RACINE COUNTY — Higher Expectations for Racine County is one of five communities across the nation to be recognized by StriveTogether for meeting education and employment goals.
StriveTogether, a national nonprofit working to improve education for every child, recognized Racine County as a national model among the 70 communities in its network.
Higher Expectations received this designation for its accomplishments, including helping to decrease unemployment rates, leading to the smallest gap between the city of Racine and the state of Wisconsin in the last 25 years, according to a press release from StriveTogether.
Jeff Neubauer, Higher Expectations executive director, stressed that these accomplishments weren’t made by his organization but its partners.
“We’re kind of like a catalyst,” Neubauer said.
Key partners of Higher Expectations are Racine County, the City of Racine, Racine Unified School District, University of Wisconsin-Parkside, Gateway Technical College and the United Way of Racine County. It also partners with local businesses.
More than 200 Unified students now receive full-day 4-year-old kindergarten, while previously none did. While Unified made the decision to create and fund the program, the idea for it came out of conversations with Higher Expectations.
“Since we launched publicly in April 2014, our county has aligned around the vision of a ‘fully capable and employed’ Racine County workforce,” Neubauer said. “Earning proof point designation and recognition is due entirely to the work of our partners and the people of Racine County. Working together, we have achieved this rigorous designation faster than any other community in the nation. We’re excited to continue moving forward with this great work to reach our collective goal from cradle to career.”
Higher expectations has also worked with multiple businesses and charitable organizations to provide books to young children.
“We work with the school district on early-grade reading,” Neubauer said.
Higher Expectations has also helped to bring around $1 million into the community in funding to support education and workforce initiatives.
Much of those funds go to UW-Parkside and Gateway to help improve graduation rates and to ensure the schools are aligned with one another to provide students an easier transition between the two. Some funding also goes to help Unified improve reading in the early elementary grades.
Higher Expectations also has a lead role in the collaborative effort to create business and civic engagement in the high schools, along with the Racine Area Manufacturers and Commerce.
Despite the community’s accomplishments, Neubauer believes that there is still a lot of work to do to reach the Higher Expectations goal of a fully capable and employed Racine County workforce.
“We don’t believe that we have arrived by any stretch of the imagination,” Neubauer said.
The other communities that have received StriveTogether’s highest recognition include Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky, Dallas County, Portland/Multnomah County and Tacoma. In 2015, StriveTogether set a goal to have five communities achieve this top designation by 2018.
Higher Expectations is a public private partnership, funded by a variety of sources. Racine Unified as well as local companies invested in it.
“We’re excited to continue moving forward with this great work to reach our collective goal from cradle to career.” Jeff Neubauer, Higher Expectations executive director