Doña Ana Resilience Leaders was established in Spring of 2017 after a series of facilitated public events called “Great Conversations” with community members focused on childhood trauma and the reading of the book Anna, Age Eight: The data-driven prevention of childhood trauma and maltreatment. A series of questions were asked and pondered: Are we numb to maltreatment? Should it matter what zip code you live in when it comes to access to vital family services? Whose job it is to ensure families have access to the vital services for surviving and thriving?
Leaders from ten sectors identified in the book (called the ten vital services for surviving and thriving) were convened at Las Cruces City Hall by councilmember Kasandra Gandara to explore interest in following the recommendations in Anna, Age Eight, primarily mobilizing to ensure ten vital services.
The group established the public face of Dona Ana Resilience Leaders, a monthly structure for meeting, ten action teams (each one focused on a service sector), and action plan and committed to meet in person once a month to see the action plan implemented. Resilience Leaders consists of representatives from over 50 agencies service county residents, and a core group of 40 plus community stakeholders committed to working in a collective and cross-sector way to reduce adverse childhood experiences and trauma by ensuring 100% of families have access to vital services.
During the pandemic and economic disruption, Resilience Leaders moved to web-based meetings and their multi-disciplinary structure, uniting leadership in ten service sectors, provided insights and problem-solving strategies as families faced new challenges in all the communities within the county’s borders.
To date Resilience Leaders has developed and disseminated the 100% New Mexico survey to assess the barriers to survival and thriving services; held a wide range of events involving our community partners from the Chamber of Commerce, Las Cruces Public Schools to partners within NMSU; sponsored the first Statewide Summit on Safe Childhoods in 2019, and developed a strategic planning process to guide the work in 2021.
To prevent adverse childhood experiences, family trauma, and social adversity.
To ensure all county residents have access to the ten vital services for surviving and thriving services shown to create safe childhoods, resilient families, successful students and job-ready adults who can participate in New Mexico’s workforce and economy.
Kasandra was born in Silver City, NM where she began her social work career after receiving her bachelor’s degree in Social Work from New Mexico State University in 1989. She has spent the last 30 years living and working in the Las Cruces community with both the State of New Mexico’s Department of Health and its Children, Youth, and Families Department (CYFD). During her service with CYFD, Kasandra returned to NMSU for her graduate degree in Social Work that she received in 2013. Kasandra is now retired from the State of New Mexico. In her 27 plus years serving the State of New Mexico, she has served in many social work roles including case worker, medical case manager, social work supervisor and manager, community leader, program specialist, and agency administrator. Kasandra was elected as councilor for City Council District 1 in November 2015. In the last year, she has organized several district meetings to educate and inform her constituents about the City’s activities as it relates to family health, safety and resilience. In 2018 she launched the Doña Ana County Resilience Leaders program to mobilize agency leadership and stakeholders around the promotion of child safety, family health and improving the county’s capacity to ensure ten vital services.