By Emeline Rodenas, April 13, 2017
AUBURN — A new mission for Learning Link was revealed Monday evening at Bridgewater Golf Club in Auburn.
“We’re not changing our core beliefs, but rather the way we get it done,” said Learning Link Director Judy Sorg.
The organization’s new focus will be to align community organizations, businesses and providers of learning opportunities and resources toward shared education goals. Overall, it will help build a network of resources and opportunities that people will be able to use.
Community members, business representatives and learning providers attended Learning Link’s spring community meeting to learn about future plans to improve education levels in DeKalb County.
Learning Link DeKalb County has been working since May 2016 with Debra Natenshon, contributing author of “The Performance Imperative,” published by the Leap Ambassadors Community, leaders in the field of high performance.
“Debra’s reminded us that change around learning in our community relies on aligning our community organizations, business and industry, and providers of learning opportunities and resources toward shared educational goals. No one organization can achieve social change single-handedly. It’s by working collectively that we create lasting and sustainable change,” said Sorg.
Learning Link’s new, refocused vision is to inspire a community of lifelong learners throughout DeKalb County and to improve quality of life for all.
Foundation learning, from birth to fifth grade, will focus on third-grade reading literacy and collecting data to gauge literacy levels.
Julia Tipton, director of curriculum at DeKalb Central schools, said, “We’d like to come to a concensus, to create and decide upon how to gauge progress. We’d like a commited individual from each of the public and private schools involved.” The organization hopes to have countywide data by December.
Continual learning, which focuses on education from ninth grade through adulthood, set a broader target. The previous focus was economic, but Tanya Young, director of community engagement with Ivy Tech Northeast, said, “We want to step up and see a bigger picture.”
“Every community has tremendous education needs. Our strategic objective is not to offer programs and services directly, but to connect community organizations, businesses and providers of learning opportunities and inspire a community of lifelong learners,” said Matt Bechdol, Learning Link steering committee chair and vice president of the DeKalb County Community Foundation board.
Attendees were part of breakout activities afterward and discussed gaps and barriers for both continual and foundation learning.
For continual learning, gaps such as a lack of skilled workers in the manufacturing field and alternative career options other than college were identified.
Gaps in foundation learning were a lack of stable public transportation for families to get places and parent involvement. The importance of a socio-emotional screening tool was added, as socio-emotional development is directly linked to kindergarten readiness.
The organization also mentioned the lack of resources for students in grade 6-8. The organization hopes to amend this.
Madeleine Baker, CEO of Early Childhood Alliance, and John Peirce, consultant to Allen County United Way and The Big Goal Collaborative, spoke about the potential for expanding pre-kindergarten education to more low-income 4-year-olds in Indiana.
Peirce shared a saying, “Everything I learn, I learn in early childhood.” Students who attend a full day of quality pre-K for a full year were found to make 15 months worth of progress in only nine months, accirding to him.
Baker added, “It all starts with parents. Success starts early, and the distinct one-on-one role is so important.”
“Progress comes back to quality programs. It tells a story with the data,” Peirce said.
The Learning Link continual learning and foundation learning teams will meet again Tuesday, May 23, at 3:30 p.m. The next community meeting will be held in October, date to be announced.
For more information about Learning Link or to get involved with the organization, people may call Sorg at 925-0311 or send e-mail to JSorg@CFDeKalb.org.