Our Community is Part of Push for Higher Education

Our Community is Part of Push for Higher Education

June 22, 2011/The Times Herald


For the past several years, the Community Foundation of St. Clair County ranked education as one of our top priorities. Moreover, keeping our students on a path toward some type of post-secondary education now is our No. 1 goal.


We are fortunate to collaborate with the true experts and leaders --our school districts, the St. Clair County Regional Educational Service Agency, Baker College of Port Huron and St. Clair County Community College.


When the BlueMeetsGreen plan was being formulated, it, too, adopted education as a key priority. We were more than pleasantly surprised to find improving the education of our community is one goal on which so many community stakeholders can agree.


One of the early initiatives we supported was the implementation of the KnowHow2Go.Org program and the College Access Program (www.micollegeaccess.org). In fairly quick succession, we secured money from one of our Acheson endowment funds and the support of Port Huron High School to launch one of the first College Access programs in Michigan.


Richard Murphy, our region's first College Access staffer, just concluded his second full year of helping students pursue a college education, and the results are impressive.


Port Huron High School showed a significant increase in the percentage of high school seniors enrolling in some type of post-secondary education. Thanks to the continued generosity of Cargill Salt, Murphy expanded his efforts this past school year to include Marine City and Algonac.


The KnowHow2Go program, under the leadership of Joanne Hopper from RESA, now is a prominent component of the high school experience. At my son's fall high school orientation at Port Huron Northern, the KnowHow2Go session had standing room only.


The success of these first two initiatives is breeding more success. Thanks to the leadership of RESA, the University of Michigan, Michigan State University and the Michigan College Access Network, two new full-time members of the College Advising Corps will be in St. Clair County beginning this fall. These new positions will expand the College Access program's reach to Yale and Capac.


As the College Access model continues to expand throughout Michigan, the truly large foundations are taking notice. The Kresge Foundation in Troy, with assets in the billions of dollars, recently offered our community foundation a $50,000 challenge grant. The challenge requires we create an endowment specifically for the College Access program and that St. Clair County residents donate $50,000 into it. Even though these are challenging times to raise money, we accepted the challenge and now have until August to raise our $50,000 or lose the Kresge match.


As a community, state and country, what comes next clearly is education reform. America simply is not keeping up with other countries in the quality, quantity and relevance of our graduates.


The questions are where do we start, and where are we heading. There is a report being circulated that was released late last month. It's written by Marc Tucker from the National Center on Education and the Economy. You can find a link here: http://learningmatters.tv/images/blog/Standing.pdf.


I'm no expert on education, but the recomm- ended agenda, or action items in this plan, makes sense to me. Perhaps this is the education agenda for St. Clair County.


Randy Maiers is president of the Community Foundation of St. Clair County and a member of the BlueMeetsGreen Economic Development Plan's Implementation Committee.