When Steve Daily taught at Haworth High School in the 1970s, he couldn’t fathom a day when manufacturing jobs in the area would be in short supply.
So when his students at the time asked why they needed the English class he taught, he didn’t have an answer.
He knew those kids would graduate and get factory jobs that paid more than his salary as a teacher.
Now, as chancellor of Ivy Tech Community College Kokomo Region some 40 years later, he’s found the answer.
Nearly two-thirds of jobs today require some kind of postsecondary training. That includes manufacturing jobs.
But Indiana ranks 42nd in the nation for the number of adults with postsecondary credentials.
Daily has joined forces with a growing number of area educators, businesses, pastors and nonprofits to form the Howard County Career Success Coalition.
They are tasked with increasing the number of area youth who not only go to college or vocational school but are successful when they do.
They set one major goal in their first year: increase the number of high school seniors in the county who filled out federal financial aid forms. After all, students who complete the form and receive aid from the federal government are more likely to enroll in college, members said.
They had modest success.
Fifty-six percent of this year’s Kokomo High School seniors filled out the FAFSA before graduating — a 6 percent increase over the year before.
Every other Howard County high school increased its completion rates by 3 percent.
The group’s 39 member organizations made that happen, and it earned them recognition from the Indiana Commission on Higher Education.
Commissioner Teresa Lubbers Wednesday declared Howard County a “college success county.”
She and others warned that it’s not time to declare victory yet.
“We’ve spent a great deal of money, effort and time telling our young people about the importance of education,” Daily said. “Today, I’d like to say that message is building momentum, it’s having an impact. But it’s not happening nearly fast enough.”