Humans, Heroes and Three-Headed Hydras: The Story of the 100% New Mexico initiative

Dominic Cappello
3 min readApr 7, 2021


Figure 1. This story starts with how families survive and thrive.
Figure 2. This is also a story about heroic people committed to social justice.
Figure 3. Here we meet the villain of the story — the three headed hydra. (More on it later.)
Figure 4. Let’s go back to the basics. We humans require five services to survive.
Figure 5. We also know families can thrive with access to five key services. (So far, so good.)
Figure 6. Sadly, there are those in power (with three heads) who don’t care if services are accessible to all.
Figure 7. Happily, there are those who believe 100% merit support and all the services to survive and thrive.
Figure 8. In this chaotic nation, we have a long history of heroes battling hydras to save the humans.
Figure 9. We also have a long history of people standing up for their rights and confronting injustice.
Figure 10. Enter researchers Doc and Dom (aka Katherine Ortega Courtney, PhD and Dominic Cappello). After a combined working history of three decades working in public health, education and child welfare, they use their expertise in research, assessment and data to do what has been considered impossible: ending the costly and preventable epidemic of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), trauma and social adversity.
Figure 11. The duo wrote two books about confronting and ending childhood trauma and social adversity: Anna, Age Eight: The data-driven prevention of childhood trauma and maltreatment and 100% Community: Ensuring 10 vital services for surviving and thriving. Their hypothesis is simple: If we ensure vital services for 100% of residents, children, students, families, communities, workforces and local economies can thrive.
Figure 12. The duo met with Kasandra (a Las Cruces city councilperson) to talk about turning their books into action. Kasandra did not miss a beat and started organizing Anna, Age Eight book clubs, chamber of commerce presentations and forums for all those working with families. Next thing Doc and Dom knew, her new coalition called Resilience Leaders (meeting regularly at City Hall) was conducting the 100% New Mexico survey to assess resident’s access to the ten vital services for surviving and thriving.
Figure 13. Kasandra was an expert at identifying change agents and convening leaders from the ten surviving and thriving sectors at Las Cruces City Hall. Ongoing training included strengthening skills in assessing, planning, action and evaluation (along with Three-headed Hydra prevention using the frameworks of Collective Impact and Adaptive Leadership).
Figure 14. Leaders from across Doña Ana County, NM networked, collaborated and focused their expertise on identifying and ending barriers to ten vital services (using the data-driven process of continuous quality improvement). The key ingredient to the process of change is getting leaders from ten sectors all in the same room with a collective vision.
Figure 15. Dom and Katherine kept their focus on turning science into real world solutions — identifying the latest research on health equity, historical trauma, historical disparities and frameworks for change. They identify 200+ potential projects for each county to implement — each one shown to reduce barriers to vital services.
Figure 16. New Mexico state senator Dr. Bill Soules and his colleagues created funding for the Anna, Age Eight Institute. This allowed Katherine and Dom to provide support to each county to set up a 100% New Mexico initiative. The goal was to empower all New Mexicans to create the county systems for surviving and thriving.
Figure 17. Suddenly — county stakeholders were calling and soon engaged in the 100% New Mexico initiative. Katherine and Dom found themselves collaborating with Dr. Sharon (from NM Tech) and JC (from local community services) in Socorro County. They organized a local forum with the Lt. Governor in attendance. The work in Socorro includes strengthening the relationship between the world-class engineering school and the working class town. Work with Navajo nation also becomes a priority once the pandemic hits.
Figure 18. We connected with medical director Matt (of 20 clinics in Norther New Mexico) and he started up 100% San Miguel County with ten action teams along with a 100% Community book club. Within a few months, the coalition had assessed the capacity of providers (in ten service sectors) and created a web-based directory to local services. Matt perfected the art of “power hour” lunch and dinner meetings.
Figure 19. In Rio Arriba County, entrepreneur Leticia started doing research on access to the ten vital services for surviving and thriving. She wanted to know what the capacity of local service providers was.
Figure 20. Back in Doña Ana County, David (a member of the Doña Ana Resilience Leaders coalition) was advising the Anna, Age Eight Institute on developing fully-resourced community schools with health centers. Community Schools (or as we like to say, “School Hubs for 10 Services) are a vital component of the strategy to ensure students and families have access to vital services.
Figure 21. In Rio Arriba County, Española-based health strategist, artist and filmmaker DIego was sharing with Katherine, Dom and Leticia ideas for generating public awareness. Ideas centered on murals and engaging the arts community in ending barriers to vital services.
Figure 22. Katherine and Dom found themselves on zoom calls weekly with county stakeholders from across the state from counties big and small. Catron County (pop. 4000, our contact Deborah is amazing) joins the initiative. In our state capital, heroes from Santa Fe Community College got on board with surveying their students about access to ten vital services, while advocate Miguel worked to survey Spanish-language populations and formed an Ana, de 8 años (Anna, Age Eight) book club.
Figure 23. The Institute worked with tech-gurus to develop a way to pull public health data (on all the challenges related to adverse childhood experiences and social adversity) and make it easily available to county leaders in a user-friendly county-centered website. Taos Pueblo and Taos County stakeholders helped us with this process.
Figure 24. Meanwhile, in Otero County we connected with higher education and the school superintendent’s office (with local hero and learning expert Michelle and her colleagues Lisa and Peg) and began the process of supporting 100% Otero in survey implementation and data analysis.
Figure 25. Katherine and Dom connected with Valencia County Health Council members (Noel, Ginny, Diana and Peggy) to begin the surveying of residents to assess access to vital services. They also began developing a 100% Ten Vital Service web-based resource directory (based on the one launched by 100% San Miguel County).
Figure 26. Tons of time is spent researching the latest in learning management systems and using technology to its fullest to ensure the initiative’s goal: 100% Thrive. (Yes, there are even print books to read to get the latest in information design and art directing a social movement.)
Figure 27. As the 100% New Mexico initiative grows in ten counties (out of 33), we get more attention from lawmakers seeking to understand how it all works (yes, there are about 1,000 moving parts) and how they can support us.
Figure 28. Years after Katherine and Dom started researching their first book Anna, Age Eight (while working two floors underground in a basement office within Child Protective Services), life has become streamlined. They focus on connecting with heroes, champions and potential 100%ers eager to engage with the state initiative.
Figure 29. Finally, Katherine and Dom are bringing all the county 100% folks together in a 7-part webinar series (the Power Hours). The synergy can support all initiative participants as they move from the assessment and planning phases to the always challenging phases of project development and implementation. (This action phase is where heroes come face to face with the hydras who control local budgets and buy in. If you have seen King Kong Vs Godzilla, you get the idea.)
Figure 30. This story comes full circle, back to the epic saga of humans, heroes and three-headed hydras. We have heroes engaged in a first-of-its-kind initiative dedicated to ensuring ten vital services. We have hydras, people in power, defending a broken status quo. And we have vulnerable families working to survive the day amid an epidemic of trauma, social adversity and injustice. How will this all play out across New Mexico and the nation?

Mobilize! Survive! Thrive!

Please excuse any typos as I construct an article at 3am on only one cup of joe. These stories are mine and mine alone. I do not represent any organization here. All cartoon characters are pure fiction and any resemblance to real humans, puppies or three-headed hydras is total coincidence. Words and images ©Dominic Cappello but share with everyone you know. Questions? Push to front of reading list: 100% Community: Ensuring 10 vital services for surviving and thriving and Attack of the Three-Headed Hydras: Confronting Apathy, Envy and Fear on the road to saving humans and the future. Better yet, let‘s meet at the EYE bookcafe to share a latte and some bold ideas.

Sign up for the 100% POWER HOUR webinar series here.



Dominic Cappello

A NY Times bestselling author, social justice activist, Oprah guest, co-author of The 100% Community Model and Anna, Age Eight.