Press Release

Taos Education Collaborative Chosen for National Effort to Improve Rural Higher Education and Workforce Systems

Taos New Mexico, March 1, 2022 Taos Education Collaborative (TEC), a Special Project of Taos Community Foundation,  has been chosen by CivicLab as one of five rural partnerships across the U.S. to participate in a two-year initiative to improve higher education and workforce systems.  Supported by Ascendium Education Group, Taos Education Collaborative will receive training, technical assistance, and direct financial support valued at $150,000 to develop and implement system-level strategies that create pathways to prosperity for low-income learners.

Taos Education Collaborative (TEC) was selected through a national call for proposals. Each partnership in the cohort includes higher education institutions, nonprofit organizations, public agencies, private-sector partners, and other local stakeholders that work together to improve education and workforce outcomes.  To be selected, partnerships were required to submit plans that both improve outcomes for their residents and make lasting changes on higher education and workforce systems during the two-year grant period.

“Though many partnerships are deserving of this recognition and support, Taos Education Collaborative demonstrated they had the relationships, capacity, and capability to make real change,” said Dakota Pawlicki, director of Talent Hubs at CivicLab.

The TEC was founded in June 2020 as a response to the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on learning and educational access in the small rural town of Taos, and was initially incubated by the i4tl Center for Research and Innovation. The group’s first year goals focused on connection – both in terms of Internet access which was critical in keeping students, families, and adult learners engaged in their education and in terms of services to support their successful outcomes. Overall, the TEC’s initial efforts kept over 75 Taos families connected to home Internet, identified and made public over 100 free community Internet access points, and served over 125 students through CTE and Learning Lab programming. By pulling together community partners, the group hopes to build pipelines and pathways that connect increased educational opportunities to higher economic outcomes.

“We have so many great programs happening across our community,” said Elizabeth LeBlanc, Founder and Project Coordinator for the TEC. “But we struggle to connect these resources to one another and to the students and families that need them most. This opportunity comes at the perfect time in TEC’s growth as we move away from short-term solutions due to the pandemic and move into a larger community-wide role as a connector and catalyst for change.”

TEC joins a cohort of other partnerships from across the nation, from California, Florida, Indiana, and Texas.  This cohort will meet virtually and in-person to share ideas, resources, and receive technical assistance. 

Taos Education Collaborative is fiscally sponsored and supported by Taos Community Foundation, a nonprofit 501 © (3) organization that is dedicated to serving the people of Taos and western Colfax counties. Taos Community Foundation connects people, opportunities, and resources to build a more creative, caring, and thriving community. Said Helen Forte, the Director of Community Impact for the foundation, “We are thrilled to be involved in this work with TEC and CivicLab on an initiative that connects Taos to other rural communities working to improve outcomes and opportunities for residents of all ages.”

“Rural communities have largely been left out of national initiatives designed to improve postsecondary education and workforce outcomes,” said Kirstin Yeado, program officer at Ascendium. “Ascendium is pleased to support this diverse cohort of partners committed to strengthening their collaborative efforts and building the systems necessary to ensure more learners from low-income backgrounds earn degrees and credentials. We anticipate this work generating many lessons learned on how to build the capacity of postsecondary education and workforce training systems within a rural context.”

The initiative launched in February 2022 with Taos Education Collaborative’s guiding team attending a two-day Stakeholder Engagement Process Learning Lab at CivicLab’s headquarters in Columbus, Ind. The team will return in April 2022 for CivicLab’s System Building Lab to improve plans for making lasting change.             

“We are a small, but mighty team,” said LeBlanc. “But our students deserve the best we can give them.”

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About Taos Education Collaborative: The Taos Education Collaborative (TEC) was founded in June of 2020 to fill the gap in learning continuity for students of all ages across Taos County and to offset the educational inequities caused by lack of home Internet access and disparities in access to high-quality learning opportunities. TEC is a coalition of area schools, community organizations, businesses, nonprofits, and governmental entities who are committed to leaving no child or adult disconnected from 21st century educational opportunities.

About Ascendium Education Group: Ascendium Education Group is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization committed to helping people reach the education and career goals that matter to them. Ascendium invests in initiatives designed to increase the number of students from low-income backgrounds who complete postsecondary degrees, certificates and workforce training programs, with an emphasis on first-generation students, incarcerated adults, rural community members, students of color and veterans. Ascendium’s work identifies, validates and expands best practices to promote large-scale change at the institutional, system and state levels, with the intention of elevating opportunity for all. For more information, visit https://www.ascendiumphilanthropy.org.

About CivicLab: CivicLab, (a program of the Community Education Coalition) is a nonprofit institute dedicated to advancing the practice of civic collaboration and leading complex social systems. CivicLab’s approach is to: 1) learn what makes community collaboration work at its best, 2) document the discoveries, and 3) teach and share the practices broadly. The purpose of the work is to help communities increase their collective capacity—which is their ability to get things done, together. Since its inception, CivicLab has partnered with over 300 communities and organizations across the U.S. and trained more than 14,000 leaders of foundations, educational institutions, government, corporations, and community development organizations.

CivicLab is the home of Talent Hubs and the National Talent Network.  The Talent Hub designation signifies that a local or regional cross-sector partnership has met rigorous standards for creating environments that attract, retain, and cultivate talent, particularly among today’s students, many of whom are people of color, the first in their families to go to college, and from low-income households.  The designation serves both as an aspirational target for other cities to aim for and a platform from which cities designated as Talent Hubs can build.  The National Talent Network is a group of nearly 100 cross-sector partnerships working collaboratively to connect learning to economic opportunity in the places they call home.

CivicLab Media Contact:
Dakota Pawlicki                                   
CivicLab                                                
815-245-3222
dpawlicki@civiclab.org

For more information, visit https://www.rurallearningsystems.org.

Taos Education Collaborative Media Contact:
Elizabeth S. LeBlanc                          
Taos Education Collaborative                                                          
575-770-1313
elizabeth@taosedcollab.org

For more information, visit https://www.taosedcollab.org.


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