NM Students Need Better Job Opportunities and a Healthier Economy
posted on August 23, 2017 by Tony Monfiletto, Director
“I’m ambitious about a future that strikes a balance between resiliency and prosperity. When we do that, we will all be better off.”
“I want to be an engineer that designs the next generation of cars for BMW because the cars they make are so beautiful and sophisticated,” was a quote from one young scholar I recently had the privilege to interview for a prestigious scholarship. He came from a Mexican immigrant family with little privilege at home, yet he was also very passionate about his community. What was it that made him different? He told us about an internship at a film studio where he learned how to create commercials. He explained how the experience behind the lens of a camera had transformed him and he now imagines his life as the arch of a story that he will author. Through the partnership with his school, the film studio gave him the power to imagine a new reality. His new consciousness is the best chance for him to transform his community.
All of the young people I met serving on the scholarship review committee inspired me. Each one of them is a product of a caring school, tribe, town, village, or city, that taught them compassion for their neighbors. As much as I admired them, they also reminded me how much damage has been done to their communities in their lifetime.
The Albuquerque Journal recently published disheartening research about the job losses in our state. It pointed out that places with a high skilled workforce have growing economies and that investing in existing businesses and helping them expand is the best way to grow new jobs. For that young engineer and other students who want to come back home after college, will the opportunities here be rich enough to return home and help one of our local companies grow? This is the scenario that the researchers say we need.
Being at the bottom of every national list of social and economic indicators has been the experience of the young scholars who grew up in Taos, Gallup, Moriarty, Santa Fe, Albuquerque and on the Navajo reservation. They never really had a chance to imagine how they could transform their reality. Instead, their goal was to come home after college to help manage an increasingly untenable situation in their home town.
“I want to return home after college to become a nurse to make sure that the clinic my family uses is open on Sunday in case someone gets sick.”
“I want to go back home and become a drug and alcohol counselor because I know how much harm addiction has caused in my community.”
“I want to be a community activist so that I can make sure that my neighborhood becomes healthier and safe.”
These are the ambitions of some of the most talented students in our state who were selected primarily for their leadership potential. They have solid ACTs scores and GPAs that were good enough to make them competitive at most Universities in the country. They come from modest means, most of them are kids of color and every student was more selfless than the one before. These young people humbled me, and as a New Mexican I was proud that they cared so deeply about their families and their communities.
I’m proud to be from a state that nurtures young people. However, I don’t think we are doing enough to give the next generation of New Mexicans the experiences needed to fully reach their potential and transform our communities. I’m ambitious about a future that strikes a balance between resiliency and prosperity. When we do that, we will all be better off.
The New Mexico Center for School Leadership is currently beta testing an internship program for students in the Leadership High School Network with a local employer. Mission: Graduate is working at creating similar opportunities for young people in the Rio Grande cluster. But, we need more employers and other community leaders to give our young people the transformative experiences that will give them the tools and the vision to re-energize their home towns and our state. We are betting that young people and their communities will be healthier and more prosperous if we do.