Since 2010, NMCAN has been partnering with young people impacted by systems to improve their transition to adulthood. We achieve this by supporting them to increase their social capital, connecting them to the resources that all youth need to be successful, and working with them to advocate for positive changes in our community. After 10 years of learning from young people and navigating the complex systems that strive to meet their needs, NMCAN has come to a point of reflection. In 2020, we sought to assess the impact of our work as well as improve young people’s experiences in our programs. COVID-19 also reinforced the need for this reflection by exacerbating the challenges faced by members of our country’s under-resourced communities.
NMCAN sought to learn more about what our organization does well and where we can have the most impact to ensure that New Mexico’s communities reflect young people’s voices, needs, and values. Through a process led by Pivot Evaluation, we learned that NMCAN succeeds in developing authentic relationships with young people through personalized engagement, support, and warm hand-offs in the community. We promote authenticity and flexibility in youth engagement, and our success is driven by their feedback and input. In FY2020, 90% of young people reported having a positive experience in our programs, and 81% of young people have an adult in their life who can help them go after their life goals.
Furthermore, we know that our success relies on an innovative approach to systems change work, seeking to find common-sense solutions that replicate the organic yet often invisible ways of building social capital—the ways that most people with family privilege develop and nurture their own social, emotional, and economic wellbeing. As a result of young people’s advocacy, systems are changing to improve how they support young people. Fostering Connections allows young people to opt into age-appropriate supports up to age 21, allowing them continued and uninterrupted access to resources like age-appropriate case management and living stipends, and a tuition waiver gives foster youth access to free college tuition at New Mexico’s public colleges or universities. By removing systemic barriers and offering supportive experiences in our programming, young people are demonstrating increases in relationship skill-building, leadership skills, emotional intelligence skills, and job-readiness skills.
This reflection process, which included feedback from young people, staff, board, and community partners, has prompted NMCAN to think about the next phase of our work to ensure that New Mexico will be a place where young people continue to build those skills, have a sense of belonging, and know they are valued and loved. Moving forward, NMCAN is prioritizing youth organizing. Our programming will look familiar, but we are refining it to emphasize what we do best—fostering healthy relationships and leadership skill development for young people. This is further reinforced by our belief that the most sustainable way to ensure that youth voice is equitably represented to lead positive change in under-resourced communities is for NMCAN to support young people in building their own individual leadership skills and giving them the platform to dismantle systemic racism, promote restorative, community-based programs that keep families together, and organize toward new narratives, practices, and policies around how to best support New Mexico’s youth and families and create the communities they want and deserve to live in.
In the next few months, NMCAN will continue to share organizational refinements that support youth organizing. If you have any immediate questions, please contact me at 505-217-0220 ext. 1001 or firstname.lastname@example.org.