$3.2M federal grant funds culturally responsive college & career readiness

Carmen Lopez, Executive Director of College Horizons, Inc. Navajo Nation.Photo courtesy: Carmen Lopez

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Bernalillo Public Schools received a four-year federal grant for 7-12th grade Native American students

News Release

Bernalillo Public Schools

Bernalillo Public Schools, in collaboration with the Pueblos of Cochiti, Santa Ana, Santo Domingo, San Felipe, Zia, Jemez, and Sandia, College Horizons, Inc. and the Leadership Institute at the Santa Fe Indian School, received a $3.2 multimillion-dollar four-year federal grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Native Youth Community Project to implement a culturally-responsive college and career readiness curriculum for 7-12th grade Native American students in the Bernalillo Public Schools.

The new initiative, known as the Student Success Program (SSP), will be rooted and aligned with Pueblo core values and cultural needs so that Pueblo students will not have to choose between culture or college. “In our work at College Horizons, culturally relevant and responsive college advisement is foundational. We want Native students to attend high school and college as their full selves - bringing their culture, language, ancestors and indigenous ways of knowing with them because these are gifts, blessings and educational assets,” states Carmen Lopez, Executive Director of College Horizons. Lopez continues, “We are excited to work with BPS and the Pueblo Communities to help them develop a college and career readiness program where culture and community are at the core of college and career readiness.”

One of the main goals of the project is to increase parent/family and Pueblo community engagement in college and career readiness curricular goals through institutes that gather the needs, recommendations, and priorities of the community. Dr. Curtis Chavez, Indian Education Coordinator at BPS states, “This is a great opportunity for family and community to come together to discuss the future of their children. It will allow communities to voice their thoughts through the lens of a Pueblo prospective.”   

Superintendent of BPS, Keith Cowan adds, “Students will receive individual support in regards to internships and advisement for college opportunities. This is an exceptional opportunity for BPS and the Tribal communities along with College Horizons and the Leadership Institute to come together to support the success of our students.” The funding opens up eight new job opportunities – one Project Director who is responsible for overall project management and seven Student Success Coordinators to be placed at the middle and high school level to connect networks between the students, the school, Tribal Education Departments, families and the community. The goal is to provide school and community-based individualized advising to students and families through regular workshops and trainings that take place in the school and in the Pueblo communities. On Tribal engagement, Alissa Chavez Lowe, Education Director at San Felipe adds, “This grant presents an exciting step forward in bringing together a public school district, tribal organizations, and tribal communities to address the need for college and career guidance that is meaningful to our Native students. Tribal Education Departments have long been the bridge between schools and tribal communities. With the additional support of the Student Success Program team we hope to have an even greater impact on the collective futures of our tribal students.” The program will serve over 600 Native American students in BPS middle and high school, as well as over 500 parents/families.

Bernalillo Public School system has an Indian Education Department which oversees education for 1,327 Native American students throughout the district. Additional members of the planning committee include: Tribal Education Department leaders from 7 different Pueblos; The Leadership Institute, which is housed in Santa Fe Indian School and addresses public policy and community needs; and College Horizons, which is housed in Bernalillo and has provided College Counseling to over 2,900 Native youth from across the country for over 20 years.

"This is a game changer a major paradigm shift in college readiness for Native American students aligned with the Martinez/Yazzie findings as a necessary step to address the glaring short comings.” Regis Pecos, Co-Founder of the Leadership Institute continues, “This no doubt will become a model in New Mexico and the nation. This epitomizes what is possible when Pueblo leaders and educators work collaboratively with local School Boards and their education leaders."


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