C3 initiative to encourage higher education in Ottumwa

By Courtney Durst, August 11, 2016 (from Ottumwa Radio)

A collaborative, community-wide higher education resource pool is developing in Ottumwa.

On Thursday, the core group behind C3 shared its goals for education in Ottumwa to a small group of community and media members at the offices of Ottumwa Regional Legacy Foundation.

Core group members Nancy Nelson, Kelly Genners, Brian Dunn, Mark Hanson, Wendy Maas, Blair Seim, and Sharon Stroh developed the C3 initiative in response to 2015 statistical data that depicted Ottumwa’s citizens poorly in regards to educational standing.

Specifically, the group noted that “By 2020, 65% of Iowa job openings will require at least some college”.

Furthermore, “According to census data, the college completion rate for Ottumwa residents is currently 24.1% of adults age 25 and older”.

C3—Cradle- College- Career— is an initiative that seeks to spark change in Ottumwa’s educational scene by connecting students and parents to the financial and educational resources that increase the likelihood of an individual’s pursing higher education, including increased awareness of scholarship dollars (which often go unused).

According to information released by the group, “Cradle-College-Career (C3) is a collaboration of education, business, government, labor and non-profit sectors, working together to increase the number of Ottumwa students and citizens alike who are ready for, have access to and persist in reaching their goals to obtain a college degree and/or credential”.

Nancy Nelson of Indian Hills Community College noted that the initiative is about “bringing the pieces together of the puzzle of what’s here in Ottumwa,” rather than maintaining the boundaries between resources in Ottumwa that offer similar services relevant to higher education.

C3 will operate with the help of synergy among different organizations all across the community— from Ottumwa High School to Great Prairie Area Educational Agency to Indian Hills Community College—such that students at all levels and community members of all demographics and economic statuses can have equal access to the resources that facilitate the pursuit of higher education.

Initial group efforts began in the summer of 2015 after the Iowa College Student Aid Commission provided the group with a $10,250 grant.

After receiving a $50,000 grant in May of 2016, the group was able to fund a Summer Melt program for high school students as well as prepare future plans for programs concerning such issues as student-parent college collaboration, local business-to-student relations, and college readiness strategies.

Group members are now asking for the public’s assistance in spreading the word about C3’s potential for both students and community individuals in Ottumwa.

The group will host a ‘college-going conference’ on October 20 of this year at Bridge View Center in Ottumwa as an invitation for all area students, community members, educators, parents, and business owners to experience the potential of C3.

The conference will feature speakers from the Ottumwa area as well as the Midwest.

At the conference, community members will have the opportunity to join action groups which will physically carry out the specific needs of the C3 initiative. Group members hope the conference will spark a desire for a higher education- culture in Ottumwa.

The group meets once a month. Since the initiative is collaborative among community members and organizations of varying strength and emphasis, core C3 group members encourage questions to be directed to anyone in the group.

story and photo courtesy of Ottumwa Radio