Recently, the Quality of Life Council collaborated with the One Region, One Vision Council in a luncheon to both report on progress made in pursuit of One Region initiatives and to recognize individuals for their efforts in advancing the goals of the Quality of Life Council. It was wonderful to see adults and youth who have contributed so much to their communities and the region recognized for their efforts. It was a "feel good" event.
However, the luncheon wasn't simply about seeing old friends, setting lunch dates and exchanging business cards. It was about our region focusing our attention and energy on what I like to call the four E's -- education, economic development, employment and environmental sustainability. It was a little poke to our collective conscience.
Over the past year, the regional college and university presidents and chancellors have editorialized monthly on the Quality of Life Indicators and our progress as a region. We have discussed the outcomes of our efforts to maintain or improve the indicators throughout Northwest Indiana. Our task has been to continue discussion of how we, as a region, can better and more effectively think, act, and live as a more cohesive community.
However, we were all sharply reminded by several of the speakers at the luncheon that if we let our communities drift on auto pilot, our support systems (education, economic development, employment and environmental) will change, and many times not for the better. It was a wake-up call when U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan provided devastating statistics on education in all of our Northwest Indiana communities. What he so clearly pointed out was that all of our school systems must educate our youths at a much higher level so our students can compete in the global marketplace. Without this, all of Northwest Indiana will stagnate.
What others pointed out was that until everyone strives to make sure all neighborhoods are robust and thriving, that jobs are local and provide for economic growth, and that clean waterways and fertile green spaces are the rule and not the exception , none of us will attain a sustainable, positive quality of life.
Again, we were reminded by those we honored at this event that these goals can be achieved only if each of us does something in their community with the idea that it will affect all of us in the region. Our continuing challenge is that we as a region cannot afford to do anything less.
J. Guadalupe Valtierra is chancellor of Ivy Tech Community College Northwest.The opinion expressed in this column is the writer's and not necessarily that of The Times.