Collaborating is defined as working together in an endeavor. A perfect, real-life example is the Columbus-based Community Education Coalition.

The 20-year-old organization is a partnership among businesses, educational institutions, community stakeholders and the coalition, working together to increase the educational attainment of students and adults in southeast Indiana and connect them to career pathways that lead to well-paying jobs with employers in the region.

What’s come of that collaborative effort has had a significant impact on the 10 counties the coalition serves regionally, with a long list of accomplishments.

Columbus Learning Center: An educational space shared by the higher education institutions in the city

EcO Network of Southeast Indiana: A regional system of learning and opportunities that focuses on advanced manufacturing, health care and educational attainment

Learning centers in all 10 counties the coalition serves, including Jennings and Jackson.

Advanced Manufacturing Center of Excellence: A facility in Columbus shared by IUPUC, Ivy Tech and Purdue Polytechnic that contains classrooms, teaching laboratories and services for students seeking education and training in advanced manufacturing and technology careers

IU Center for Art + Design: A facility in downtown Columbus that teaches art and design, and was created in partnership with Indiana University

iGrad: A mentoring program to keep at-risk students on track to graduate high school

All of this started with a Hudson Institute report commissioned by the Columbus Economic Development Board in 1996. It recommended advanced manufacturing as a best focus for future economic growth in the community, but said few postsecondary programs were available locally to provide the skills and degrees needed.

That led to buy-in from multiple community partners to invest in an educational infrastructure that would provide the needed learning locally and in alignment with key industries so students could have pathways to good jobs and a solid quality of life.

The Community Education Coalition’s ability to get key stakeholders to the table and work together on important initiatives over the two decades is a significant achievement. These projects have tremendous impact and reach. They would not thrive without broad support from multiple stakeholders sharing the belief that education and attaining higher levels of learning are cornerstones for economic prosperity for each county in the region.

The coalition is to be commended for its two decades of work and achievement. It has become a model for others to emulate, and communities such as Columbus are better off as a result of the coalition’s vision and results.

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