SANTA FE — Thursday, the New Mexico Early Childhood Education and Care Department (ECECD) announced that it has awarded $7 million in endowment grants to seven colleges and universities to strengthen the pipeline for a diverse and credentialed early childhood workforce.
The grants will support early childhood degree programs across New Mexico and aid in the recruitment of students from Indigenous and bilingual communities into early childhood degree programs. The funds will be used to set up endowments, hire additional faculty and staff, add courses focused on multicultural early childhood education, and implement teacher recruitment strategies to increase diversity.
“New Mexico’s multicultural heritage is one of the things that makes our state special,” ECECD Cabinet Secretary Elizabeth Groginsky said. “That’s why it’s especially important to ensure that our early childhood workforce reflects the diverse communities they will be serving – especially in Tribal communities where culture and language are key components of early education and development. These new early childhood endowments are part of our strategy to attract a diverse pool of talent to the early childhood profession and support them in their pursuit of degrees and credentials.”
“We are proud to join the Early Childhood Education Care Department in awarding these funds to support a diverse and credentialed workforce of early childhood educators by investing in teacher preparation programs at our public colleges and universities,” Higher Education Secretary Stephanie M. Rodriguez said. “Together with Gov. Lujan Grisham and our sister education agencies, we are committed to building and sustaining career pipelines that empower Indigenous and bilingual communities and expand culturally-relevant education at every level.”
Studies have confirmed what Native communities have always known: when early learning is rooted in Indigenous culture and reinforces heritage language acquisition, it leads to better outcomes for children. With a strong foundation based in culturally responsive early education and care, Native American children are more secure in their identity, have healthier attachments to family and community, experience fewer developmental delays, and have higher graduation rates. Ensuring that Tribal and bilingual communities in New Mexico have highly trained early childhood professionals with relevant cultural and linguistic knowledge is a key part of reversing entrenched educational inequities within New Mexico.
“This grant will be especially beneficial in our efforts to increase equity and diversity within our early childhood program,” said Alexis Esslinger, San Juan College Early Childhood Education Program Director. “Due to San Juan College’s close proximity to the Navajo Nation, Jicarilla Apache Nation, and Southern Ute Indian Tribe, we are uniquely positioned to serve as a critical pipeline for early educators in these communities. This grant will enable us to strategically train more than 100 new Native American and bilingual early childhood professionals, who will go on to provide culturally relevant programming in their home communities.”
Funding for the grants was approved by Gov. Lujan Grisham as part of ECECD’s budget during the 2021 legislative session.
The recipients of the endowment grants include:
- Central New Mexico Community College ($1,187,000)
Funding will be used to create a new Early Childhood Multicultural Education Lead Faculty position at CNM to champion the recruitment of diverse candidates, curriculum development, program design, faculty and student support, and community partnerships;
- Eastern New Mexico University ($458,000)
Funding will be used to establish an endowed professorship focused on research and recruitment specific to early childhood education, help to increase recruitment of culturally and linguistically diverse students, and expand research on multicultural early childhood interventions, education, and development;
- New Mexico State University ($1,187,000)
Funding will be used to support the addition of two new graduate assistant positions which will work collaboratively with stakeholders in early childhood education educator programs within the Glass Family Research Institute (GFRI) for Early Childhood Studies to expand the use of accelerated early childhood degree pathways and increase the number of Indigenous and bilingual early childhood educators;
- San Juan College ($607,000)
Funding will be used to support adjunct early childhood faculty and recruit 125 Native American and bilingual students into the early childhood program over five years, as well as providing mentoring, guidance, curriculum support, academic reviews, and professional steering;
- Santa Fe Community College ($1,187,000)
Funding will be used to support a new full-time bilingual early childhood faculty member to enhance early childhood teaching and learning programs in English and Spanish. as well as expanding the Early Childhood Bilingual Coordinator staff position who will be responsible for recruitment and advisement of Spanish-speaking educators in the early childhood programs;
- University of New Mexico ($1,187,000)
Funding will be used to support endowed faculty to the Early Childhood Education Program, increase student recruitment, expand funding into new areas of specialty (Indigenous education and bilingual foci), and augment and adjust the program to better align with findings from Martinez & Yazzie lawsuits; and
- Western New Mexico University ($1,187,000)
Funding will be used to support the development of a bilingual education pathway within WNMU’s Early Childhood Programs Center of Excellence by hiring an Early Childhood Bilingual Program Director to expand, support, and recruit Indigenous and bilingual educators in southwest New Mexico.