Karen Trujillo, the newly appointed secretary of New Mexico’s Public Education Department, met with Las Cruces Public Schools leaders and community stakeholders on Tuesday to discuss the progress and highlights of the community school implementation at Lynn Community Middle School.

(L-R) Maria Zuniga, Programs Manager for Children’s Reading Alliance, New Mexico Public Education Secretary Karen Trujillo, David Greenberg, LCPS Coordinator for Community Schools, and Patrick DeSimio, Board Treasurer & Chief Strategy Officer of Cruces Creatives walk the halls of Lynn Community Middle School during a tour on Tuesday, April 23, 2019.

Secretary Trujillo toured the school and visited the district’s first on-campus dental clinic, which was initiated in April 2019 through a partnership with the Doña Ana Community College Dental Hygiene Program. David Greenberg, the district’s coordinator for community schools, spoke with the secretary about the Ben Archer Health Center, which has launched on-site behavioral health support services. Greenberg said that the district hopes to partner with Ben Archer Health Center to launch additional services, including physical health services, for families and members of the community.

(L-R) Maria Zunigam Programs Manager for Children’s Reading Alliance, Linda Mervine, Lynn Community Middle School volunteer, Principal Brenda Ballard, David Greenberg, LCPS Coordinator for Community Schools, and Public Education Secretary Karen Trujillo visit the new dental clinic inside Lynn Community Middle School.

More than 1,000 stakeholders were involved in the deep community visioning process to learn the needs, assets and priorities for Lynn. More than fifty people volunteered their time, spending more than 350 hours planning, developing and gathering data during the planning and development process. Volunteers used the input they received to define priorities identified in the community assessment.

Child hunger and integrated support services were also on the discussion board. Lynn Community Middle School is currently working with the Hunger Task Force, a coalition initiated by Las Cruces Mayor Ken Miyagishima and Families and Youth, Inc. Through the initiative, more than 5,000 meals have been served to families in the community since December 2017. Community partners like Roadrunner Food Bank have contributed to the success of the on-site food bank at the school. Lynn Community Middle School has also developed a family center, which provides a variety of basic necessities to students and their families, including clothing, hygiene items, access to technology, a healthy snack bar supported by Casa de Peregrinos Emergency Food Program and more.

Student volunteers assist community members and pack up groceries for them to take home during a community food bank at Lynn Community Middle School on December 10, 2018.

During the meeting with Secretary Trujillo, Mary Parr-Sánchez, President-Elect of NEA- New Mexico, discussed family and community engagement. Parr-Sánchez explained that the Engaging Latino Communities in Education (ENLACE) program has supported Lynn Community Middle School and has shown families how to utilize technology.

Lynn also continues to host “First Teacher/Primer Maestro” classes for parents with young children — in collaboration with the Children’s Reading Alliance.

(L-R) Patrick DeSimio, Board Treasurer & Chief Strategy Officer of Cruces Creatives, Brian Kavanaugh, Chief Executive Officer of Families & Youth, Inc. Las Cruces, Mary Parr-Sánchez, President-Elect of NEA-New Mexico, Taryn Landin LCPS Chief of Staff, Karen Trujillo secretary of New Mexico’s Public Education Department, David Greenberg, LCPS Coordinator for Community Schools, and Linda Mervine, Lynn Community Middle School volunteer.

Supporters of Lynn Middle School discussed the essential role student mentorships play, and how well they have been going with support of the HAZLO Foundation. Local philanthropist Jack Soules provided seed funding to support student projects and community mentorships for students in partnership with the Cruces Creative Makers Space.

Memorial Medical Center recently formalized the inclusion of Lynn in the hospital’s residency program. High school students with the STARS program established a mentorship pilot at Lynn, which mentors groups of students at the middle school. In addition, once a month, students from Lynn tutor students at Hermosa Heights Elementary School. Other mentoring services include La Mariposa, which implemented group-based mentoring for girls during the school day.

(L-R) David Greenberg, LCPS Coordinator for Community Schools, Mary Parr-Sánchez, President-Elect of NEA-New Mexico, Brian Kavanaugh, Chief Executive Officer at Families & Youth, Inc. Las Cruces, and Patrick DeSimio, Board Treasurer & Chief Strategy Officer of Cruces Creatives.

There were four concurrent summer programs during 2017 and 2018 at the school that served more than 200 students. Programs include the Police Academy and a camp established through a partnership between the Boys and Girls Club and Friends of Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument. Through the project, Lynn students are able to participate in weekly field trips to local parks and national monuments.

During her visit, Trujillo also learned that the school has collaborated with the NMSU Cooperative Extension Explore Club for 15 weeks to educate students about horticulture, service learning projects, money management and nutritional education. La Semilla Food Center, a local nonprofit, has also partnered with Lynn to host a garden and cooking club and has implemented an edible education program

Dr. Greg Ewing, Superintendent of Las Cruces Public Schools, Taryn Landin, LCPS Chief of Staff, Karen Trujillo, newly appointed Secretary of New Mexico’s Public Education Department, Linda Mervine, Lynn Community Middle School volunteer, Denise Sheehan, President of NEA-Las Cruces, Rory Rank, NMSU Professor and former public defender, Patrick Nolan, Director of Friends of Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks, Maria Zuniga, Programs Manager for Children’s Reading Alliance, Sylvia Chavez, Community School Administrator, David Greenberg, LCPS Coordinator for Community Schools, Mary Parr-Sánchez, President-Elect of NEA-New Mexico, Brian Kavanaugh, Chief Executive Officer at Families & Youth, Inc. Las Cruces, and Patrick DeSimio, Board Treasurer & Chief Strategy Officer of Cruces Creatives.

“We’d like to thank Secretary Trujillo for taking time to visit with our staff, district leaders and community partners at Lynn Community Middle School,” said LCPS Superintendent Greg Ewing. “There are so many wonderful projects in the works for our very first community school, and we are very proud to share the exciting news with the secretary. I am pleased that she took time to tour the school, and was able to get a firsthand look at the dedicated individuals and community partners who have made Lynn Community Middle School a success.”

(L-R) Linda Mervine, Lynn Community Middle School volunteer, Denise Sheehan, President of NEA-Las Cruces, Brenda Ballard, Principal of Lynn Community Middle School, and Rory Rank, NMSU professor and former public defender.

To conclude the Secretary’s visit, NMSU professor and former public defender Rory Rank talked about the restorative practices at Lynn. Rank and other local attorneys are currently teaching a “Street Law” course at the school. Lynn is providing school-wide restorative practices training to staff and has launched a restorative practices committee, which has developed a plan to incorporate restorative practices into the school’s discipline plan. Lynn also released a behavior contract which emphasizes family engagement, communication, and offers alternatives to suspension — such as lunch and after-school interventions. The plan was introduced to students, staff and families in December 2018.

— Samantha Lewis, LCPS Public Relations Coordinator, 575-527-5946, slewis@lcps.net