The Big Goal Collaborative
Leaders from our region’s top businesses, early childhood learning, school systems, colleges/ universities, adult workforce and economic development, foundations, nonprofit organizations and government are working together like never before to transform our 21st century workforce and build a culture around lifelong learning. Recognizing the need to increase the educational attainment of Northeast Indiana residents, these leaders have begun creating a cradle to career civic infrastructure to help improve educational and career outcomes for children and adults in Northeast Indiana. It’s called The Big Goal Collaborative.
Launched in May 2012 by the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership (NEIRP), the collaboration is dedicated to increasing the region’s workforce from the current 35 percent who hold a high-quality degree or specialized credential to 60 percent of working age adults. United Way of Allen County is playing a significant role in the overall Big Goal effort and believes the place to start is with early childhood learning and intends to help lead the effort for high-quality early childhood programming.
United Way is excited to be joining forces with this important cradle to career regional effort. In addition to partnering with other key organizations to provide overall initiative leadership, our volunteers and staff serve on all four of the regional change networks: early childhood, K-8, high school and post- secondary/workforce.
While United Way will always be there to help those in need today, our priorities and initiatives are expanding to align with and support long-term solutions to poverty. We believe that helping to close the education achievement gap, particularly among our most at-risk citizens, is where additional effort and resources can be most effectively utilized. This will pay off for all of us when kids grow up to be self-sufficient adults who contribute to our community.
Building upon the success of our School Buddies and Real Men Read initiatives targeted at ensuring our youth read at grade level by the end of third grade, our Early Childhood Education initiatives raise awareness about the importance of early childhood learning and ensure that our youngest citizens enter kindergarten ready to learn.
United Way launched two programs aimed at meeting our kindergarten readiness goal: Let’s Talk® and Kindergarten Countdown. Let’s Talk is a program that provides messaging for caregivers to see the collaborative efforts of the entire community – doctors, service providers, librarians, local businesses, churches and more – to support efforts for developmental and learning needs of children from the time they are born. Parkview Health is partnering to give parents resources that help and encourage them to excel in the role as their child’s first teacher.
Kindergarten Countdown is a summer program that partners with Fort Wayne Community Schools, East Allen County Schools, Community Transportation Network and Lutheran Health Network to ensure the most at-risk five year olds are ready for school. This four week program helps kids improve literacy and social emotional skills so they are prepared for kindergarten. It will also focus on the critical needs of our English as a Second Language (ESL) children.
These vital early years dictate so much of the success of not only childhood, but on into adulthood. Through initiatives focused on early childhood education, United Way not only impacts the immediate needs of our community, but creates a more stable Allen County on into the future: a place where people live, work and thrive.
Pictures from Kindergarten Countdown