Published on Feb 6, 2015
In Doña Ana County, The Bridge of Southern New Mexico, a local non-profit is working with business and education leaders to raise the graduation rates.
George Ruth, Chairman of The Board of Directors with the organization says the recent announcement of a $100,000 grant from the Hunt Family Foundation will help the group expand their mission.
“Our mission is to use a collaborative effort to improve the workforce in our area. The vision is to graduate one-hundred percent of the students in Doña Ana County who are ready to work in the world-wide economy.”
According to 2012 data from the New Mexico Public Education Department, the four-year cohort high school graduation rate in Doña Ana County was just over 73 percent, slightly higher than the 70 percent for the entire state. Ruth says high school graduates are likely to have more opportunities in life and also have a positive impact on society.
“Somebody that graduates is more apt to earn more money, they’re more apt to own a home, they’re more apt to not be arrested, and incarcerated, or to use drugs.”
The organization also recently announced new leadership with Denni Cheney taking over as the new President and CEO. Cheney says she hopes to strengthen student opportunities in the community through mentorships and internships.
“I feel like if we have students who have gone to different businesses, they’ll be able to realize what they want to do in their future, and maybe that will help them not drop out of high school, if they have that opportunity to work side-by-side at the bank, or in an accounting firm, or with a mechanic, so that way they will have that stability and maybe understanding of what they want to do as they grow up.”
One of the initiatives pushed by The Bridge of Southern New Mexico was the establishment of the Arrowhead Park Early College High School.
The school allows for high school students the opportunity to gain college credits immediately with a goal of having students graduate with an Associates in Arts Degree so that they can prepare sooner for the international workforce.
Samantha Costales is a student at Arrowhead Park Early College High School she has already taken some college courses, and plans on leaving Arrowhead Park with an Associate’s in Sciences Degree and a Certification in Drafting.
“I wanted to go to school here because I wanted to challenge myself. I was very much into science when I was in middle school. I was part of an electric fuel team that took first place. It kind of prompted my way towards here. So coming here prepared me to do better for myself and exceed my limitations,” says Costales.
Last year, the school graduated its first class. Principal Jennifer Amis shares how the students did.
“One-hundred eight seniors generated 109 Associate’s Degrees and 95 industry certifications, so we’re so excited about that,” says Amis.”
Amis says that 60 of those students received scholarships and have moved on to Doña Ana Community College, New Mexico State University, and other higher education institutions outside the state.
With degrees and certifications already in hand, the students will have more job opportunities and may offer more hope for stronger workforce in Doña Ana County.