members and to cultivate parents and community members to assume leadership roles and to become active advocates for their children’s education and future success.
Beginning in the 2010-2011 school year Kaune Elementary merged with two other elementary schools to form the Aspen Community Magnet School. SFCP/UWSFC continues with the development of the Community School model at the new school, giving us the opportunity to serve three times more students, families, and community members and to deepen our partnership with the Santa Fe Public Schools.
Mobilization for Education
This is our most recent program component. This new work allows us to involve the broader community in determining what it will take to create quality education for all children – and, by transforming the public schools to increase student achievement, will protect the value of our substantial investment in early childhood development and early education. Over the next couple of years, UWSFC will devote substantial resources to engage the broader community in: understanding community aspirations for education; recognizing the critical need for improving our schools; committing ourselves to addressing community conditions and taking responsibility for this improvement; and in creating, and eventually implementing, an effective reform strategy.
Early Childhood Policy and Advocacy
UWSFC has spearheaded a path-breaking initiative – the New Mexico Early Childhood Economic Partnership – that is bringing business and community leaders to the table in an unprecedented groundswell of support for increased sustainable public funding for early childhood development. This work involves identifying viable sources and strategies for increased public funding and then creating and supporting the necessary legislation and public policy to secure these funds in perpetuity.