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LANL Foundation
1112 Plaza del Norte
Española, NM 87532
tel: (505) 753-8890
fax: (505) 753-8915
info@lanlfoundation.org
 

History of the LANL Foundation

The LANL Foundation started with a cardboard box of files, seven pages filed with the IRS, and a plan for distributing $3 million a year in New Mexico. The idea to create a foundation that recognizes the interdependence of the Los Alamos National Laboratory and northern New Mexico communities came about during the administration of former LANL Director Sig Hecker. Dr. Hecker knew that by investing in education, learning, and community development, a regional foundation would enhance the vitality of northern New Mexico. He worked with the Congressional Delegation, the University of California, LAPS, DOE, and Laboratory management to make these goals a reality.

The LANL Foundation was founded in April of 1997 when John Brown was director of the Laboratory. It was the combined dedication of Mr. Browne, LANL Deputy Director Tom Garica, Bill Wadt, and the first board of directors that made the Foundation what it is today.

During the first year in operation, the LANL Foundation succeeded in acquiring the necessary grant money and awarding it to public school districts and nonprofit organizations, on time and with a fair, transparent community process. That first year, the University of California (UC) agreed to take the Foundation and its assets under the helm of the UC’s Treasurer’s Office, granting the LANL Foundation the status of a University Campus foundation. UC has continued to manage Foundation assets at the rate of 9 basis points with a return of over 10% annually on our portfolio.

The Scholarship Program
In 1997, the LANL Foundation took on yet another ambitious endeavor. Bob Romero and Gene Farnum suggested the start of a scholarship program funded by Lab employees to support students from all over northern New Mexico with money for college and summer jobs at the Laboratory. The first year the Los Alamos Employees’ Scholarship Fund (LAESF) raised $40,000 that was distributed to 25 students. To date, the Foundation and the LAESF Advisory Committee, a groups of dedicated LANL volunteers, have awarded $1.5 million to 450 students from every single high school in northern New Mexico. We now raise about $250,000 per year, which is matched by LANS, LLC for a total yearly fund of $500,000.

The Grants Program
In addition to honoring the Foundation’s support of education through the scholarship program, we must also celebrate our work with the areas public schools, which is our biggest means of support for local students. The Foundation gives away $2.6 million annually to public schools, totals of $1.2 million to Española, $780,000 to Santa Fe, and $400,000 to Pojoaque. In times of lean state budgets and tax support, this discretionary funding is pivotal to the schools’ success. Programs that support computer technology, reduction in drop out rates, increase in early literacy programs for Indian students, among others, are proposed and implemented by 20 local school districts in northern New Mexico.

The grants we are able to make each year are due to the commitment of the Department of Energy and Congressional Authorization that allows transfer of funds to the local schools through the annual Laboratory contract. Unsung heroes in this process have been Senators Pete Domenici and Jeff Bingaman and their talented staff members, as well as DOE officials throughout the years. The success of this foundation has been the work of countless public servants who recognize the value and opportunity to serve the communities of northern New Mexico.

In addition to our public school funds, we give away $1 million a year in grants to local nonprofit organizations. To date, those grants, which have supported over 1300 nonprofits and every school district in northern New Mexico, total over $20 million invested in the lives of our children and our future.

Challenges and Changes
Every year brings new opportunities and challenges. The year of the Cerro Grande Fire, the executive committee of the Foundation’s board held a meeting while the fires were still raging to discuss what we could do to help. We set aside grant money for a fire relief fund to specifically help nonprofits impacted by the fire. We raised over $500,000 in private donations and gave $500 to each family in need. This is an example of how a small regional foundation with the freedom to move quickly can act upon local knowledge and expertise to make a significant impact.

Five years ago the Foundation’s initial gift of a promised $35 million from DOE had been achieved. We knew that we would not receive any new monies. The board met to examine the current role of the Foundation, asking ourselves how we could further increase the impact of the Foundation, specifically focusing on equity issues and our service to the public schools. At the end of a six-month evaluation period, the committee made three recommendations: increase the payout of the endowment by $1 million per year to local school districts; pull back the service area of the Foundation from all of New Mexico to the seven northern counties; and see if we could begin to raise private monies.

We took a very hard look at the world of private philanthropy and decided to embark on a major gifts campaign, with an emphasis on three areas of giving: our scholarship portfolio, birth to three, and public education. Since we began this fundraising campaign we have partnered with eight school districts and helped them build local school foundations that have raised over $2.3 million. We have doubled the annual scholarship program with a generous gift from LANS, LLC that will allow us to increase our giving by in our Educational Outreach grant portfolio by $215,000 per year as well as fund the Regional Quality Center in Española and the Math and Science Academy. We have secured our first major private gift of $1.6 million, and matched a $1 million grant from the state with private and foundation funds to create a $2 million First Born Program.

And in our tenth year, we began the task of building our own building, a center for non-profit leadership to be located in Espanola, on a bluff overlooking the beautiful Española Valley. Last month our portfolio topped $60 million, a huge milestone for this young foundation.

First Born Program
In 2005, the LANL Foundation formed a Collaborative for Early Childhood Learning to design the framework for an evidence-based program that would improve the health and wellness status of first-time families. After exploring regional and national programs that build family strengths and competencies through community collaboration and home visitation, the Collaborative selected the First Born Program of Silver City, developed by Vicki Johnson, as a model that could be replicated in northern New Mexico. First Born was selected because of essential core elements including: community needs assessment, cost effectiveness, hospital affiliation, and assurance that counties and hospitals replicating the model will demonstrate fidelity to the program.

Since 2008, LANL Foundation has assisted in the growth of First Born from one office serving Grant County to 10 programs serving 15 New Mexico counties and the Navajo Nation. The Foundation funds, provides technical assistance and support, and in some areas has managed programs. Moving away from direct program management and oversight, the Foundation is now working to strengthern homevisting as an early learning model and build infrastructure among diverse programs throughout the state. Key focus areas include consistency of data reporting in the CYFD home visiting data system, shared best practices, professional development, and advocacy.

Northern New Mexico Inquiry Science Education Consortium (ISEC)
In fall 2010, the LANL Foundation launched the Northern New Mexico Inquiry Science Education Consortium (ISEC) as a regional program designed to improve STEM-related education for high-need students in grades K–6. Inquiry-based science programs across the nation have proven highly successful for closing student achievement gaps, particularly because they integrate the teaching of literacy and mathematics. The program is organized around three essential components: professional development, materials support, and quality, research-based curriculum.

Initially, four school districts (Española, Mesa Vista, Peñasco, and Santa Fe) joined the Consortium during the 2010–2011 school year, each making a five-year commitment to bring inquiry science instruction to all K–6 classrooms in their districts. Since then, ISEC has grown to include 29 schools across 6 school districts: Española, Dulce, Pojoaque, Mesa Vista, Peñasco and Santa Fe. ISEC uses a student-centered, multidimensional approach to STEM instruction and learning that is experiential, involves problem-solving, research, reasoning, writing, drawing and data collection and emphasizes “meaning making”, a process of critical thinking and discussion that allows for deeper comprehension of scientific concepts. Most importantly, the approach hinges on processes that include positive, active communication and relating to others.


Our Continued Commitment
We continue to attract the best and the brightest members of our community to serve on our board of directors, our advisory boards, and our staff. We continue to partner with creative and dedicated volunteers, with school districts, with laboratory employees and their contractors, and with dedicated elected and public officials to constantly improve our quality of service and commitment to the communities of northern New Mexico.


The LANL Foundation is committed to Investing in Human Potential: Helping our Children Learn, Nurturing their Dreams, and Strengthening our Communities
 

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