The Star – October 19, 2015
AUBURN — Learning Link, an education initiative of the Community Foundation DeKalb County, recently held its semiannual community meeting at the First United Methodist Church in Auburn.
“We travel with these meetings so we can hear from you as community members. We always want to inform and attract new people and ensure Learning Link is working countywide,” said Ken McCrory, chair of the Learning Link Steering Committee.
Guests heard the accomplishments of Learning Link’s action teams, made up of volunteers who focus on one or more segments of the lifelong learning continuum, from cradle to career. These teams work together to align organizations around common goals to improve learning outcomes for DeKalb County residents of all ages.
Sarah Speer, United Way Impact Grant specialist, began the reports, stating the biggest challenge for the “Zero to Three” team is reaching parents who can benefit from their Let’s Talk message, a program that encourages parents to talk to their babies from birth.
Deb Argast and Wayne Funk presented the results of the county’s 2015 kindergarten-readiness screening. Argast shared that 49 percent of incoming kindergarten students were screened as “ready” in the areas of academic, language and social skills, up from 46 percent in 2014.
“Which of these areas do you think is the most important if we want our children to succeed in kindergarten?” Funk asked of the audience. By a show of hands, the majority of those present were aware that children’s social competence was most important to their success in school.
Chris Straw of Team Quality Services and Rebecca Pfeffer of DeKalb Central Schools discussed the school-business partnerships team’s goal of improving students’ college and career readiness, defined as “individuals who have the knowledge, skills, and abilities to succeed in post-secondary education and economically viable career opportunities.”
Pfeffer shared that each school’s college and career readiness is measured by the state as the percentage of students who passed an advanced placement exam or an industry certification exam, or earned college credits in their high school career. DeKalb County’s percentage of “college and career ready” students has doubled from 2012 to 2014, increasing from 37 percent to 67 percent, and places second only to Adams County in the 10-county northeast Indiana region.
Reporting for the Career Success Coalition was Rod Knox. He shared the coalition’s mission as helping Hoosier students of all ages plan, prepare, and pay for learning beyond high school through effective communications and outreach efforts. A 2015-2016 goal of the coalition, according to Knox, is to “increase the number of DeKalb County students completing the FASFA, or federal student aid application, so they are eligible for financial assistance and can receive scholarships for college or career training.”
Highlighting measures indicating progress for the education and training team, Mark Franke disclosed that the number of people in DeKalb County who earned an HSE (high school equivalency diploma, previously called the GED), dropped 48 percent from 2014-2015, while the number of DeKalb County adults without a high school diploma remains unchanged. “More people are working now than they have been in recent years,” Franke explained.
“Because kids don’t come with instructions,” was the key message as Jerry Yoder focused on Parent Learning. The team’s main focus is creating awareness of the many resources for DeKalb County parents to enhance their skills as parents. The team’s survey of parents’ biggest challenges conducted at events across the county found that “time” is the biggest barrier to taking advantage of resources to help parents. Yoder emphasized why he feels educational success and alignment with Learning Link is so important, saying, “It’s amazing when you’ve been working next to someone for eight years and then you learn they can’t read.”
Numerous questions were asked of Learning Link team members following the presentations. Covering a variety of topics, questions ranged from the importance of maintaining a focus on the arts in schools, to the cost of sending every DeKalb County child to preschool, to the caseloads of students served by guidance counselors, to instilling our young adults with strong work ethics.
Planning a change to the meeting format in April, Learning Link will host its next community meeting in Garrett. For questions or more information, people may contact Judy Sorg, director of Learning Link DeKalb County, at the Community Foundation, 925-0311, or e-mail JSorg@CFDeKalb.org. Information is also available at LLDeKalb.org. Learning Link provides a platform upon which community members work together through continuous learning to improve the quality of life for all in DeKalb County.