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Taos Group Receives Funds to Boost Rural Higher Ed, Workforce

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Friday, March 4, 2022   

A Taos-based group will spend the next two years as part of an initiative to improve higher education and workforce systems in Taos County.

The Taos Education Collaborative began in the midst of the pandemic. Only two years old, the Collaborative's first year focused on improving internet access, which they believe is critical for keeping students, families and adult learners engaged in their education.

Elizabeth LeBlanc, founder and education coordinator of Collaborative, said grant money from CivicLab will now help broaden their scope.

"And it's really all about creating rural learning systems," LeBlanc contended. "Not just new programs, but how do you unify what you have and really amplify it, so that it makes lasting change for your students and families?"

LeBlanc pointed out the Collaborative's initial efforts kept more 75 Taos families connected to home internet and made public more than 100 free community internet-access points.

Dakota Pawlicki, director of Talent Hubs at CivicLab, said the program allocated $750,000 to five rural communities it believes have largely been left out of postsecondary education and workforce initiatives.

"It's divided by five to each group," Pawlicki explained. "Each group gets roughly $150,000 worth of support, direct financial assistance and then also, technical assistance."

Technical assistance will include extensive training, which LeBlanc acknowledged as the smallest and newest group, will prevent the Collaborative from "reinventing the wheel" as it aligns rural educational.

She noted pathways to prosperity are critical for low-income learners, including adults entering or reentering workforce training programs.

"Every family's story is different and highly unique and so, there's not just kind-of a one-size-fits-all," LeBlanc emphasized. "We really need to think about that as we're moving forward and build really flexible pathways that have supports built into them."

The Taos Education Collaborative is a special project under the umbrella of the Taos Community Foundation. Other partners in the CivicLab rural initiative are based in California, Florida, Indiana and Texas.

Support for this reporting was provided by Lumina Foundation.


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