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Happy New Year from CISNM's New Leadership!

From Executive Director, Michelle Katz


Dear Friends and Supporters of Communities In Schools of New Mexico,


Happy New Year! It is with great honor and heart that I step into 2024 as the Executive Director of Communities In Schools of New Mexico. I joined this amazing organization just over a year ago as Deputy Director, and I have served as Acting Director since April 2023. Each and every day, I have been humbled to witness the deep and powerful ways our wonderful team supports the students, families and schools CISNM serves. In being of service to this team, I have found my home and my purpose.


I am the child of parents who immigrated from Ukraine and instilled in my brother and me the value and power of education. Their experience - and the historical trauma of my people - led me to dedicate my career to the mental health and wellbeing of young people and families. I have been honored to serve children and families in many capacities: as a school counselor, family therapist, and a Rites of Passage and wilderness guide. I was also privileged to lead the development of the Eight Northern Indian Pueblos Council’s Upward Bound Program; the New Mexico PAX Good Behavior Initiative though the NM Behavioral Health Services Division (NMBHSD); and the New Mexico Public Education Department (NMPED)’s Project AWARE. These experiences have helped me to build and grow many important relationships that position Communities In Schools of New Mexico for future success and growth.


This school year, our incredible team of 17 full-time Site Coordinators and 50+ trained volunteers are working in 12 high-poverty schools with heart and passion to serve nearly 6,000 PreK-12 students and their families. They provide families each and every day with basic needs resources and referrals to many agencies and services, as well as guide students to success through services ranging from academic tutoring, to intensive support for behavioral and mental health. Most importantly, they provide students with a positive adult relationship that increases students’ motivation to stay in school and to succeed in life. This ability to build authentic relationships is Communities In Schools’ value-added proposition – in other words, that quality which makes our organization uniquely able to reach and serve students and schools, and to change the lives of children and families in our community for the better.


As our work unfolds this year, our top priority as an organization is to be of service in support of Santa Fe Public Schools’ priority goals: improving attendance, family engagement, social-emotional learning, and academic achievement. We also strive each day to create a healthy, supportive culture for our organization’s most valuable assets - our staff and volunteers - by encouraging deeper self-care and providing more opportunities for individual and collective professional development. Communities In Schools remains committed to systems-level change as well, and we continue to deepen our work and partnerships with districts outside of Santa Fe, as well as with other community school practitioners across the state (including ABC Community Schools, NEA-NM, and the Southwest Institute for Transformational Education). In addition, we continue to work closely with many key public agencies who can support our work (the City of Santa Fe, Santa Fe County, and the New Mexico Department of Behavioral Health Services). Through a new community-wide initiative we call Collective Action for Families and Youth (CAFY), we are working across Santa Fe’s nonprofit sector to bring multiple organizations together in collective service to our children and families in order to proactively address some of our community’s profound challenges, such as affordable housing. We believe we have the best chance to live into a collective vision of a better life for all children and families in Santa Fe when we work together.



As I look forward to the year ahead, the wisdom of my team and the collective organizational values that we have identified together – those of integrity, inspiration, empathy, learning, community, equity, and joy – will guide me. I am so fortunate to lead a team of experts with deep knowledge of how to best serve their community, and Communities In Schools of New Mexico is equally fortunate to have the support of a community that truly values and invests in education and student success. I view leadership as a process of continuous and deep reflection and learning that begins with listening and sharing, and I look forward to listening to and sharing with you - my community - over the years to come.


Sincerely,


Michelle Katz

Executive Director



From Board President, Rebecca Estrada


Happy New Year and best wishes for a joyful 2024 from the Communities in Schools of New Mexico’s board of directors!


I write this message as the recently elected President of our board. First, let me begin by thanking my predecessor, Rachel White, who has been an amazing leader, colleague, and friend. I am grateful for her leadership and mentorship and recognize the enormous shoes into which I step. 


I recognize the vital and invaluable service that this organization provides to students and their families; particularly because, in many ways, I could have been one of the students served by CISNM. I was born and raised in New Mexico, the daughter of parents born in Mexico, and was the first in my immediate family to receive a postgraduate degree. I credit the educators and mentors in my life with helping illuminate a pathway that has led me on a fulfilling educational and professional journey. I see our CISNM staff leaders do this every day for their students and for each other.


I have served in higher education for 25+ years, the majority of which has been spent serving students in New Mexico. My professional experience, including as an Aspen Presidential Fellow, has shown me the critical connection between education and social justice. CISNM initiatives have resulted in real community impact, both within the school walls and outside of them. In 2023 alone, CISNM placed 17 full-time, bilingual youth development professionals in 12 high-poverty schools; provided 5,650+ PreK-12 students with access to CIS wraparound support and guidance; coordinated 50+ trained volunteer tutors to support students; and delivered 2,500+ meals in the form of groceries, 300+ backpacks, and 600+ coats and warm sweatshirts to students. This work creates impact and change, and it is why I am humbled and honored to serve on the CISNM Board.  


We are particularly grateful to and proud of the amazing professionals who make up our CISNM staff family. Some of their notable achievements include Erika Reyes Gonzalez, Capital High School Coordinator, being named a 2023 40 Under Forty award recipient by the Santa Fe Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in recognition of her community work and the impact she makes with students and families every day. Michelle Katz, our Executive Director, participated in last year’s Leadership Santa Fe cohort where she connected with other community leaders and engaged in shared learning activities focusing on working collaboratively with community leaders and policymakers. She was chosen because of her extensive leadership experience and was able to continue to tell the story of CISNM. Ellie Hoffman, Program Co-Director, forms part of Leadership Santa Fe’s current cohort, and we all look forward to what she will bring back to the organization as a result. We are equally excited about Program Co-Director Stephanie Morlino’s recent acceptance into CIS National’s professional development series for Program Directors, which will provide her with the opportunity to network with and learn from other CIS affiliates leaders while growing her skills. We are so proud of Bryan Holmes, Site Coordinator at El Camino Real Academy, who was selected to present at CIS National’s Achieve in Life Conference, and of our Community Resource Navigator, Lauren Iversen, who recently received a Helping Hands Award for her part in referring the families we serve to partner agencies through the Santa Fe City / County Unite Us CONNECT network. We have an amazing and talented staff and look forward to how they will all grow together and as a team this year. CISNM’s 2024 truly looks bright!


CISNM would not be as successful as it is today without our community of partners, funders, and loyal donors. Thank you for all you have done and all you will do. We are so very grateful to you and send best wishes for the new year. Each of you contributes so much to our organization, and I want to thank you for helping us achieve one of our most successful years yet, while always keeping our eye laser-focused on our mission.


May this new year bring you happiness, success, and joy, and please know how grateful we are to our community for its support and generosity.


Sincerely,

Rebecca Estrada

Board President


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