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Arrowhead Center receives substantial grant to boost ?cradle-to-career? pipeline

A half-million dollar grant from the Daniels Fund will help New Mexico State University?s Arrowhead Center develop a ?cradle-to-career? pipeline for young people throughout New Mexico to practice innovation and entrepreneurship at every stage of their education, emphasizing critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

Two boys build an item with wire and duct tape
Then-sixth-graders Jeremy Shelby, left, and Arlan Dawdy work on their business projects during Camp Innoventure at New Mexico State University?s Arrowhead Center in June 2013. A $500,000 grant from the Daniels Fund will support this and other ?cradle-to-career? pipeline programs at Arrowhead Center. (Photo by Darren Phillips)

The Daniels Fund provides grants to nonprofit organizations in Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming in a variety of areas, including ethics, education and youth development.

This two-year, $500,000 grant will ultimately support the statewide expansion of programs within Arrowhead Center ? which was created to be an engine for sustainable economic development in New Mexico ? that engage students beginning in elementary school and continuing through college.

?This grant will allow us to make great strides in expanding our programming throughout the state,? said Arrowhead Center Director and CEO Kathy Hansen. ?We?ll place a special emphasis on areas with little or no history of participation.?

To maximize the effectiveness of that expansion, Hansen said her team will gather information from internal staff and current partners about the current programming?s strengths ? and where improvements can be made.

?We will also look at the programming?s long-term impact on post-secondary school enrollment and employment,? Hansen added.

She said NMSU?s Cooperative Extension service will be integral to the statewide expansion, as they assist with understanding specific needs in those communities.

Arrowhead?s cradle-to-career pipeline begins with Innoventure Jr., which provides backpacks with age-appropriate materials on basic work and business concepts in both English and Spanish to elementary students. The program is currently available in 10 schools in Las Cruces, Deming, Albuquerque and Gallup, but will be expanded throughout the state, introducing the concept of entrepreneurship to the youngest students.

Camp Innoventure engages middle school students in a weeklong summer camp format to develop a simple product, create a marketing plan and sell their products to actual customers.

More than 2,000 middle and high school students in New Mexico have also participated in Innoventure, a program that lasts an entire academic year, in which they work in teams to develop a product and business plan they present to judges from the business community. The process culminates in an annual competition at which teams present to panels comprised of NMSU and private industry representatives. Teams are judged on technical, business and presentation components.

?Innoventure can also be seen as a pipeline to NMSU,? said Education Specialist Marie Borchert, who oversees the program. ?High school winners earn scholarships as part of their award packages, and several Innoventure alumni are currently enrolled at NMSU, where they have access to the Studio G student business incubator to further explore those ideas, and several have done so.?

Studio G, created in 2011, is the first business incubator in the state dedicated to college students and recent graduates. The incubator has led to the creation of 11 registered businesses, several of which are beginning to generate revenue for their founders, and is currently supporting 20 teams in various stages of developing their ideas.

One Studio G-based venture was recently selected for an NMSU Launch proof-of-concept investment ? a substantial package of funding and services awarded to projects with exceptional commercial potential.

?The Daniels Fund award will help us expand the reach of Studio G to help more Aggies start businesses,? said Kramer Winingham, Studio G?s program manager. ?The Studio G program has grown substantially over the last two years, and we?ve had strong demand for our services from student entrepreneurs. I?m excited to see what we will be able to accomplish with this generous support.?

NMSU President Garrey Carruthers said the grant will help drive economic development in New Mexico by building on the university?s strong relationship with K-12 schools throughout the state.

?We?re reaching the students who will eventually become the business leaders of our state,? he said. ?We want these future Aggies to have the best possible foundation right from the start, so they?re equipped to discover the innovations of tomorrow.?

Grants from the Daniels Fund, established by late cable industry leader Bill Daniels, also support the Daniels Fund Ethics Initiative at NMSU, which recently received a second $1.25 million award to continue the program launched in 2010, as well as an online ethics training program for state employees in New Mexico and licensing of the Innoventure program for use beyond the state.

For more information on Arrowhead Center at NMSU, visit arrowhead.nmsu.edu. For more information on the Daniels Fund, visit danielsfund.org.