$5M Lilly Grant To Support EcO15 Efforts In SEI

Posted On July 12, 2012

News release from Lilly Endowment, Inc.


(Columbus, Ind.) – Lilly Endowment Inc. awarded an additional $5 million in grants to two Bartholomew County organizations to support the work of the Economic Opportunities through Education (EcO15) initiative in 10 Southeast Indiana counties. The Community Education Coalition (CEC) will receive $2.1 million, and $2.9 million will be awarded to Heritage Fund – The Community Foundation of Bartholomew County on behalf of the region.


The grants will enable the continuation of successful programs from the first phase of EcO15, which began in 2007 with Endowment grants of $26 million to CEC and $12 million to the Heritage Fund. The funds will secure the gains reached so far and sustain the momentum while ongoing funding for EcO15 is developed.


Today’s grant will support new initiatives that will further link educational opportunities to careers, especially in the industrial sectors that drive the regional economy: advanced manufacturing and (STEM) science, technology, engineering, and math-based industries for 10 counties in Southeast Indiana: Bartholomew, Dearborn, Decatur, Franklin, Jackson, Jefferson, Jennings, Ohio, Ripley and Switzerland.


“The recruitment, enrollment, and successful completion of students into and through targeted STEM programs are vitally important to our region’s current and future economy. Simply put, continuing and expanding the EcO15 initiatives to strengthen the regional learning system will encourage advanced manufacturing companies to view our region as THE place to conduct their enterprise. We thank Lilly Endowment for its continuing support,” said Mark Gerstle, vice president of community relations at Cummins Inc, and chairman of CEC.


EcO15 aims to create a regional learning system using project-based learning (PBL), as its underpinning. As a result of EcO15, over 400 teachers in Southeast Indiana are now trained in PBL through the PBL Academy.


More than 40 middle schools, 22 high schools, and postsecondary education partners, including IUPUC, Ivy Tech Community College, and Purdue College of Technology, are working together to align STEM programming which enrolls thousands of students. 


Despite progress made over the last five years, more students are needed in STEM programs because the region’s industries need approximately 500 to 700 jobs to be filled in engineering, design, science, technology, production process, and logistics roles each year for at least the next 10 years.


“Lilly Endowment funded the establishment of EcO15 in 2007 because of the strength of the board and staff of the Heritage Fund of Bartholomew County, the county’s community foundation, and the vision, dedication and collaborative spirit of the community, education and business and leaders in Columbus and Southeastern Indiana, demonstrated in part through the Community Education Coalition. The Endowment desired to help the region take fuller advantage of significant expected economic opportunities, said Sara B. Cobb, vice president of education at the Endowment.


“Now, five years later, we are gratified to see all that has been accomplished. We are especially pleased to see the number of recent job announcements in the area, which show confidence in the availability of a future well-prepared workforce, both now and in the future, which is due in part to the ongoing impact of EcO15. The cooperative efforts of the region’s community foundations, business sectors and the educational institutions have been key to establishing programs that mesh with the economic needs of Southeastern Indiana.


“We also are gratified to see the important impact that community foundations have had in EcO15. For more than 20 years the Endowment has worked through its GIFT (Giving Indiana Funds for Tomorrow) initiative to establish and strengthen community foundations all across the state. The Endowment is delighted to see them in action in ventures such as EcO15,” she said.


Noted Tracy Souza, president and CEO of Heritage Fund: “The EcO15 initiative has provided a model for how communities can form networks of industry, education, economic development, government and private organizations working together to make real and sustainable progress in developing an educated and skilled workforce that is prepared to meet industry employment needs. It is very rewarding to receive this additional grant support from the Endowment, allowing us to carry the momentum forward through the next phase of EcO15.” The Heritage Fund will continue to help the community foundations in the nine other EcO15 counties as they refine the particular plans for their counties.


John Burnett, CEO of CEC, explained: “We are truly grateful for Lilly Endowment’s continuing support. With this generous gift, the EcO15 second phase work will primarily focus on breaking down barriers to learning by creating a redesigned framework for recruiting, educating and placing thousands of students.


“The goal is for students to move through high school STEM-focused, project-based programs into postsecondary engineering, design, science, technology, production process, and logistics education programs in a ‘seamless’ manner, enrolling in college while still in high school. To complement their studies, it is hoped that students will gain internship and coop experiences,” he said.


Students will be assisted in obtaining employment in well-paying STEM-based career pathways (especially advanced manufacturing and logistics.) Sub strategies to recruit, educate, and place adults through the regions learning centers will also be included.”


For more information regarding the EcO15 initiative, please visit www.eco15.org.