Strong Starts for Children Community Profiles
Photo: Iroots Media
Residents of Pajarito Mesa, N.M., celebrate at their kickoff for Strong Starts for Children dialogues.
All Indian Pueblo Council (Five Sandoval Indian Pueblos, Inc.)—
The All Indian Pueblo Council formed a broad-based coalition to engage pueblo communities in dialogue and problem solving, and to design strategy for policy-level change on issues of economic self sufficiency, education capacity, and healthy living.
Cuidando los Niños (on behalf of the New Mexico Campaign to End Child Homelessness) — When a child goes homeless, even just for one night, that child’s community cannot succeed in supporting and nurturing its children. This is the belief of the nonprofit organization Cuidando los Niños (CLN). For more than twenty years, CLN has advocated on behalf of and provided support services to homeless children and their families in Albuquerque.
In partnership with the New Mexico Campaign to End Child Homelessness, CLN joined the Strong Starts for Children initiative to bring people together in dialogues in four Albuquerque neighborhoods to explore the causes and consequences of child and family homelessness, and its impact on early childhood development. As a result of the dialogues, CLN created a film festival in which middle- and high-school youth produced short films to educate and motivate the public to end child and family homelessness. A second film festival is now underway. The University of New Mexico Family Development Program (in collaboration with Decade of the Child, a statewide early childhood advocacy coalition) —
Changing the early learning paradigm that informs how teachers, parents and policy makers think about young children’s learning is the charge of the Family Development Program at the University of New Mexico. As part its work the strengthen early childhood education, the Family Development Program joined the statewide grassroots, advocacy coalition “Decade of the Child” and, together, they launched the effort “Launching the Decade of the Child: Strong Starts for Our Children.” The initiative brought together teen parents, urban Native Americans, immigrant populations, families without homes, and incarcerated parents to talk and act together to support children’s growth and development. Following the dialogues, people in eight sites across Albuquerque, including one virtual site, formed action teams to create:
- Links between two websites (www.nmecc.org and www.mycommunitynm.org) that connect New Mexico’s early childhood professionals through discussion groups, collaboration tools, and video chat and to resources through an
extensive online, bilingual directory.
- The Helen Cordero Elementary School community garden to help advocate for healthy foods and nutrition. The group running the garden is currently talking with the Albuquerque Public Schools to get more land to expand the garden.
More work also took place outside of these action teams. Members of Families United for Education who took part in the effort adopted the Strong Starts for Children discussion materials and process to help advance their work on a family engagement policy for the Albuquerque Public Schools.
Native American Professional Parent Resources, Inc. — Following the mantra “healthy families make strong communities,” the Native American Professional Parent Resources, Inc. (NAPPR) provides culturally appropriate and sensitive services to Native American families in the greater Albuquerque area. NAPPR used the Strong Starts for Children initiative to train community and tribal leaders in engaging their communities in dialogues on issues of early childhood wellness. With a diverse coalition of grassroots leaders, parents, grandparents, members of the Zia Pueblo and NativeAmerican CommunityAcademy, and others, NAPPR involved more than a 100 people in dialogues, including many young people.
The dialogues led to people learning about and, ultimately, supporting the Native AmericanCommunity Academy’s plans to expand to serve elementary school students. Using listening sessions and “PhotoVoice,” a participatory photography method, dialogue participants solicited input from parents on the program design of the elementary school.
Members of the Zia Pueblo, who also took part in their own dialogues as part of NAPPR’s Strong Starts effort, chose to expand their language revitalization program as a result of taking part in the Strong Starts for Children dialogues. Youth Development, Inc., Pajarito Mesa Strong Starts for Children —
Pajarito Mesa residents, in partnership with Albuquerque-based Youth Development, Inc., joined the Strong Starts for Children
initiative to help its residents work together with Bernalillo County commissioners and others to enhance the quality of life for children and their families. The community lacks basic services such as water, electricity and paved roads. When called, emergency personnel have trouble identifying home locations. Illegal dumping on the Mesa by non-residents is common. Through dialogues with individuals representing churches, nonprofits, businesses, schools, health organizations, and the county commissioner’s office, Mesa residents generated a number of action ideas, and have since established:
- A community center using a donated portable building from Bernalillo County. As part of the center’s services, the staff of Youth Development, Inc., plan to offer free tutoring and support services for the children and families of the Pajarito Mesa.
- Nonprofit status and a formal executive director for the Pajarito Mesa Foundation with the help of the University of New Mexico School of Law’s clinical program. Since its formalization, the Foundation has seen its meetings become more productive with public officials from Bernalillo County attending and responding to the community’s issues and needs.
- Six garden plots as a way to increase food security and create a healthy community. In continuing its efforts to maintain a healthy community, Pajarito Mesa is also working with the University of New Mexico’s nutrition program to provide nutrition education to residents and the university’s hospital to provide monthly mobile, healthcare services on the Mesa.
- A new round of dialogues on community planning with Bernalillo County commissioners and Pajarito Mesa landowners.