Collaboration and service motivate Jane Santa Cruz’s community development work


Darryle Aldridge

Jane Santa Cruz outside the Dallas Fed

Jane Santa Cruz, Senior Community Development Advisor, Dallas Fed

For Jane Santa Cruz, multiple years with the AmeriCorps program, City Year, inspired a career of service in community development. It eventually led her to the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas as a community development advisor.  

“When I first signed up [for City Year], I wanted to explore community-based work and focus on community service for a year before moving into a full-time job or joining a graduate school program,” said Jane. Choosing to serve where she was most needed, Jane thought she would be placed in Arkansas or Texas. “They’re places I’m familiar with—my college state and home state. But they sent me to Baton Rouge, Louisiana,” she said. “I was nervous about going to a totally new city.” 

A pathway to the Fed

In her first year with City Year, Jane tutored and mentored a 6th grade English Language Arts class. Here, she focused on small groups for reading and writing. Despite nervousness about the move, Jane says the experience was fulfilling and taught her many things. “Our schools, students, and teachers need a lot of support,” she said. “It’s hard work. How do you support children in becoming engaged, caring adults, capable of achieving what they want in life?” Through City Year, Jane says she learned the value of partners working together to produce the best results.  

Her time with City Year and what she learned about partnership have become an important part of her Dallas Fed career. Today, she primarily works on the education attainment and workforce development initiative Advance Together™. Launched in 2019, Advance Together is a four-year initiative that accelerates collaboration among community partners to address local problems by strengthening cross-sector partnerships.

Through Advance Together, public, private and non-profit partners work together to remove barriers to education attainment and living wage employment, and enhance economic opportunity for individuals, families, and the community overall.  

Jane Santa Cruz painting
Jane working with City Year Baton Rouge
The power of partnership

Jane spoke at length about Advance Together’s Education Partnership of the Permian Basin (EPPB), which serves parts of West Texas and southern New Mexico. Here, EPPB leads efforts to collaborate with hospitals, school districts, child care centers, parents, and families to improve kindergarten readiness. They work together to provide guidance and reading materials to parents after birth explaining the benefits of reading, playing, and singing at home with children. These activities are considered important first steps to help prepare children for kindergarten.

“Through Advance Together, we’re really trying to help communities build those cross-sector partnerships and figure out—how do we work together toward a community-wide goal?” explains Jane. “When you think about cross-sector partnerships in a city or in a region, that’s difficult. We traditionally don’t work in a way that tackles these bigger education and workforce development problems in tandem, so that’s really exciting!”

Jane Sant Cruz speaking to a crowd

“In the future, I hope I can continue to serve our communities and the public and improve outcomes on a bigger scale by making a difference in our region.”

Advancing community leadership

In addition to supporting the initiative, Jane also supports Advance Together’s Leadership Academy. The academy is a 15-month professional development program for community leaders who manage cross-sector partnerships and their progress towards long-term education, workforce development, and digital inclusion goals. The academy helps leaders develop five core skills to coordinate and lead coalitions more effectively:

  • facilitation
  • evaluation
  • understanding context
  • inquiry, and
  • building trust

Leaders with the academy are also provided with a unique network of peers and resources, furthering the theme of partnership Jane finds throughout her community development work. “We bring together coordinating leaders from multiple collaboratives in Texas as well as Southern New Mexico for the leadership academy. They’re able to have a peer network of leaders with common experiences and challenges. This allows them to learn and share guidance as they navigate their collaborative journeys, build community trust, and gain community buy-in.”

Looking toward the future

As Jane continues to build meaningful partnerships for communities and families within Texas, she also looks toward the future. “Advance Together has given me a beautiful window into communities to see what they’re doing to address local needs. Through the Fed, I can see their growth and progress over time, which excites me and moves our region towards greater economic inclusion.”

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