HARLINGEN, RGV – The Lumina Foundation in partnership with the Kresge Foundation has designated the Rio Grande Valley as a Talent Hub.

Each community designated as a Talent Hub receives $275,000 in grant funding over 31 months. The grant funding “supports local efforts to educate more people, allowing community and education leaders to better meet the specific needs of residents,” according to organizers. 

The Valley earned the Talent Hub designation “by meeting rigorous standards for creating environments that attract, retain, and cultivate talent” organizers state. A key factor in play was the fact that the Valley has a high percentage of minority students, many of whom are the first in their families to go to college and from low-income households.

Luzelma Canales

The “Talent Hub” designation has pleased RGV FOCUS Executive Director Luzelma Canales.

“We are excited to continue to use collective impact to bring regional partners together to increase the number of young adults who complete a degree or credential,” Canales said. “As a Talent Hub community, we will have access to learning from other communities focused on establishing strong partnerships to increase student success.”

Launched in 2012, RGV FOCUS is a collective impact initiative designed in collaboration with Educate Texas and Communities Foundation of Texas. It brings together school district superintendents, higher education leaders, philanthropic partners, and business and community leaders to transform college readiness, access and success across the Valley’s four-county region.

Canales pointed out that RGV FOCUS, along with UT-Rio Grande Valley, South Texas College and Texas Southmost College recently formed an “action network” focused on increasing degree/credential completion for young adults with some college credits but no degree.

The network identified three populations of students who can benefit from this work: students who went to college, but didn’t finish; students who took dual enrollment courses in high school, but didn’t enroll in college after high school graduation; and students who transferred to UTRGV from STC or TSC before finishing an associate degree.

Canales said the action network is “developing high impact strategies to engage, enroll and support these students to degree completion.”

In all, seven new communities across the country have been designated Talent Hubs by the Lumina Foundation and the Kresge Foundation.

In addition to the Valley, the other six new communities to be so designated are Corpus Christi, Texas; Detroit; Elkhart County, Ind.; Las Vegas; Mobile, Ala.; and St. Louis.

They join 17 other Talent Hubs that were selected in 2017. They were: Albuquerque, N.M.; Austin, Texas; Boston; Cincinnati; Columbus, Ind.; Dayton, Ohio; Denver; Fresno, Calif..; Los Angeles; Louisville, Ky.; Nashville, Tenn.; New York; Philadelphia; Racine, Wis.; Richmond, Va.; Shasta County, Calif.; and Tulsa, Okla.

To date, Talent Hub investments by Lumina and Kresge total just over $10 million.

“Each Talent Hub focuses intensively on one of three populations that is critical to raising the nation’s overall post-high school attainment level to 60 percent of working-age adults by 2025: 18-to-22-year-old students; older adults with college experience who stopped before finishing their studies; or adults with no formal education beyond high school. Talent Hub cities are committed to eliminating deep disparities in educational outcomes among African-Americans, Hispanics, and American Indians, who fare poorly in contrast with white and Asian students,” according to the Lumina Foundation and the Kresge Foundation.

Jamie Merisotis, president and CEO of Lumina Foundation said: “We have added to the growing roster of top-flight cities committed to meeting the demands for an educated workforce. The Talent Hub designation serves both as an aspirational target for other cities and a foundation from which cities designated as Talent Hubs can build.”

Rip Rapson, Kresge’s president and CEO, said his group’s support of Talent Hubs comes from its national educational program, which, he said, includes a focus on aligning and strengthening urban higher education ecosystems to help more low-income, underrepresented, and students of color gain access to—and succeed in—higher education.

”Kresge is proud to continue our partnership in Talent Hubs and to financially support our hometown of Detroit,” Rapson, said. “Anchored by the strong partnership between the Detroit Regional Chamber, Wayne State University, and Macomb Community College, the work in Detroit aims to help an additional 35,000 adults complete their degrees. Increasing Detroit’s college attainment rate will help lift native Detroiters out of poverty and add to the city’s ongoing revitalization.”

Danette Howard, Lumina’s senior vice president and chief strategy officer, said Talent Hubs are one outgrowth of Lumina’s Community Partnerships for Attainment, which presented more than $10 million of grants to 75 cities across the country. Howard said this partnership, which began in 2013, continues to work directly with communities to expand educational opportunities beyond high school.

“With our partners at Kresge, Lumina’s Talent Hubs designation aims to deepen the impact of cross-sector, place-based efforts to increase higher education attainment in communities and cities across the country,” Howard said. 

“Talent Hubs work closely with Lumina and national thought leaders to develop a customized action plan tailored to the needs of their specific communities, with a focus on increasing the percentage of post-high school credentials residents have earned. This effort is directly connected to Lumina’s mission of helping the nation ensure that 60 percent of working-age Americans have quality credentials by 2025.”

About the sponsors of the Talent Hub concept:

The Lumina Foundation Lumina Foundation is an independent, private foundation in Indianapolis that is committed to making opportunities for learning beyond high school available to all. Lumina envisions a system that is easy to navigate, delivers fair results, and meets the nation’s need for talent through a broad range of credentials. The Foundation’s goal is to prepare people for informed citizenship and for success in a global economy.

The Kresge Foundation was founded in 1924 to promote human progress. Today, Kresge fulfills that mission by building and strengthening pathways to opportunity for low-income people in American cities, seeking to dismantle structural and systemic barriers to equality and justice. Using a full array of grant, loan, and other investment tools, Kresge invests more than $160 million annually to foster economic and social change.

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above story shows students at South Texas College at a graduation ceremony.