Growing up in an inner city, as I did, can be isolating. For a long time, in fact, I did not know there were cows, or that there are many religions. I did not know that highways cross our nation, that there were people who lived beyond the end of the bus line, and that there were many opportunities for me and others who worked toward desired goals.
Because of this experience, I understand the challenges of trying to inspire “bigger thinking” among young people who lack understanding of the possibilities available to them.
Thus, we are challenged to help people understand there are “different worlds” within our region. Acknowledging this, and acting on it, can build better communities and a richer Northwest Indiana for everyone.
That expressed, the region is in turmoil, with failing schools and poor graduation rates in most urban areas. More suburban areas provide stronger schools, better graduation rates and students continuing their education beyond K-12.
It is essential that we, the citizens of the region, contribute to economic viability by ensuring our young people are job ready, life ready and college ready. We must consider ways in which those who choose to work directly after a K-12 experience have the necessary skills to find a job and develop a profession.
Too often, when we consider “job ready,” we tend to think of a specific set of work skills. To compete, our young people must have reading and math skills to successfully do the job.
Everyone also needs life skills. Our young people must know how to present themselves as viable job candidates. One must know how to ask for a job and convey a level of expertise and respect that warrants earning the position. Writing an entrance essay is equally important for college-bound individuals to demonstrate self-expression ability.
A life skill adults sometime take for granted is being on time and ready to engage. Yet many youths frequently are not punctual and might not even show up. Most troubling, an overwhelming number of employers tell me that finding young people who can pass a drug test can be a true challenge.
Northwest Indiana’s Regional Education/Employer Alliance for Developing Youth (READY) initiative focuses on maximizing high school student readiness for further education and jobs with region employers. READY helps students complete K-12 without remediation and with college credit. It prepares them for careers and aligns skills of graduates with regional needs. READY is a strong alliance that can help equip our youths to shape a stronger Region.
Given the results of our Quality of Life Indicators Report on Education, Northwest Indiana has kept a steady state. However, a steady state is not good enough. Some areas need more comprehensive programs like READY to propel our youths out of poverty and on to economic success for themselves and the region.
Our challenge is to understand that although each of us brings unique backgrounds and experiences that shape our communities, we all benefit from the success of other individuals. It is not good enough to advance our own life successfully and ignore those who have not had the same opportunities to succeed.
Investing our time and treasure in ensuring our young people have skills to succeed means a better quality of life for all of us in the region.