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Bringing the Vital Conditions to Life: Lifelong Learning
Part of our Vital Conditions series that’s designed to help you bridge the connection from understanding each Vital Condition to identifying ways to improve it in your community and where to start.
Inspired by our organization’s name -- IP3 -- we’ve structured this series to showcase People successfully improving Conditions at the local level, Places who have built up momentum worth modeling, and inspiring Possibilities to drive your work.
What is Lifelong Learning?
Supportive learning environments that begin at birth set children on a positive path for social and behavioral development. A workforce that is prepared to learn new technological skills is more flexible and resilient to changes in employer needs. Likewise, an aging population that is willing to adapt their thinking and offer support to those that are younger helps advance prosperity across generations. Learn more
Why is this considered a vital condition for health?
Education is an important route to advancing social mobility and contributes to increased health and well-being. We now know that learning environments that are willing to adapt their approach to support diverse populations are more equitable and help narrow achievement gaps. Learn more
Football is a big part of the culture in Wisconsin. So in 2011, when Nick Cochart, a brand new high school principal in Algoma, WI (population 3,167) suggested that, instead of building a new football stadium, the money would be better spent on something that would benefit more people year round, it raised some eyebrows, and he faced community backlash.
Fast-forward to 2014. Cochart, himself a former University of Wisconsin defensive lineman, was now Superintendent of the 800 student Algoma School District, and the community began to rally behind his vision.
Partnering with Bellin Health,other businesses, and some private donors, the district built the Algoma Community Wellness Center, which included an expansion of the district’s technical education facilities. Instead of a football stadium that’s used five nights a year, Algoma now has a robust community space with programs that enhance residents’ physical health and longevity, financial well-being, and lifelong learning opportunities.
"We look at the school district as the center of the community," said Cochart, in a Green Bay Press Gazette interview. "We want our schools to be a campus of learning where people of any age can attend."
What they did:
Algoma Wolf Tech is a student business supported by Algoma High School staff. Formed in 2012 as a partnership with local manufacturers, this program allows students to gain the technical and soft skills needed for employment success.
Recognizing that the classroom setting is not ideal for all students, the district created Pathfinder Academy--an alternate school where students learn at their own pace with a more personalized learning experience.
East Shore Industries, a nonprofit that finds local employment for adults living with disabilities. Their clients are included throughout the community, contributing as employees, volunteers, and advocates.
Students of color, especially males and those with learning disabilities, are often caught up in an education system that does not fully support their needs. Many are pushed out of school through suspensions and expulsions that can lead them into the school-to-prison pipeline. In Omaha, Nebraska Juvenile Justice System leaders came together to address their city’s overwhelmingly high statistics regarding number of youth in that pipeline.
Operation Youth Success is a cross-sector coalition that includes juvenile justice leaders, family court judges, school officials, police officers, and community organizers. Their overarching goal is to reduce the number of youth involved in the juvenile justice system by improving the strategies that judges, officers and schools use to deal with minor infractions and discipline issues.
Since their formation in 2014, Operation Youth Success has:
- Implemented seven work groups, each focused on an important challenge to reform.
- Conducted community-wide training programs for police officers on how to deal with youths, and help officers recognize the impact that involvement with the juvenile justice system can have on them.
- Designed and implemented a new multi-disciplinary intervention to support probation-involved youth that return to school.
- Developed a Family/Youth Guide to assist those going through court processes.
As part of a program evaluation, task force members were asked “What are you doing differently as a result of this working group?” responses included:
“My approach to discipline is more deliberate and thought based. Consequences come to play during initial interactions and not after.”— School-Based Arrest Task Force member
“I have encouraged the families to contact me with any questions they may have, little or small. I think it's important for families to feel like they can have someone to call.”— Families Working Group member
“I think that these ongoing conversations are impacting my work in small ways all the time. I am more likely to make a connection than to act in isolation.”— School-Based Arrest Task Force Member
“Coordinating the vision of this group with the community health improvement plan.”— Prevention Working Group member
Possibilities to Inspire You
There are many opportunities to improve conditions for Lifelong Learning in communities. Some of the most significant opportunities pertain to:
Funding schools at levels sufficient for them to provide a good education
Rethink discipline in schools to reduce the school-to-prison pipeline
Turn the tide on the student debt crisis
We offer the following collection of community success stories, resources, and tools to help you explore current conditions, look for possibilities, build community, and take action.