2018-03-14, Tracey Bryan, The Bridge of Southern New Mexico

After President Lya called the meeting to order, Blaine Goss gave the invocation.  Lya led the Pledge of Allegiance.  Blaine returned to the microphone to lead the singing of “God Bless America” in honor of Paul Comeau. 

President Lya introduced visiting Rotarians Buffy Johnson and James Dolan of the Las Cruces Rio Grande club; they brought information about their April 13 golf tournament at Sonoma benefitting Habitat for Humanity.  Members introduced their guests, including Bobby Rankin’s daughter Amy Pickett here from Taos, and Gary Aschbacher’s guest Gavin Clarkson, who is running for Congress.  Roberto Gonzales from Oñate joined us again. 

After the meet and greet, happy dollars came in.  Mark Santiago brought an announcement from Dawn about the New Mexico History Conference at NMSU-Alamogordo on April 19-21.  Elaine was happy to have made a grand slam in bridge, playing with John Hernández.  Sue Groth brought greetings from past-president Alex Keatts.  John Pickett talked about the Soles for Souls program to which we contributed several hundred dollars; the shoes will be distributed to needy grade school students on Saturday, March 17, at the Mesilla Park Community Church, now located in the former K-Mart building on El Paseo.  This location and a 9 a.m. time were confirmed by Gary Aschbacher and speaker Tracey Bryan, both of whom will be participating. 

The Program

Our speaker was Tracey Bryan, again leader of the Bridge of Southern New Mexico; she spoke to us in April 2011 about the Bridge.  Since then, she moved to Washington, DC, and hated it.  After she moved back to Las Cruces, the president/CEO position at the Bridge again became available, and she jumped at the opportunity to return. 

Ten years ago, over half the students in Las Cruces were not finishing high school.  The Bridge was formed to address this issue, and was successful in driving the establishment of Arrowhead Park Early College High School, a model that has been followed again in Las Cruces with the Health Sciences school, and around the state.  As a result of this and other initiatives, Doña Ana County leads the state in high school graduation rates:  79% in 2016-17, as compared to 55% in 2007-08.  The three county school districts have all shown great improvement: 


2016-17 Graduation

2007-08 Graduation

Las Cruces









The Bridge’s current primary goals are two-fold:  (1) enhance college completion, including university degrees from New Mexico State as well as associate degrees and certificates from Doña Ana Community College, and (2) build a skilled and ready workforce to support economic development in the area.  One of the major obstacles to this is the poverty in the county:  25% of the county’s population lives below the poverty line, but this includes 39% of those under age 17, and 44% of those under age 4. 

The Workforce Talent Collaborative, led by the Bridge and comprised of local educational and business leaders, focuses on several key connections:  Education is the key in the development of Talent, leading to Economic Development and Job Growth, fueling prosperity in the community.  The group seeks “educational success with an eye on economic development ... leverage the economic potential of the Borderplex.”  Currently, on the advice of NMSU economist Jim Peach, they are concentrating on several key areas of education to support economic development, as opposed to supporting a broadly diversified set of industries.  These areas are:  Healthcare, Defense, Agriculture, Digital Media, Advanced Manufacturing, Transportation and Logistics, Energy, and Aerospace. 

The board of the Bridge, chaired by our own Wanda Mattiace, is helping the community “use education as a tool to get you where you want to go.” 

After the Program

President Lya reminded the board of the following day’s meeting.  The can raised $130 for projects, and in the drawing, Bobby Rankin drew an ace, winning $20! 

<prior week   following week>

Guests of Rotarians



Silvia Avila

Elaine Szalay

Gavin Clarkson

Gary Aschbacher

Amy Pickett

Bobby Rankin

Visiting Rotarians


Home Club

Buffy Johnson

Rio Grande

James Dolan

Rio Grande

Student Guests



Roberto Sella-Gonzalez









Submitted by Bill HartyBill Harty