The relationship between New Mexico Tech and Socorro—the town it calls home—has a long and complex history. Like siblings, they are close, they rely on one another, but they haven’t always gotten along. Fortunately, like siblings who have grown closer with time, so too has the relationship between Town and Tech.

What has changed? First and foremost is in the thinking of one another in planning important events. Some of these are obvious, such as the imprint of the New Mexico Tech Performing Arts Series in coordinating events with the community and schools, including bringing the National Dance Institute to the Socorro Consolidated Schools, organizing talent to perform at annual events, and the planning of the annual Community Arts Party. There is also an intentional effort to coordinate with the Socorro Community Theater and Socorro High School’s Drama program.

Some of the efforts are less obvious. For example, as New Mexico Tech aims to upgrade its degree programs and coordination of dual credit classes with Socorro High School, the Community Education Department is focused on making their community education classes more accessible to Socorro residents. They’ve done this by creating non-credit offerings of physical recreation and arts classes with flat fees so they are more affordable. There is significant effort to expand these programs to include certificate programs and to create pathways to certification.

Community members who would like to upgrade their skills and create their own opportunities can pursue a Certification in Small Business Management. If this certification is incorporated as part of an Associates Degree, New Mexico’s new Opportunity Scholarship will cover tuition.

In addition to educational opportunities available to Socorro’s residents, there is a focused and choreographed effort to align strategic priorities with the community.

I mean this in a literal sense: New Mexico Tech is in the process of creating its next strategic plan and “Energizing Community” is a specific goal that aims to build on the positive initiatives between Town and Tech. Deliberate representation of a diverse sector of community members on this committee ensures collaboration and support between Tech and Town. This holds true in other strategic planning processes—the Socorro Consolidated School district has also included collaborations with New Mexico Tech as part of galvanizing a strong future for Socorro’s students.

Further evidence of Town and Tech unity is in the make-up of organizing boards in the community. For example, the Middle Rio Grande Economic Development Association (MRGEDA) has New Mexico Tech faculty serving on the board, and members of Socorro’s city government, businesses and non-profit organizations serve on various NMT committees that aim to grow Socorro’s economy.

The 100% Socorro initiative—which ensures Socorro County residents have access to the services needed to survive and thrive—is lead by a collaboration between Socorro County Options, Prevention, and Education (SCOPE) Health Council and NMT’s STORM FORCE (STEAM OutReach and Mentoring Fueling Opportunities through Relationships, Community, and Education). There are also NMT faculty and staff serving on SCOPE’s board, as well as on the Socorro County Juvenile Justice Board.

Intentional inclusion of Town and Tech partners in these organizations explicitly demonstrates the value that each has placed on the other. This value is authentic, and through it our community will strengthen in the Town and Tech unity.

Sharon Sessions, Guest Columnist