Community leaders to jointly address Inland Empire educational and economic challenges

By Staff Reports

(Victor Valley)– Community leaders from education, business, government, and nonprofit sectors will gather on Sept. 21-22, for the Growing Inland Achievement’s (GIA) 4th Annual Toward a Shared Vision conference, working jointly to tackle some of the Inland Empire’s toughest challenges related to education and the economy.

The GIA is a collaboration of Inland Empire education, business, government, and nonprofit agency leaders that includes GIA board co-chair, Cal State San Bernardino President Tomás D. Morales. Its mission is to raise the long-term economic outlook of the inland region by improving the low educational achievement rates. GIA network institutions work together to close gaps in student success outcomes for students of color and students from low-income backgrounds.

By the time the decade draws to a close, the Inland Empire will need to produce twice as many college graduates as it currently does to fill projected employer demand in the region. “That seems like a huge hill to climb, and it is—requiring more than simply a different way of thinking, but a clear strategy for dealing with a complex series of factors contributing to the Inland Empire’s historically low educational attainment,” said Carlos Ayala, GIA chief executive officer.

According to the College Futures Foundation, for every 1,000 high school freshmen in San Bernardino and Riverside counties, only 151 will complete a bachelor’s degree. Additionally, census data shows that among adults 25 and older, less than 22% in the Inland Empire has a bachelor’s degree or higher. That compares to 33% statewide.

College completion correlates directly to economic opportunity. Per capita income in both counties – $23,956 in San Bernardino and $27,142 in Riverside, according to Census data – is significantly below the state average of $35,021. The result is 17.5% (809,000 people) of the Inland Empire population living below the poverty level, according to Data USA. These challenges are projected to escalate in the wake of the global pandemic.

During the convening, GIA’s Board of Directors has plans to unveil five new regional goals resulting from a regional information scan and broad stakeholder feedback. “The new goals will help to align community members and focus efforts to increase educational and economic equity in the region,” said Ann Marie Sakrekoff, senior director at GIA. “With challenges as big as we face, we must work together and align our solutions. That’s what GIA’s work and this convening are all about.”

In addition to discussing new regional goals, attendees will have the opportunity to work alongside the experts from Collective Impact Forum as they share strategies and best practices for working collaboratively across sectors. Additionally, Lauren Smith, co-CEO of FSG, one of the world’s leading social impact consulting firms, will provide a keynote presentation about “Equity in our New Reality.” The event also serves as a kick-off for regional Action Network Teams (ANTs), which focus on specific issues such as equity, college and career readiness, and adult and professional education.

“Our ability to work together is what accelerates real transformational change,” said Ayala. “It begins with increasing educational attainment through an efficient, high- quality education system with a specific emphasis on accelerating success for historically marginalized groups. This, in turn, fuels a robust Inland Empire economy and creates wealth and prosperity for all residents of the region.”

Community leaders throughout the Inland Empire are encouraged to attend. Event information and registration can be found at InlandEmpireGIA.org.

GIA is a regional intermediary organization aimed at increasing postsecondary credential attainment, adding more qualified people to the workforce, and contributing to a thriving economy. GIA brings together leaders across K-20 education, civic, and business sectors to work together through a collective impact approach to achieve educational and economic success. Several grants have helped GIA to carry out their work, including a Governors Innovation Award, College Futures Foundation, James Irvine Foundation funding, and a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Visit the Growing Inland Achievement website to learn more.

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