People and partnerships lead to success for communities.

A partnership of business, community, and education focused on aligning the region’s learning system with economic growth and improved quality of life. The Community Education Coalition seeks to create a regional system of life-long learning through collaborative networks, aligning workforce needs, and educational attainment.  Success relies on strong partnerships with business, education, and civic leaders in the region we serve, cross-sector collaborations, and collaborations between workforce and education.

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Kathy Oren
President & CEO
Luz Elena Michel
Latino Education Outreach & Program Manager, Community Education Coalition
Veronica Franzese
Partnership Development Strategist, Community Education Coalition
Anissa Adair
Project Analyst, Community Education Coalition



Educational attainment in southeast Indiana is increasing at a faster pace since the launch of co-created strategies.

Together EcO Network and its partners have taken bold action, changing outcomes for learners, and significantly increasing the number of people with college degrees or other credentials beyond a high school diploma.  Helping meet the region’s urgent need for talent.  The shared strategies and collaboration facilitated by the Community Education Coalition among the EcO Network partners in southeast Indiana contributed to an 8.1% increase in educational attainment from 2017 to 2021.  Currently, 43.7% of working age adults in southeast Indiana have a highly valued industry certification, certificate or degree and we are closing in on our goal of 44.4% by 2022.


The strategies launched through our Talent Hub have contributed to a significant increase in the number of people earning postsecondary credentials annually.

Identifying educational pathways connected to workforce demand helps meet employers’ need for talent and supports individuals seeking education to advance their careers.  The number of people earning high-value industry certifications, postsecondary certificates, and degrees increased more than 68% from 2017 to 2020 in southeast Indiana. We believe aligning education with the workforce not only builds the talent pipeline needed by regional employers, it also propels individuals along career pathways leading to living wage occupations and economic mobility.


Strengthening Educational Pathways

To strengthen educational pathways, and to make the pathway from industry certification to college degree visible, we created the Powerhouse Credentials Crosswalk.  We worked closely with education and workforce partners for more than a year to map 25 high-demand certifications into college degrees.  These certifications have the power to change lives because they are obtainable in a short amount of time, align with workforce demand, and offer college credit toward degrees that are available through regional postsecondary institutions.  Allowing residents to continue their education close to home.

Key Initiatives

AirPark Columbus College Campus

The AirPark Campus aspires to be the most equitable & first choice for students in the region to pursue education and training linked directly to high-quality employment. The campus serves a vital role in the region’s talent pipeline. With the launch of a new AirPark Campus Student Connection & Employment Center, the Community Education Coalition and campus partners seek to increase student success and employer engagement through internships & jobs in their field of study and embed equity and inclusivity in service to student success. The depth of collaboration across Ivy Tech Community College, Indiana University – Purdue University Columbus and Purdue Polytechnic to co-create shared student success strategies is truly unique. This type of cross-institution work is rare in higher education.

In summer 2022, the AirPark Campus Student Connection & Employment Center will launch as a hub for shared student success services in support of all three campus institutions. It will provide a welcoming space for current & prospective students, and a shared Campus Navigator will provide warm handoffs to education resources & employers.

TuFuturo – Latino Education Outreach Program

The Community Education Coalition’s TuFuturo team works to identify and close educational gaps facing the Latino population in our community and region, while seeking to eliminate inequitable practices and examine our own biases.  TuFuturo supports Latino students to discover and cultivate their own unique gifts, language, traditions, talents, and interests to contribute towards thriving in our community. TuFuturo provides college & career coaching to middle & high school students and families and deepens engagement with employers to increase work-based learning opportunities for Latino students. TuFuturo will connect Latinos with the AirPark Campus through career awareness strategies and events at the AirPark Student Connection Center.

EcO Network

EcO Network represents a partnership of education, business, and community leaders focused on aligning the region’s community learning system with economic growth and a high quality of life. The EcO Network undertakes system-change work focused on increasing educational attainment, especially linked to high demand economic sectors that are the most well-paying in Southeast Indiana. Current industry sectors include Advanced Manufacturing, Healthcare, and Information Technology.

EcO Network convenes quarterly meetings with regional partners to foster learning and create a shared understanding of Southeast Indiana’s talent systems. Through these collaborations, we seek to:

  • Enhance collaboration on talent and employment strategies.
  • Be shovel-ready to leverage local, regional, state, and national resources.
  • Advance equity in all that we do.


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The collaboration that occurs through partnerships with the CEC, EcO Network, IUPUC, and Ivy Tech Community College is both unique and valuable. The CEC facilitates important discussions and planning on issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the region. In particular, the CEC, working alongside partners from Su Casa Columbus, the United Way, and others, helps map the way for those who need it most. Their commitment to serving the Latinx community in our region seeks to lift up individuals’ pathways to success and sustainability. Through this work, students, educators, employers, and community-based programs work together to alleviate barriers and serve individuals seeking educational pathways to advance their career and life potential.

Dr. Lori Montalbano
Assistant Vice Chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs / Dean of Students, Indiana University – Purdue University Columbus