GOSHEN — After months of discussion and planning by organizers and local officials, the Horizon Education Alliance’s work will soon be more visible in Elkhart County.
“There is a lot of momentum behind Horizon Education Alliance,” Horizon executive director Brian Wiebe said. “The momentum comes from having had a very successful fundraising campaign these last several months” and from establishing a staff in a formal office space.
Wiebe said last week that Horizon’s fundraising goal was to raise $450,000 to cover expenses for the organization until the end of 2013. So far, Horizon has raised $390,000 from individuals, organizations, companies and grants.
“All of this is private investment,” Wiebe said.
The Horizon Education Alliance formed last year, using the research and recommendations from the Horizon 2.0 steering committee to establish an operational plan, goals and strategies for enhancing local education. All seven of Elkhart County’s public school corporations have since joined the alliance.
Horizon’s first programs are starting this year, one focused on early education and the other on success after high school.
THE GIFT OF MUSIC
Horizon is working with Goshen College to offer Music Together classes for free to 300 local children and their parents.
Music Together classes are for infants and toddlers. Instructors use music, singing and rhythm to teach broader concepts like social interaction and self-regulation.
“We see it as a way of already beginning the work of kindergarten readiness and education for parents,” Wiebe said. “In our pilot class (for infants), we found that parents from all backgrounds were very eager for the things they were learning.”
The Music Together classes are being formed now and will be held in Elkhart and Goshen initially.
To learn more or sign up, parents can call 535-6100.
SEEKING SUCCESS AFTER HIGH SCHOOL
Horizon is also organizing the Elkhart County College Success Coalition, one of about 50 such coalitions in Indiana.
The coalitions are composed of schools, businesses, churches and other organizations interested in increasing college access and success, according to the Indiana College Success Coalition’s website.
In this case, though, college actually refers to any “two-year degree, a four-year degree, a certificate program, an apprenticeship or even national service,” Wiebe said. “It’s not a narrow understanding of college, but in the 21st century, we know that everyone will benefit from some sort of post-secondary education.”
So far, 16 groups have joined the local coalition, including local middle and high schools, Wiebe said.
The only requirement to join the College Success Coalition is to hold at least one event throughout the year designed to help students “plan, prepare and pay” for college, he said.
Businesses, organizations and other groups can join the coalition by contacting Jim Kirkton, Horizon coordinator of secondary and post-secondary readiness and success, at 238-0771.
In addition to Music Together and the Elkhart County College Success Coalition, Horizon is beginning work on two larger programs.
The organization is in the early planning stages of a coaching and mentoring program. Students could have reading mentors in the elementary grades and mentors who would help with career exploration in middle school, high school and beyond, Wiebe said.
Horizon is also looking at how to expand the capacity and quality of pre-school education in Elkhart County, he said.
STAFF AND AN OFFICE
Horizon staff are settling into an office at 124 E. Washington St. in downtown Goshen.
Wiebe and Aliah Carolan-Silva, director of research and evaluation, began as full-time staff members Oct. 1. Several other staff members joined them with the start of the new year.
Don Jantzi, who retired as principal at Chamberlain Elementary last summer, is coordinator of parent and child development. Mark Mow, who retired as Elkhart Community Schools’ superintendent last summer, is leading initiatives in science, technology, engineering, the arts and math, known as STEAM subjects. Jim Kirkton, who resigned as Goshen High School’s principal last summer, is Horizon’s coordinator of secondary and post-secondary readiness and success. Jim Siegmann, who retired at the end of 2012 from his position with the Elkhart County Community Foundation, is the ambassador to nonprofit organizations.
HEA recently merged with Learning Generation Initiative, a local program that has offered general education diploma classes and adult literacy courses. LGI has essentially become the adult learning branch of Horizon, Wiebe said, taking on LGI director Kathy Royer as the Horizon coordinator of adult education and associate director of Horizon. Learning Generations Initiative’s other six employees are now also staff of Horizon, splitting their time between Horizon’s Goshen office and an office in Elkhart, where classes will continue to be held.
Bruce Stahly, who retired as Goshen’s superintendent last summer, is Horizon’s coordinator of early learning. Wiebe said, though, that since Stahly is busy working with Goshen Community Center plans, Wiebe is also working with that department.
Wiebe said that the staff plans to have a website up at some point, but, in the meantime, people can contact Wiebe with comments or suggestions at email@example.com or at 574-849-7173.