SPRINGFIELD, Ohio — Wittenberg’s strategic plan spells out the university’s devotion to academic excellence and community involvement. This dedication continues to spread beyond the university’s classrooms in an effort to reach out to members of the Clark County community.
Bob Welker, Wittenberg professor of education, and members of the Clark County community have joined forces to form The Aspire Collaborative, one of several established P-16 Councils around the country.
“My role was to provide ideas about the significance of such an organization,” Welker said.
The P-16 Council is a unique partnership that utilizes the skills, talents and resources of community members to help students, ranging from preschool to postsecondary, reach all levels of academic and professional attainment. Though the partnership includes students of all ages, council organizers have kept in mind the other endeavors and interests students may wish to pursue.
“P-16 is not necessarily college,” Welker said. “It can also include training options or employment. This is designed to help students move along a ‘pipeline’ toward their goals.”
Clark County residents representing a diverse group of interests will serve on the council, working to create what Welker describes as a “think tank” by applying educational discussions to real-world situations.
“If we focus our efforts, we’re more likely to make a difference,” Welker said. “We’re getting people around the table that don’t normally come together, and fusing separate spheres of influence.”
Wittenberg President Mark H. Erickson is among the participants because of his central role as an educator in the community.
The driving force behind this endeavor is the strong sense of community existing within Clark County, which includes approximately 142,000 residents and seven school districts.
“We are blessed with strong community foundations,” said Welker. He said the Turner Foundation provided financial backing needed to start the council, while invaluable support also has been provided by the Springfield Foundation and the Nehemiah Foundation.
According to Welker, council members and local residents alike see a need for increasing opportunities across the socioeconomic spectrum, with the hopes of lessening the divide between the haves and the have-nots.
“My definition of affluence is: You have a problem, you overcome it. Why? Because you have resources,” Welker said. “With poverty, you have a problem and it stops you. Why? Because you don’t have resources.”
Statistical information on obstacles young men and women face was used as a gauge to determine factors that contribute to the lack of student success. Keeping these results in mind, the council has a goal of increasing graduation rates in Clark County.
“We want to create some sort of temperature chart to keep track of our goals,” Welker said. “We want to raise the expectations of students so they can see that graduation is a cool thing.”
In addition to the community involvement that made the council possible, a competitive grant was won from Knowledgeworks, a non-profit organization that funded P-16 Councils in four other Ohio counties. Kentucky and Georgia are among several other states that have implemented similar councils. The most successful model thus far is a P-16 Council in Stark County, Ohio.
The Aspire Collaborative will meet once a month, with plans to build upon its foundation to include a larger community circle to discuss the different “layers” of community involvement.
“It’s a community concern, not just professional educators,” Welker said. “It’s businesses because they need a workforce; it’s all of us.”
A Web site with further information will be forthcoming.
By: Erica Strauss ‘08
Send a Message
• Book-Delivering Prof Named Ohio Professor of the Year
• Senior Class Selects Livestrong President & CEO Doug Ulman As 2011 Commencement Speaker
•Communication Program Honored Nationally With Top Award
• Wittenberg University Art Students Finalists For Scholarship Award