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January 19, 2007
Section: Local News

Group seeks better educated population

PERRY TWP. Education is the fastest way to improve life for Stark County residents, say local business and education professionals.
But how can that be achieved?

Richard Stoff, president of the Ohio Business Roundtable, examined some of the statistics for the dozens gathered at R.G. Drage Career Technical Center on Thursday morning for the symposium "Moving Stark County into Prosperity."

In 1998, the roundtable conducted an analysis and found just one of every 14 high school seniors in Ohio - or 7 percent - graduated prepared for an entry-level job in high-growth career fields.

Stoff said that "skills gap" remains substantial today - nearly 10 years later.

"The more you learn the more you earn has become a cliché," he said. But studies show the more educated a community is, the higher the wages - for everyone.

And that's what those gathered at the event Thursday hope to achieve. They plan to get 600 more residents to graduate from college every year, and stay in Stark County.

Reaching the goal

Keith Barsuhn, president and CEO of United Way of Greater Stark County, said lots of feedback was received about how that goal could be achieved, including focusing on some key populations. Within the next month, the group hopes to complete an action plan.

Stoff told the group of professionals that education is the best way to address economic problems, "but, we don't have a fighting chance to meet (those) goals, if our children are not prepared."

That preparation, he added, begins with early childhood education. Eliminating wide achievement gaps, particularly between race and wealth, and solving the school-funding problem in Ohio also are crucial elements.

Adrienne O'Neill, president of the Stark Education Partnership, said the county's college-going rate has gone up, despite growing poverty.

And programs at areas colleges, such as Stark State College of Technology, show promise. The Rolls Royce Fuel Cell Systems announced last year it will occupy the new $4.4 million Fuel Cell Prototyping Center at Stark State.

"It's about a can-do attitude," said O'Neill, adding it's also about increasing the rigor in school, providing dual-credit opportunities for students and getting those with some college credit, but no degree, back in the classroom.

"We need to change the perception (that) Stark County is a depressed area," she said, adding that, ultimately, "We are fortunate to live and work in Stark County."

Reach Repository writer Melissa Griffy Seeton at (330) 580-8318 or e-mail:

Repository Michael S. Balash

CAN-DO ATTITUDE Adrienne O'Neill, president of the Stark Education Partnership, addressed dozens of business and education professionals at R.G. Drage Career Center on Thursday morning for the symposium "Moving Stark County into Prosperity." The event was sponsored by Aultman Health Foundation and organized by the Education Partnership, as well as the Stark Development Board, the United Way of Greater Stark County and the Stark County Educational Service Center.

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