LANL Foundation  /  Our Programs  /  K-12  /  Community Voice in Education

Community Voice in Education

In 2016, Learning Alliance New Mexico, Littleglobe, and the LANL Foundation partnered to gain a deeper understanding of the education landscape in Northern New Mexico. In Española and Ojo Caliente, the project engaged high school students, teachers, and community members through a layered approach to highlight successes, challenges, and opportunities for student support. LANL Foundation will use the feedback and films to inform future work.

Watch the Films

Film Process

The community engagement program involved these components:

  • Student Film Workshop: A “film crew” of high school students reflected upon their educational experience through writing, discussions, and peer interviews while learning about camera operations, audio, digital storytelling, lighting, and communication during a day-long intensive at their school.
  • Leadership Voices: Trusted, key members of the local schools and community shared their thoughts about educational needs and their vision for success. These voices were added to student film clips to create an informative video.
  • Community Forum: During an open meeting, the initial community-focused video and project research was shared, followed by a discussion surrounding the educational environment and systems.
  • Final Film and Report: The final films showcased the community dialogues. A final report highlights the work above and features recommendations responding to common themes.

Shared Themes Among Communities

  • Authentic relationships, where students feel seen and heard, support student success
  • Recognizing individuality helps to contextualize and personalize learning
  • Choice, agency, extracurriculars and community activities empower students
  • Navigating how to access higher education (enrollment process, financing, etc.) challenges aspirations to attend college
  • Students balance internal pride and appreciation for their community with frustration created by minimal professional opportunities within their community and outsiders’ misunderstandings of their community
  • Making their families proud motivates students to succeed in school
  • Complexities of daily life – familial, social and academic responsibilities – weigh on students
  • Community and parent involvement in the school, education system and policymaking creates a stronger environment for student support and learning
  • Ask students what they want, listen to and see their individuality and respond holistically, e.g. wrap-around services, project-based learning, leadership opportunities, etc.



  • Provide professional development to train teachers on social/emotional skills and relationship building activities, examples include “Nurtured Heart” curriculum
  • Convene student advisory groups comprised of diverse students to inform district boards, Tribal councils, and other bodies of local leadership, examples include Superintendent’s Student Advisory Council
  • Ensure at least one adult in each school learns about the individuality of each student, examples include: offering Advisories in grades 6 – 12
  • Enhance collective impact partnerships between local public, private and philanthropic entities, examples include Living Cities
  • Map community assets and allocate support to strengths, gaps and connective areas
  • Maintain the momentum of community dialogues by hosting additional meetings, examples include: a structure and format developed by local leaders who will own the effort and LANL Foundation provides data to inform the community work

Place: Challenge and Motivation

  • Create an authentic, positive, community-led narrative to share broadly, examples include “Our Time is Now”
  • Be honest about the past and hopeful about the future, examples include Truth and Reconciliation process
  • Invite and support local leaders to develop a place-based vision for the future of education and economic development, examples include Every Student Succeeds Act stakeholder engagement
  • Utilize schools as community hubs to convene intergenerational meetings, meals and programs, examples include Homework Diner

Student Support Beyond Academics

  • Bolster before and after school extracurricular activities to encourage attendance and engagement, examples include: music, art and dance
  • Ground curriculum in relevant, project-based, hands-on assignments that reflect student culture and align with local employment, examples include: Leadership High Schools
  • Introduce more counselors/wrap-around services, examples include: Communities in Schools
  • Offer a one-stop location/mobile bus for students and families to learn about college access and financing, examples include: Café College in San Antonio
  • Find creative ways to recognize students for their success inside and outside the classroom
  • Mentorship that flows both ways from adults or college students in community to high school students and high school students to elementary kids – encouraging students to develop a sense of self-worth

Next Steps

We are humbled and encouraged by the community pride, honesty, and strength of voice shared during this process. LANL Foundation knows that real change in any system must be led by the community itself. We are supporting and providing space to local leaders and a teacher discussion group to carry forward the next steps deemed most important.

LANL Foundation will use the outcomes of this project to responsively steer current programs and develop and invest in future work, partnerships, and advocacy efforts.