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
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
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.