Category Archives: NLNE

NLNE The Partners: West Texas A&M Univesity

No Limits No Excuses: How did WTAMU get involved with No Limits, No Excuses?

West Texas A&M University: My understanding is that James Hallmark – who was the Provost at the time – had been involved with Amarillo Area Foundation and Panhandle 2020 and he was the first to hook in to what is now No Limits, No Excuses. I think they called it PPS at the time. So, he was the Provost and I was the Associate Provost, and he knew that I had been involved in  P16 initiatives for a while as a faculty member and so he asked me to start attending the meetings, and shortly after that, he left the university to go to College Station and I became the Provost.

But by that time, I think I knew enough about it that we had to be involved and  it’s something I feel strongly and passionate about, so rather than delegate it to someone else, I tried to maintain my role there. We’ve had several other people who have been involved in it as well.

 

NLNE:  What’s kept WT’s involvement during the five-plus years since No Limits, No Excuses has started?

WT: Well, I think you have to step back and look at the big picture. First of all, we’re an educational institution and so, educational attainment and providing people with high quality higher education, that’s the core mission of what we are. No Limits, No Excuses, even though it moves in lots of different directions, it looks at poverty, it looks at job training and all these other things, at its core it’s still about increasing the educational attainment of the region that we’re located in.

 

We can only thrive, we can only grow if the area that we’re located in is thriving and growing as well, and so in a sense, that’s maybe self-serving because a strong Panhandle means a strong WT. But more importantly, it’s what we’re put here to do. It’s our goal. It’s our mission. It’s to reach as many people in the area as we can and provide them with educational opportunities, and I think to partner with Amarillo College, to partner with AISD, to partner with business and to integrate ourselves into the community even more strongly than we already are.

 

NLNE: How has the partnership increased your relationship with other institutions?

WT: I guess I’ll answer that in two parts. Personally, I have gained such a broader understanding of how Amarillo College operates, the leadership there, their mission and certainly, the same is true of AISD. For a lot of people at the university, we don’t have to think very much or very hard about the independent school districts that are in the region.

I always joke about college professors who think that their students drop from the heavens on the first day of class, and don’t have any prior experience or knowledge. So, to learn about the issues facing them, to learn for instance, about the level of poverty, the number of children who are on free and reduced lunches, to learn about the breadth of programming that Amarillo College has.

All that is knowledge that I carry to meetings that I have on campus when we talk about, what’s our goal, what’s our vision, how do we connect with these people? It just provides me with the breadth of knowledge I didn’t have, and then connections, quite honestly, to important people like Russell Lowery-Hart and Dana West. I would probably not move in those circles otherwise if I didn’t have this connection.

As an institution, I think that the answer is also very similar. I try to share that information as I said, in meetings when I’m with the deans, when I’m with the President, when I’m with other people, to either clarify things or to point out chances for us to partner, or chances for us to work on a common initiative. Dr. Wendler is very open and very interested in those sorts of things, so I think that will pick up some steam now that he’s assumed his leadership role here on campus. Continue reading

NLNE The Partners: Amarillo College

In this edition of “The Partners,” we sit down with Amarillo College’s Presidents, Russell Lowery-Hart.  

No Limits No Excuses: How did Amarillo College originally get involved with No Limits No Excuses?

Amarillo College: When Partners for Postsecondary Success (PPS) first came out with the Gates Grant, the Foundation pulled people together, and Amarillo College was in that room. I remember vividly seeing all the organizations in the room, talking about educational attainment, and I’m thinking, this is the opportunity for Amarillo College to integrate itself into the community more fully. I felt like people supported the College but didn’t understand it because I wasn’t sure the college had been truly responsive to all of our partners. To have a unifying goal as a community gave me great clarity where I could come back to Amarillo College and immediately start linking things that we wanted to do to the goal or redesign things to fulfill that goal.

 

It was a natural fit, immediately, and it gave a framework for our work internally, not just for the partnership. Our PPS coaches gave us a framework that we started evaluating all of our interventions against. It gave us the context of a living wage. And now, we won’t entertain starting a program that doesn’t start with a living wage or won’t lead to a living wage and a pathway.

 

NLNE: What has kept AC’s involvement through this five-year process?

AC: Because it’s made us better. It helped us understand our students more fully so that we could serve the students we have, not the students we wish we had or thought we had. It’s integrated us with other partners like AISD, Workforce Solutions, and the ACE program.

I feel like we’re all unified because we’re all working toward the same goal.  Before No Limits, No Excuses, we all had individual goals that weren’t aligned. So, we keep coming back because the partnerships generate new approaches and more effective outcomes for our students.

 

NLNE: How has the partnership increased your relationships with other institutions, and what do those look like now?

AC: Well, in some really tangible ways. Workforce Solutions now has an employee that they pay that is housed in our career center and we share their software.  We can take someone that Workforce Solutions is serving, find them a job and put them in an academic or certificate program simultaneously. So, it’s integrating effort, and that’s the best example of what’s happened through this partnership.

NLNE: I always say this when I’m talking about NLNE, it’s obvious that Amarillo College, Amarillo ISD, and WT had a relationship prior to NLNE.  However, It seems like the intentionality of the relationships brought on by NLNE, and sitting in the same room and having conversations, is really the genesis of success and culture change for No Limits, No Excuses.

AC: We have a shared goal and have developed more trust.  We’re sharing data to support that shared goal, and when you have that, you don’t see yourselves as competitors. We’ve worked together before NLNE, but I don’t think we worked together as effectively. We saw each other as competition, and I think that has completely subsided.  NLNE partner employees are working at the same table to design programs and in NLNE work groups to better serve our community. You build relationships that build trust that build integrated services.  I love the partnership that we have, and I love the relationship that the three most important educational entities in our community have as a result of NLNE.

 

NLNE: What changes in culture in regards to universal achievement have you seen?

AC: One is a complete focus on data. We used to worship the anecdotal, and take the anecdotal as the gospel for every student. So, if we had one student from Palo Duro High School that came to AC and transferred to WT, and then got a job on Wall Street, then it proved how amazing we were when we had a whole swath of students that didn’t have that same experience.

Universal achievement forced us to focus on the “universal” part of achievement and not cherry-pick the stories we liked. We needed to own the stories we didn’t like, and then to put data to it and do system analysis of it – this process has truly been transformative for us. But if you want to take credit for that person’s success, you also have to take the blame for a student’s failure. Before the No Excuses approach to our work as an institution and as a community, we didn’t want to take ownership of our students’ failures.

Our big marketing push right now is “Success IS …” , and we’re trying to highlight students that have gone through Amarillo College, maybe went on to WT and then worked in this community. If we’re going to change the future of the community,

we have got to stop talking about success as getting out. Success is not defined by getting out. Success is defined by getting a degree and a job and staying in.

 

NLNE: What role does Amarillo College play in or serve as a partner?

AC: I’m probably not the person to ask that question. I think in a lot of ways, we can help the partnership glue things together. We are the glue between the ISD high school graduate and the bachelor’s degree. We’re the glue between the ISD and the workforce, and I feel that pressure, and I need my colleagues in Amarillo College to feel that pressure. We say Amarillo is only as strong as its college because if we can serve this partnership with this community successfully, everybody is going to be successful.  But if we can’t, then the whole community loses and that keeps me up at night.

NLNE: What does the future look like for education, post-secondary education in the workforce?

AC: It has to look different than it does now. It has to be… more seamless. There will be more focused on giving students pathways to options. But for a community college, we need to be a gateway for opportunity, and so, we need to give students a foundational understanding of what their options are, but they don’t necessarily have to define those options here. They need to find them at WT or at Tech, or wherever they go.

 

NLNE: What impact has NLNE had on your organization, culturally and physically?

AC: Culturally, I think it’s given us more confidence in our place in the community. We understand our role more fully and have embraced it and are excited about it. Structurally and philosophically, it’s had an enormous impact on Amarillo College. It gave us a no excuses philosophy; it connected us to the No Excuses University.

 

NLNE:    Define “no excuses”.

AC: For me, that means that at Amarillo College, every student has the opportunity to succeed because we’ve built systems for them to be successful. But when they’re not successful, we don’t have any excuses for that failure. It means we didn’t have the right person, the right policy, the right support or the right process in place to ensure that success. We have to give students opportunity without limits. But we can’t have excuses for lack of achievement, and we used to swim in those excuses: demographics, first-generation status, income level, test scores. Those are influences that are essential to understanding, but they’re not excuses anymore.

So, for us, that’s changed our philosophy but it’s structurally changed us as well.  Without No Limits, No Excuses, we wouldn’t have a Career Center, food pantries, clothing closets and an entire systemic approach to social services.  We wouldn’t have a coach’s champions program, a Money Management Center, the Texas Workforce Commission, and a Workforce Solutions office on our campus, jointly serving students.

We would just be a typical community college without the partnerships, and now we’re a place that’s really special.

 

NLNE: What impact have you seen No Limits, No Excuses have on the community?

AC: Here’s what I love – I think that it’s had a real impact on understanding what our education attainment levels are, and why everyone should care about them.  Why it affects everyone on a personal level, and that, instead of memorializing the demographic shifts that are happening, and the growth of poverty, we can make a collective impact and redefine and redirect the future of this community, and we can do it together, and only together.

 

NLNE: How would you characterize success for No Limits, No Excuses?

AC: I think success for No Limits, No Excuses is when Amarillo Colleges gets to a 70 percent completion rate, because it’ll take the community to make that happen. Success is when there is a more diversified economy because we have an educated workforce to support it. Success is when poverty rates go down and more of our citizens are in a living wage. Success is when our property values go up because there is a broader part of this community that’s supporting the infrastructure that we need to grow.

 

NLNE: What other thoughts do you have about No Limits, No Excuses?

AC: The shift for me in NLNE from 2009 when we started talking about this collective impact to 2017 is that, when I think about the organizations that are a part of the partnership, before I just thought about them as organizations in our community that we either had to work through or work around, and now, I see friends that are trying to help me fulfil my mission

 

 

NLNE The Partners: WORKFORCE SOLUTIONS

No Limits No Excuses: How was Workforce Solutions originally involved in NLNE?

Workforce Solutions: We became involved with the original Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation grant application.  There was an invitation to the Panhandle Regional Planning Commission, and then that invitation eventually came our way too.  We were also involved with Panhandle Twenty/20 which initiated a lot of the relationships. Gary Pitner thought that after the initial process for the Gates grant, Workforce would be a natural partner, and here we are.

NLNE: What has kept Workforce Solutions involved in this process for the 5+ years?

WS: We have been asked to play a very important role in this initiative, and that always brings us back to the table.  If you’re asked to just show up to meetings and occasionally participate, then you might just fade away, but we have been asked to be an important player.  We have been asked to build a lot of the structure and the documentation for the success plan.  We were very invested in that process.  NLNE fits what we’re trying to accomplish as an organization.  What we want for our employers and job seekers is to fit each other’s needs.   The idea to train students in a future workforce just dovetails into what we’re trying to accomplish already.  This work is what we would be doing, a lot smaller scale, but because of the players, resources, and relationships, it’s getting done faster and more effectively.  We also stay involved because we see progress. We see things happening.  We are seeing the needle move, and we are optimistic that we are going to continue to see this happen. We signed on to a project that had a 15-year lifespan, and we did that intentionally.

NLNE: How has the partnership increased your relationships with other institutions.

WS: We are part of the conversation a lot earlier in the lives of students than we have been previously.  We were having to deal with students however they came to us, now we are getting to influence the discussion earlier.  We have a stronger voice in the school district than we did a few years ago. We are getting to be the voice of the employer and speak for them to the educational system.  We have had a lot of events and the relationships within the partnership have made those events even more successful.  A good example is what we have put a lot of emphasis on which we call career fairs or career exploration events.  Those events are much easier to build with the relationships we have with AISD.  Amarillo College accomplishes outcomes with all of use working together.  Another great example is the Career Explorer videos that we created.  We already had intentions of creating videos to highlight in-demand occupations. Allowing No Limits No Excuses to be the marketing piece so thousands of students will view these videos, that has really allowed us to leverage our work to an even greater scale.   We have always had these relationships, but inside NLNE, it’s intensified and they trust us and value us because we are on the same page.

NLNE: What changes in culture in regard to universal achievement have you seen in our area?

WS: I receive tweets from my children’s high school all the time.  They are sending information about deadlines for scholarship and FAFSA.  About two months ago, the counselor sent a tweet about the apprenticeship opportunities for the electrical apprenticeship program.  I thought to myself, “we’ve made some progress.”  I am totally impressed that we are now acknowledging at the high school level that an apprenticeship program is equivalent to a college scholarship.  Educators are now understanding that career and technical education is just as valuable as a four-year degree, and we’ve come a long way when that’s the reality.  It was a milestone in my mind.

NLNE: What role does Workforce Solutions play inside the NLNE partnership

WS:  We understand that we have a long-term goal of investing in the success plan and we are looking at a 15-year project.  Our role is to continue the course and still accomplish the parts that need to happen.  There are a lot of specific activities that we need to continue accomplishing, like our career fairs and the continuation of the career spotlight videos.  We need to provide resources to continue those.

NLNE:  What does the future of postsecondary education and workforce look like for our area?

WS: I hope our future workforce looks at what jobs are going to pay, and what jobs are in demand and then decides on an educational pathway that gets them to a productive end.  A more informed educational pathway is the short answer.

NLNE: What impact has NLNE had on your organization physically or culturally?

WS: Postsecondary education is part of our culture at Workforce Solutions. Given the mix of federal and state programs, it already exists part of our organization.  I think the Career Explorer videos are really a quality product that we may not have invested as much time and energy into if we didn’t realize how they were going to be promoted and utilized with NLNE.  Our willingness to dedicate staff time and funds was based on the knowledge that it was going to be fully utilized with NLNE’s help.  We are also having bigger and better career fairs and we are looking for an even bigger event next year.

NLNE: What impact has NLNE had on the community?

WS: I value what AISD, Amarillo College, and the other partners do to really address the needs of the student.  When I shop at the grocery store and ask my sacker what his plan is, and I was sharing the story with friend and they had the same sacker because the stories matched up perfectly.  We were very impressed with what the young man shared in his very detailed plan.

NLNE: How would you characterize success for NLNE

WS: I think success looks like the very high-level financial aid and FAFSA applications we have seen.  That then must translate to attendance at your community colleges and universities.  For me I would characterize success when there is a waiting list to get into the career and technical programs in our area.  When there is more interest in those areas than we have capacity for, that is success in my mind.

NLNE:  Is there anything else you’d like to share about Workforce Solutions and NLNE?

We have asked the community to give a lot of resources to help this initiative over a long period of time.  I hope that when we get to 2025, this initiative is going to change the culture of our community.  We want to prove to those that invested in NLNE that it was a good investment.

New Blog Series Announced!

We will be starting a new blog series beginning next week.  One of the programs of the Amarillo Area Foundation is No Limits No Excuses.  This initiative is made up of over 25 partners who are working to create pathways for post-secondary success.

We think you’ll find this blog series extremely interesting as you see the complete picture of why NLNE is so impactful.  You will also learn how the partnership is shaped and how it’s working to create a community with increased education across all socioeconomic levels.

We begin the series with a look at Workforce Solutions.  We will share these posts across our social media platform, but you can always subscribe to get our blog updates in your inbox, browser, or wherever you choose. Here the link to subscribe: http://bit.ly/aaf_RSS

 

In honor of Charlotte’s Retirement

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Charlotte Rhodes, ACFRE

With much regret but the warmest of wishes we announced Charlotte’s decision to retire a few weeks ago. Given the breadth of the work Charlotte has done for the Foundation and the enormous void that will be present in her absence, we would like to take this time to highlight Charlotte’s greatest accomplishments as Vice President of Resource Development and Sustainability.

In her 11-year tenure at the Foundation, Charlotte cultivated an annual average of $10 million per year, and over $100 million total. She established countless programs and committees, the most notable of which being the Foundation’s External Relations Committee which focuses on the engagement of the Foundation with local and area leaders; the Women’s Philanthropy Program, a donor driven fund designed to meet the needs of children and women in the Texas Panhandle; a Professional Advisor Council, a group of lawyers, accountants and other professionals who provide recommendations and review the Foundation’s fundraising and legal strategies; and the Texas Convening Conferences for Postsecondary Education which gather key educators and legislators from across the state to discuss issues faced by high school and collegiate students across the state.

Charlotte has also lead or donated her expertise to make many programs and initiatives successful. Most notably she led the $5 million ACE Scholarship Expansion Campaign and oversaw the development of a $3.5 million grant from the Belinda and Melinda Gates Foundation to begin the No Limits No Excuses program. She also expanded the Nonprofit Service Center’s consulting program and fundraising classes and facilitated the development of the Citadelle Art Foundation and its conversion as a supporting organization of the Amarillo Area Foundation.

In addition to raising over $100 million for the Foundation, Charlotte has raised over $1 billion in her 40-year career as a fundraiser. An assortment of her most notable campaigns being the Don and Sybil Harrington Cancer Center Capital Campaign, Baylor College of Medicine $500 million Capital Campaign, National Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, Amarillo Globe News Center for the Performing Arts, Oklahoma City Symphony Orchestra, Charles Goodnight Historical Home, Hereford Sports Plex, and most recently the Texas Panhandle War Memorial Education Center.

Charlotte is truly a big city fundraiser with West Texas roots. In 1999, Big Spring Texas High School awarded her with the Outstanding Alumni Award. She received the Outstanding Fundraising Executive Award for Houston, Texas in 2002 before she even received the Outstanding Fundraising Executive Award for Amarillo, Texas in 2005 and Amarillo Junior League Outstanding Sustaining Member. Charlotte was honored by the Amarillo Soroptimists as a “Woman Making and Difference” and by the Business and Professional Women as “Texas Women to Watch.” She currently serves as the Committee Chairman for the Texas Education Grantmakers Advocacy Coalition and was co-chairman for the 2016 Texas Women for the Arts State Meeting.

In addition to her impressive contributions to healthcare, the arts, education and public affairs Charlotte is a published writer and has served as a regional and national consultant for over 50 institutions, organizations, and corporations. We adore Charlotte and know she is equally adored by our community. Please help us in the coming months by celebrating her and thanking her for her service to our community.

We will miss you Charlotte!

WHY ACE: All in

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“After high school comes college!” If you’ve been at any Amarillo ISD campus you’re probably familiar with this gregarious chant. It’s inspiring to see kids putting the pieces together from Pre-K to high school and on to college. In this week’s WHY ACE blog,
we wanted to see how ACE is affecting the college campuses, we’ll focus on Amarillo College this week and West Texas A&M University next week.

I think it’s fair to say that ACE’s success hinges on the willingness of all parties to collaborate. That becomes clear when we look at how much collaboration is required at the college level. At Amarillo College, they have created special processes designed specifically for ACE.

“We start our interactions in high school,” Kelly Prater, Director of Financial Aid at AC, says. “We have hands-on FAFSA nights, at all the ACE campuses while they are still in high school.”

The work doesn’t stop there; because one of the requirements of ACE is to apply for student aid every year. Prater and her team also work with currently enrolled students too.

“Now you have financial aid, and this is what you have to do to keep it,” explained Prater. “Once we have determined a student will qualify, ACE picks up any remaining balance keeping students from needing loans.”

ACE has had a profound effect on the Amarillo College campus through its 20 plus years. ACE brought new demographics of students to the campus and has changed who is attending college.

“Caprock became the number one feeder high school for Amarillo College. Since the 70’s Amarillo High had been,” explained Bob Austin, VP of Student Affairs. “And it’s not like there are less students coming from Amarillo High, but now with ACE, Amarillo College is the college of choice for Caprock students.”

In the early days of ACE, Amarillo College was certainly happy to have a new demographic of students on campus, but with new demographics comes some thinking about how to influence those students. Austin contends that higher education was not set up for students with the unique needs.

“Our attitude, historically, in higher education, has been, even if you’re admitted to the college you haven’t proven you’re college material until you navigate all the stuff we throw at you,” said Austin. “False obstacles that are designed to do nothing more than trip you up, and prove over and over again if you really deserve to be here. We are working hard to knock those down.”

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