The year was 1935, and Maurine Grammer was an educator at the original Albuquerque High School at Central and Broadway. Having heard that the U.S. Government had made it possible for many groups to form credit unions, she and seven other school officials applied for a credit union charter. And on Feb. 29, 1936, the Albuquerque Public Schools Federal Credit Union (now Nusenda Credit Union) was founded to “serve the employees of APS, members of their immediate families, and any associations of such employees.”
Now, more than 80 years later, the founding relationship between Nusenda and APS continues to grow and thrive, based on the needs of teachers, staff, students, and the communities both organizations serve.
“As part of Nusenda’s longstanding commitment to education is the state’s largest school district — from summer school tuition scholarships, financial education workshops, the naming rights of Nusenda Community Stadium, sponsoring student of the week recognition, and yearly funding contributions — the impact has been all-inclusive for our schools, students, families, educators, and staff,” said APS Education Foundation Shannon Barnhill.
In light of a worldwide public health and economic crisis, education has shifted to meet the challenge of keeping young people and their families safe. At APS, innovation has been the name of the game to keep a sense of normalcy — and a sense of wonder and belonging — to children learning remotely.
“The APS Education Foundation’s goals for this unique year is to continue to support our students, educators, staff, families and schools,” Barnhill said. “We, along with our volunteer Board of Directors, who represent the community, vow and will continue to carry out our mission and invest in innovative initiatives, no matter what form it might be due to our circumstances because of the pandemic. With the support of our community partners, the APS Education Foundation has become a leader and champion for change, improvement and advancement in APS.
“Since 1995, the APS Education Foundation has supported APS by raising public and private dollars for the district’s most innovative initiatives — often system-wide programs, impacting tens of thousands of students each and every day. We plan to continue, despite COVD-19 challenges. We thank Nusenda for providing a strong financial foundation for us moving into this fiscal year, and it has proven to be effective immediately during these unprecedented times.”
The APS Foundation last fall opened its traditional grant cycles to teachers, schools, and APS departments. And despite being in remote learning mode, the APS Foundation funded almost $145,000 in requests for student clubs and activities, early literacy, learning programs, fine arts, STEM and STEAM programs, and ACT/SAT workshops, positively impacting 25,000 APS students. Additionally, the APS Foundation is on track to open a $336,000 second round of funding this spring.
“Our educators have geared up innovation to keep students active and engaged, and to teach beyond the regular subjects like math and English,” Barnhill said.
An example: STEAM and computer labs, as well as mini makerspaces allow students to use their skills in the basics to engineer origami pieces, which they then take into a wind tunnel to see how they fly. While remote, educational assistants have used grants to build STEAM project kits to use at home.
“Initiatives like these expand a child’s need to explore and to find out where their interests lie,” Barnhill said. “Students who participate in both traditional and at-home labs and makerspaces show improved test scores and more interest in day-to-day learning.”
Other grants have helped create e-sports and video game competitions, book clubs, coding camps, and virtual drama plays and musicals.
“This engagement is essential for our students during a time like this. It allows them to feel they belong — that they are appreciated,” Barnhill said. “Many of these students have never met their classmates in person, and these opportunities allow them build friendships. It also is more inclusive — there are students who say, ‘I’m not athletic, I don’t sing, and I don’t fit in to clubs that already exist. Here, I have a place where I belong — and it’s perfect.’”
Funding from Nusenda Credit Union help APS expand these programs to 143 schools (including 17 Title 1 schools), positively impacting half of the district’s enrolled students.
Support from Nusenda Credit Union is also helping APS to:
- Create educational scholarships for APS Educational Assistants who are seeking teacher certification through higher education. While there is funding allocated by the state Legislature’s Grow Your Own Teacher law, this program is geared for non-traditional students who may not be able to attend classes in-person or during standard class times, Barnhill said.
- Contribute to the district’s clothing bank, which has seen an enormous increase in need since the pandemic began. “This reality has created more challenges for our students and families than we ever imagined — more than 3,000 students and their families have come to see us since last March, and the numbers grow every week,” Barnhill said. “Many of them don’t even have the luxury of choosing clothes they’d like to wear from their closets; often, they only have one outfit.” APS partners with local businesses like Big 5 Sporting Goods to provide vouchers for shoes; funding goes to purchasing new clothing, athletic gear, and to support families that are on the brink of homelessness.
“Nusenda’s presence continues to be felt, their passion for what we do evident. We’re entering a new era in public education, one in which we need the support of our partners to make sure our kids get everything they need to learn and grow and go on to have happy and successful lives. Nusenda’s contributions toward education in New Mexico are well-known within APS, but that’s never taken for granted,” Barnhill said. “The credit union’s relationship with our schools is a day-after-day partnership, and we’re very appreciative.”
To learn more about the work APS and the APS Foundation are doing to support student and family success, visit:
If you are a local business or organization that would like to join Nusenda in helping with the district’s clothing bank, they are always in need of new and gently used clothing of all sizes, including light jackets and hoodies, career wear, and prom attire; and new undergarments (socks/underwear). Cash donations are also accepted. Visit the APS Community Clothing Bank website for more information.