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Ten years ago, we began to ask how we and our parterns could use grants to identify and address some of the county's most persistent social problems. Issues of unemployment, hunger, poverty, and illiteracy, which repeatedly led back to low levels of education. In 2012, we made a critical decision to divide all unrestricted grantmaking into two programs--responsive Good Deeds grants that are available to nonprofits that serve Wabash County to address urgent community needs; and Strategic Initiatives that are aimed at programs and services that advance educational attainment, which could better address the roots of the county's social problems.
While most children don’t go to school until kindergarten, they are actively learning from birth as their brains are building millions of neural connections, more than at any other time of life. Children who receive high quality education before the age of five are more likely to do better in school, finish high school, go on to higher education, earn a good income, buy a house, contribute to the local economy, and pay taxes at a higher rate. Also, children with a preschool education can usually avoid overuse of public healthcare, public aid, and criminal justice dollars.
Strategic initatives in early education seek to increase capacity to serve more children, affordability for families, high quality ratings, and accessibility. Strategic Initiatives in early childhood education also support professionalization of the early education workforce, providing scholarships for a credential and encouraging increases in compensation to retain educators and improve the quality of teaching.
Strategic initiatives focus on raising the number of adults who have a college degree or industry recognized certification after high school. This is a priority not only for the Community Foundation but for the eleven-county Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership for Economic Development. The eleven counties in the region are all working on initiatives to attract, develop, and retain the talent in our region and meet workforce needs.
In the near future, 60% of jobs will require some education beyond a high school diploma. Jobs requiring credentials and certifications beyond high school are called middle skills jobs, and they command higher wages. The Foundation and the region are working to increase the number of adults who have post-secondary degrees or high quality industry certifications in high demand jobs from 32% to 60% by 2025.
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