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Investing in East Central Indiana’s Future

Birth to Five program supports local youth and their families.

By Lori Currie on May 15, 2023

Education in East Central Indiana
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The quality of a community’s schools is central to any family’s aspirations. In this regard, the residents of Indiana are exceptionally lucky. Indiana’s pre-K through grade 12 education ranks ninth among states, according to U.S. News & World Report.

This impressive ranking is the direct result of the work of agencies such as the East Central Indiana Talent Collaborative (ECITC), a regional impact initiative founded in 2021 to improve talent attraction, talent development and talent connection in the area.

The ECITC partners with key stakeholders in the region’s nine counties: Blackford, Delaware, Fayette, Grant, Henry, Jay, Randolph, Rush and Wayne.

Education in East Central Indiana

Birth to Five

Last year, the organization identified several main goals, including creating a regional center for children from birth to age 5, because research shows 90% of brain development happens during this time frame.

Given the opportunity to utilize $1.5 million of Indiana’s READI grant funding, the ECITC decided to focus its efforts on a regional birth to age 5 initiative to provide training, resources and advocacy to families in East Central Indiana. The expectation is that this additional funding for the Birth to Five program will help the region attract young families by giving parents an opportunity to receive affordable child care, which allows them to pursue their careers.

“The Birth to Five initiative was an easy choice because of the importance of this work, but also because the group of regional representatives has been successfully working together for some time and were organized in a way that allowed them to quickly utilize these funds by developing a regional training, resource and advocacy center.”

Ashley Surpas, associate director of regional initiatives at Ball State University

Community Effort

With nearly 410,000 Hoosiers between the ages of 0 and 5, Birth to Five is the perfect program to address the specific needs of this impressionable group.

“The ECITC determined that having a well-equipped pipeline of early childhood professionals, parents and community members in the Birth to Five Coalition, who understand the importance of brain development and high-quality interactions during these early years, should be the focus,” says Missy Modesitt, executive director for Muncie BY5.

That group was created in 2013 when members of the Muncie Action Plan worked to identify areas for growth in the Muncie area and deemed education a top priority. Muncie BY5 and Birth to Five overlap in many ways.

“The regional Birth to Five group will benefit from the research and marketing materials already created for BY5. Muncie BY5 currently has a training center that is used for new staff onboarding and specialty trainings, and they also have a kindergarten readiness assessment. These both will be shared throughout the region,” Modesitt says.

While the East Central Indiana region shares many of the same challenges, each county is unique in its early childhood needs.

“Many of our counties need more providers, or they need their current providers to improve their quality rating,” Modesitt says. “The ECITC decided to use a portion of the READI funding for mini-grants, and every county in the region will have equal access to these funds, although the funding may not be the same for all counties.”

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