The Duke Energy Foundation has awarded the Community Education Coalition (CEC) of Columbus, Indiana and its largest regional initiative, the EcO Network of Southeast Indiana (Economic Opportunities through Education), a grant of $9,750.

The Duke energy funds will support the regional EcO Champion Network and the EcO Attainment Network to focus on initiatives that will increase awareness of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) careers in manufacturing, healthcare and IT, as well as increase the pipeline of students enrolling and completing programs that support these careers.

“The Duke Energy Foundation has been a very strong partner of the Community Education Coalition for many years,” said John Burnett, President and CEO of the Community Education Coalition. “This grant will support regional strategies to help more students move up at least one level in their education, training, and/or job placement through education pathways that support the needs of our region’s employers.  We are very grateful for Duke’s support in this important work.”

For a decade, the regional EcO Network has been the major initiative among Columbus and Southeast Indiana’s education, business, community foundation, and broader community partnerships working together to increase secondary to postsecondary education attainment. The Network uses a way of working together collectively through the use of the Stakeholder Engagement Process tools and frameworks developed by CEC’s CivicLab. The EcO Network seeks to create a regional system of life-long learning by connecting the residents of ten counties within rural Southeast Indiana to better economic opportunities through education. In particular, the EcO Network focuses on the region’s major economic clusters: advanced manufacturing and healthcare.

The EcO Network, through its education partners, has dramatically expanded middle school through grade 16 Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education program enrollments related to advanced manufacturing and healthcare. Additionally, access to high-quality postsecondary certifications and degree programs have been significantly enhanced by investments from the EcO Network, including the operation of twenty-three technology labs in the region. Engineering and technology programs in Bartholomew County take place through Bartholomew Consolidated School Corporation, Flatrock-Hawcreek School Corporation, C4 Columbus Area Career Connection, Ivy Tech Community College, Indiana University Purdue University Columbus, and Purdue Polytechnic Columbus.