National Impact Community: Albuquerque, NM
NACA Inspired Impact
I would say, a main focus is strengthening and deepening cross movement relationships between organizations in Albuquerque that have a focus on social justice, the strengthening of those relationships has helped us move forward some of the system change work that we have done.”
—Maȟpíya Black Elk, Community Impact Leader, My Brothers Keeper Albuquerque, NACA Inspired Schools Network
The flagship school, NACA, was established in 2006 and the Network of Inspired Schools was created in 2013. The NACA Inspired Schools Network (NISN) works with students, families, and educators to create a network of schools that are responsive to the needs and aspirations of surrounding communities. By providing rigorous academics in an educational setting that celebrates community, cultural identity, and diversity, NISN is removing systemic barriers to educational parity in order to give all youth access to leadership opportunities, higher education, stable careers, and sustainable livelihoods. NISN’s years of experience and lessons learned led to the development of a one of a kind Social Emotional Learning Framework, that aims to create healthy, safe, supportive, and joyful schools, students, and families.
The Network’s flagship school, the Native American Community Academy (NACA), has piloted strategic, culturally relevant initiatives to create a learning environment reflective of the community served, while mentoring young men of color through communities of practice. NISN has been recognized for making culturally-relevant lessons and practices that are inclusive of indigenous values and practices. The Networks integrated-curriculum combines culture, community, and wellness with a rigorous focus on academics that is coordinated by the Network’s Curriculum Advisory Teams. The Network utilizes the “Wellness Wheel” as a framework and implementation tool for ensuring students’ holistic wellness and growth are prioritized. To provide individualized support to students, the Network Advisory Program provides every student with an advisor who acts as an advocate for the students and assures “positive relationship with adults.” As a result, graduation rates rose 20% among the school’s boys and young men of color.
NISN sees the school as a hub for robust community partnerships for the success of students and families. With the support of the MBK Alliance, NISN has expanded that community of practice to include civic-minded community organizations and to center the work around boys and young men of color. Together, with a racial and gender equity approach, NISN is working to increase opportunities and remove barriers in Albuquerque in order to support young peoples’ ability to thrive in school and beyond. They work with a network of community partners that offer comprehensive programs that support students, families, and surrounding communities. NISN schools are by and for Indigenous people, but also work very closely with partners, such as the New Mexico Dream Team,the largest immigrant, youth-led network in New Mexico committed to creating power for multi-generational, undocumentd, and mixed status families.
Identity, Development, and Relationships
Since embarking on its journey as an MBK Alliance Community, NISN has been devoted to working with youth and community stakeholders to identify and document SEL practices that most benefit boys and young men of color. Black Elk explained that “when we talk about SEL, we take the CASEL model’s five competencies and different layers and embed our holistic wellness approach. We also place more of a focus on identity development, and relationships.” NISN worked with partners to scale the NISN model and encourage safe, equitable, and culturally-relevant learning environments, especially focused on engaging boys and young men of color specific to attendance, persistence, and graduation goals. NISN worked individually with all of their partner organizations, with a focus on incorporating more content connected to identity development. The community of practice included a kick-off that highlighted youth participants who shared their experiences with SEL and highlighted the MBK Albuquerque team’s best practices to promote positive holistic health outcomes, including physical, social, and healthy relationships.
Data-Driven Community Engagement
NACA Inspired Schools Network also worked with young people to get their input as they designed questions for their annual survey, The Quad. The Quad survey helps gauge the experiences of youth across the partner organizations by capturing student and stakeholder feedback on indicators of identity and holistic wellbeing through a culturally relevant lens. The survey documents student connection with culture, language, wellness practices, community service, trusted relationships, and adult and peer support. Black Elk noted that the organizations also use the Youth Risk and Resiliency Survey, and incorporate Albuquerque Public School Demographics Data, but also “get into the more nitty gritty understanding of youth experiences at the different programs and schools.” Black Elk also explained that the school network utilizes the quad survey and is administered every year. “The Quad Survey goes to all of our schools. We developed these survey questions with our youth partners.” He further noted that youth participants of partner organizations would take the survey, and based on the data, NISN worked with each organization on their needs and provided support and certain types of training. The focus on data helped the network differentiate support to organizations and helped shape the development of training and resources that would be housed in the virtual resource hub.
According to their community data during COVID-19, NISN communities faced added stressors with 40% of New Mexican adults with children in the home feeling anxious, stressed, or on edge nearly every day, with increased anxiety due to school and child-care closures. Black Elk noted that “when the shutdown first happened [there was] lots of disengagement from youth, especially within our schools, it was a huge challenge.” NISN and partners took on the challenge by using best practices from past initiatives like #NativeMBK and existing youth development models with a virtual twist. Black Elk noted that Together for Brothers, switched their model to working online, calling it BRO (Brothers Reaching Online). BRO included online wellness sessions that were created and facilitated by young men of color. Together for Brothers (T4B) is a community organization led by young men of color, community & love, with partners and allies across NM to build power, demand justice & create change. Speaking to other popular initiatives Black Elk mentioned online poetry sessions and the INDIGItal Storytellers program that equips young people with the skills and resources to capture stories with cameras, capturing and creating videos of their own lived experience that could help tell a better story than most data does.
What’s Next: The Resource Hub
Set to be released in 2022, the Resource Hub is being developed with the intention of sharing the best practices and resources that have been found and developed for Indigenous students. The hub will provide examples of work from community partners doing identity development work, relationships, restorative justice. Schools and other organizations can go to the website and access short video clips that highlight those practices. The hub provides resources on Indiginous Education Core Values, Identity, Holistic Wellness, Academic Excellence, and Relationships. The website will provide additional resources in the content areas of: personal wellness, college engagement, indigious science & language; math & native literature; indiginous humanities; and indiginous art & technology. Set to be released in 2022, the Resource Hub is being developed with the intention of sharing the best practices and resources that have been found and developed for Indigenous students. The hub will provide examples of work from community partners doing identity development work, relationships, restorative justice. Schools and other organizations can go to the website and access short video clips that highlight those practices. The hub provides resources on Indiginous Education Core Values, Identity, Holistic Wellness, Academic Excellence, and Relationships. The website will provide additional resources in the content areas of: personal wellness, college engagement, indigious science & language; math & native literature; indiginous humanities; and indiginous art & technology.