The LANL Foundation was formed in 1997 through the coordinated effort of Laboratory management, the University of California, the Department of Energy, Los Alamos Public Schools, and the New Mexico congressional delegation. Its focus from the outset was to invest in education, learning, and community development.
An educational enrichment endowment was initially created to support public school children in the communities surrounding the Laboratory. Since then, the foundation's work has expanded to include a robust college scholarship program, investments in early childhood education, college and career pathways, and an inquiry STEM program that brings hands-on learning materials and teacher professional development to elementary schools throughout Northern New Mexico.
Although supported in part by LANL employees' donations (particularly for scholarships), and by investment from Lab operator Triad, the foundation is an independent nonprofit based in Española, separate from the Laboratory and its Community Partnerships Office. This year, Triad is investing $700,000 in the foundation's work.
"Our partnerships with Laboratory employees and Triad aim to address the current needs of students in Northern New Mexico, while also laying the foundation to help students have access to the skills, knowledge and practices that will help them thrive in the 21st century," says Jenny Parks, chief executive officer of the LANL Foundation.
The Laboratory community supports the LANL Foundation’s work in four main areas:
1) Scholarships and support
A key part of the foundation's work is providing scholarships to students across Northern New Mexico, with much of the money for the scholarships coming from Laboratory employees and Triad - LANL employees pledged more than $370,000 during the 2021 fundraising campaign.
The LANL Foundation administers the Los Alamos Employees Scholarship Fund, which awarded $811,750 in scholarships in 2021 and has a particular focus on students from high-needs backgrounds. Including this year’s scholarships, the foundation has in total awarded $10 million to over 2000 students from the region.
LANL Scholars receive scholarships for four-year degrees, two-year degrees, or trade certifications, but they also receive on-going support to help make sure they can complete their education successfully.
2) Expanding work-based learning opportunities
"A 2020 report (partially funded by Triad) found that our region does not have enough work-based learning programs and opportunities, especially paid work experience and registered apprenticeship programs in high-demand career areas," says Parks.
The report also identified that lack of childcare, transportation, and other supports are barriers for nontraditional, low-income individuals, and students of color.
To address this, the LANL Foundation's College, Career and Community Pathways (C3P) Program helped launch and continues to provide key support for the Northern New Mexico Coalition for Work-Based Learning, which is made up 28 organizations including employers, non-profit organizations, workforce training entities, foundations, educational institutions, and tribal and state governments.
3) Growing and supporting teachers
The region is facing a severe shortage of skilled teachers, and there is a particular need for teachers from Native backgrounds. The LANL Foundation is pursuing two approaches to address these issues. Firstly, a program helps K-12 teachers obtain National Board Certification, a valuable tool to ensure districts have highly qualified teachers and that those teachers get higher pay and are more likely to stay in the profession.
Secondly, the foundation has dedicated a portion of Triad funding to encourage and support Native Americans to become teachers and counselors. This includes providing grants to the Santa Fe Indian School, Taos High School and Northern New Mexico College to support tailored recruitment campaigns.
4) Promoting STEM Education
The final plank in the LANL Foundation's work with the Laboratory is to build capacity, access and interest in STEM education and careers, especially for historically underserved children and youth.
The foundation supports the work of the Northern NM STEAM Coalition and Hub (a website of valuable STEM resources), helping to coordinate and lead a cohesive effort to nurture a thriving coalition for STEAM in the region. It also provides funding to support Northern New Mexico students to participate in STEM competitions, including the NM Governor’s STEM Challenge.
“After a quarter century of investing in education across Northern New Mexico, the LANL Foundation continues to explore new ways to have a positive impact in the region, and the Laboratory is looking forward to partnering with them into the future,” says Kathy Keith, director of the Laboratory’s Community Partnerships Office.