THE JUNTOS PARTNERSHIP
As Juntos developed and expanded to include more partners and a larger adult learner population, it needed more of an infrastructure and orderly decision-making process. Today, the infrastructure consists of a Juntos Coordinator, Paul Hyry, coordinators from each organization, and the advisory council. Currently, Hyry, a former CEP instructor and director, serves as the key contact for the partnership, reports to the state on the performance of the Juntos programs, coordinates the research for and writing of the Assets and Needs Statement, serves as the city planner for ABE, and plans meetings for the coordinators and advisory council. Hyry also directs the HALO Center.
The coordinators from each of the six organizations serve as the main governance structure of Juntos. They work together to develop the partnership's approach to funding, community planning, service coordination, and staff and program development. Although the coordinators meet only once or twice a month, they are in frequent contact through e-mail and phone calls. Since Juntos formed, the relationship between the coordinators has strengthened. While many of them already had relationships, now they do not hesitate to ask each other for help or advice. As one coordinator put it, they are "like family."
To help with long-term community planning, the Juntos coordinators decided in 2000 to establish an advisory council for the collaborative as a whole. Members of the council represent a range of interests in the community from workforce development to higher education to family support. The following organizations are represented on the Council today:
The advisory council serves as the leadership group for community planning. The council is currently working on the development of a five-year strategic plan for adult basic education in Holyoke. Hyry collects, analyzes, and learns from new information he receives from the council, as well as a variety of other community sources. In addition to developing plans to meet the adult education needs of the community, the council advises Juntos on issues such as workforce development and accountability, as well as specific Juntos initiatives.
CREATING AN ADVISORY COUNCIL
Before the invitations were sent to potential advisory council members, the Juntos partners gave considerable thought to the role of the council. According to Paul Hyry, "The challenge was to provide the leadership and let the development of the group evolve." Paul and the other coordinators wanted council members to take ownership for their role in Juntos. One council member described the first few meetings as "messy." Another said, "It was chaotic at first, but I hung in there because I really care about this community. Each person cares about their own program, but even more so about the community." Still another added, "The battles of getting it started are worth it." He also said that he has used the Juntos partnership as a model for other collaborations in which he is involved: "It intends to tackle problems rather than hope that they will go away."
In the last five years, the relationship has strengthened. We're honest with each other. We do disagree at times. For the most part, we have the same vision and mission of what's best for the community. The relationships have gotten healthier and stronger. Before Juntos, other collaborations were just referrals. This is a true partnership. We work together; we plan together. The level of trust of the collaboration is really amazing. It allows us to go so much farther with our mission. It goes way beyond education issues—there's a lot of personal support as well.
The coordinators and advisory council members believe the success of Juntos is partly the result of Paul Hyry's hard work, dedication, and vision. Yet they recognize that Juntos has taken on a life of its own. The partner organizations, council members, community leaders, and Holyoke residents have seen first-hand how the partnership has helped improve local adult education services. According to one council member, regardless of who leads the partnership, the Holyoke community "will force the collaborative to keep going. It's now connected to the schools, daycare, the tax base, jobs. It's intertwined in the community."