The Horizon Education Alliance, a county-wide group working to enhance local education, will be making some major moves forward in the next several months, starting with the appointment of an executive director.
Brian Wiebe has been the executive director of Goshen College’s music center since it opened in 2003, but is leaving that position to become the executive director of the Horizon Education Alliance. He formally begins as Horizon’s leader Oct. 1.
As executive director, Wiebe will work with Horizon’s board of directors and an eventual staff “to chart the vision” and implement programs. He will also work to secure funding from local, state and national sources. One of Horizon’s strengths, he said, “will be that the funding comes from a broad set of investors.”
The Horizon Education Alliance formed in January when the Elkhart County Commissioners approved an agreement to create an alliance between local school and community leaders in order to carry out the Horizon 2.0 committee’s recommendations. Those proposals, also presented in January, focused on expanding early childhood education and building a college and career-ready culture in Elkhart County through a set of more specific proposals.
Wiebe said that he and the board are finalizing Horizon’s long-term strategic goals, which look 10, 15 and 20 years into the future. They are also working to develop detailed operational plans for the next three years. Soon, Horizon will be “sharing and testing” those with local educators, business leaders and the community, Wiebe said, with possibly some implementation of new programming as early as January 2013.
Wiebe was involved with the original Horizon Project in 2003 and continued to work with Horizon 2.0 as it narrowed its focus to improving area education and, in turn, the local economy.
“I chose to stay involved because I truly believe education can transform our larger community,” Wiebe said. “Elkhart County will become stronger by investing into early childhood, helping strengthen our K-12 systems and bridging secondary more seamlessly into post-secondary opportunities, increasing the number of mentors and coaches for our students, and even providing strong opportunities for adults to be lifelong learners.”
He believes that education can “build a strong social fabric,” as well as benefit the local workforce, but that it will take a community effort.
“We will need people to step up when it’s time for reading coaches for the younger grades and career coaches for older students,” he said, adding that the work should be rewarding for those helping as well as those helped. “I hope people will stay tuned and be ready to lend their assistance.”
Wiebe said that Elkhart County’s involvement with Horizon can be an example to other communities, largely because of the collaboration he already sees locally.
“There is a level of collaboration in this county that is rare when you start to hear stories from other communities,” he said, “and this collaboration will not only help us be successful but will someday inspire others communities to also choose education as their centerpiece.”
“We were hit so hard a few years back,” he said, “but it seems this is our answer to difficult times. We’re as resilient as anyone.”
Along with Wiebe’s work at Goshen College, he has also been assistant professor of music at Bethel College in North Newton, Kan., and the director of instrumental music at Central Christian School. He has also been involved with Elkhart County’s Youth Honors Orchestra and also helped lead the local launch of Music Together, an early childhood music program.