ValpoNEXT Coordinator Kathy Sipple speaks with Jon Groth at the Porter County Career Center about its programs and successes. This organization is available to every junior and senior high school student in Porter County. It offers a myriad of programs intended to give students a taste of many job fields as well as introduce essential training techniques. The PCCTC is focused on industries and employment, and it gives students a way to demonstrate learned skills to potential employers. With a focus on real-world career readiness, the PCCTC knows that not every student is destined for a four-year university and offers a different approach to entering the workforce. Their website explains the 35+ programs available, as well as the different initiatives underway. Groth explains several ways the Career Center has gone greener in the past decade, and discusses a recent project to save the historic Valparaiso Grand Trunk Railroad Depot.
The ValpoNEXT initiative 2D is focused on student readiness.
The Porter County Career Center is available to every student in every Porter County high school. It offers 35 different programs, such as automotive technician work, health occupations pre-nursing, welding, machine trades, and more.
This program is tied to industry and employment.
There is a competency based certificate program that lists the skills they can perform.
There are awards for outstanding students, excellent students, work ethic, and honors programs.
Students learn how to write resumes, interview skills practice, and a LinkedIn profile.
ValpoNEXT Coordinator Kathy Sipple speaks with Elizabeth Lynn, Founding Director at the Center for Civic Reflection at Valparaiso University and outgoing Director at VU’s Institute for Leadership and Service.
Lynn and Sipple discuss the initial issues that formed the foundation of the ValpoNEXT planning process. After hiring an outside organization and organizing a variety of methods to hear public opinions, the developed and in-depth set of recommendations for the city. This plan is to carry Valparaiso through the next several decades and help it become the most engaged city of its size. The nonprofit group ValpoNEXT was formed to connect and guide volunteers in the community to focus strengths towards these common goals. The necessity of the community board meetings is emphasized, as well as the need for volunteers (as well as details to get involved).
Elizabeth Lynn Background
Dr. Lynn teaches in the field of philanthropic leadership and service, conducts research on the role of the humanities in American civic life, served on the Valparaiso Board of Zoning Appeals, the governing board of Indiana Humanities, and the advisory board for the Lake Family Institute on Faith and Giving at Indiana University.
She holds a PhD in Religion and Literature from the University of Chicago and is the Co-editor with Adam Davis of The Civically Engaged Reader. Most recently she authored An Ongoing Experiment: State Councils, the Humanities, and the American Public (Kettering Foundation, 2013).
ValpoNEXT Coordinator Kathy Sipple speaks with Eric Zosso, ValpoNEXT President and leader of the Economic Vitality Community Action Committee. They discuss current plans by the Economic Vitality group to work with the City and install a fiber network. Zosso also brings up potential resources to tap-into in the future. He talks about the Valparaiso Creative Council, headed by Nicole Upton. Maggie Clifton’s role as the connection between ValpoNEXT and the City of Valparaiso is explained in further detail. Sipple and Zosso “call out” active members of the Economic Vitality community board for their valuable volunteering, and they discuss avenues for interested parties to get involved with ValpoNEXT activities.
Eric Zosso is the president of ValpoNEXT and also leads the Economic Vitality community board. He also owns a co-working space downtown called Zoseco Coworking.
First initiative, based on public desire, is to facilitate new downtown housing.
Want to manage fiber network development: the city is actively pursuing this avenue.
Possibly develop a meeting and conference center to encourage events that play a part in both tourism and in our business strengths.
Creating airport support services (future plans).
Promoting green practices with sustainable development in our future.
Nicole Upton serves as the President of the Board for the Valparaiso Creative Council, connected to initiatives originally outlined in the ValpoNEXT Vision Plan under Culture and Recreation.
Maggie Clifton is the director of Community Engagement for the City of Valparaiso.
The Human Relations Council established this position to promote a deliberate effort in the realm of community engagement.
As ValpoNEXT is not a city institution, Maggie Clifton can serve as a point person to connect passionate citizens with the City of Valparaiso.
Spencer Skinner is a board member for ValpoNEXT who works in Chicago in the housing sector.
Isaac Carr is the CEO of CCSK Law in town. He is dedicated, structure, organized, and has been recently added to the board of ValpoNEXT.
Bill Herring works with SCORE to give no-cost business advice to local startups.
Always looking for new diverse members to attend meetings to contribute opinions, knowledge, and passion.
The Equity and Inclusion group is tackling affordable shelter and seeing how it relates to our city as a whole.
Hosted a summit in May to get all five groups together with members of the community.
ValpoNEXT Coordinator Kathy Sipple speaks with Garner Tullis, Nurturing Our Youth Community Action Committee Leader and Executive Director of Our Greater Good. Tullis explains his ties to ValpoNEXT from its initiation, as well as his current day-job and how it relates to the goals of the Nurturing our Youth initiative. He goes on to describe a study performed by the Social Impact Research Center investigating the social and socioeconomic statuses of Valparaiso residents and how these have changed over time.
Tullis highlights student readiness programs, the need for public engagement in the school system, and the free preschool program Ready, Set, Kindergarten. He goes on to describe the ways he personally is working with the youth of the Valparaiso Community School system, and how passionate adults can also get involved with Valparaiso’s future in its children.
Get a copy of the City Wide Vision Plan document we reference in this episode. << CLICK HERE>>
A link to the population and housing study mentioned in the episode is available as well. <<CLICK HERE>>
This community board meets monthly to address Initiative 2 in the document, which includes:
2a: Invest in Community Schools
2b: Evaluate School Governance
2c: Create a Teacher Excellence Program
2d: Create a Student Readiness Program
2e: Prepare Student Master Plan
2f: Encourage Public Engagement in Schools
Garner Tullis served as the Interim Coordinator of ValpoNEXT for around 1.5 years before Kathy Sipple was appointed to this role.
Tullis now heads the Nurturing our Young People Community Action Committee for ValpoNEXT.
Day job is working with children in schools and in school-readiness programs.
Action Committee educates people on the state of the union with regards to school demographics (which have undergone a dramatic shift in the last 15-20 years).
Paint a picture of our needs and where our strengths are.
Study commissioned to investigate affordable housing, social demographics, population demographics, etc.
The population of families that are economically distressed or that are living under the poverty line is growing faster than any other demographic population in Valparaiso. This growth outpaces this same growth in Porter County and every other county in the state of Indiana.
The number of low income individuals grew by 40%, from 3,600 people in 2007 to 5,150 in 2013.
This CommunityAction Committee has focused on creating a student readiness program based on changes in demographics.
There is an opportunity to use secondary education to prepare students for college and trade opportunities.
Education must prepare students in our city for adulthood based on the young people present.
Encouraging public engagement in our schools.
Volunteer alongside teachers and administrators as mentors and tutors.
Opportunity for people to spend one hour a week to form a significant and consistent adult relationship.
Ready, Set, Kindergarten: Free Pre-K school readiness program for all 4 year olds that meets at every elementary school for 2 hours once a week from September to May: designed so that students are familiar with teachers, school layout, schedules, and more.
What are the things that volunteers can participate in immediately, where is the greatest need, and where can we make an impact the fastest?
Garner Tullis meets with Cecily Powell and Valparaiso Community Schools students during the school day in order to get youth input.
ValpoNEXT Sense of Place Community Action Committee leader Thais Carter wants to learn what residents think is important about building community in neighborhoods. In this episode she speaks with ValpoNEXT coordinator, Kathy Sipple, about the new survey created by Carley Lemmon, Assistant Planner for the City of Valparaiso.
This survey is a tool to help capture the variety of neighborhood activities present in Valparaiso, as well as determine ways to measure this engagement. The Sense of Place initiative is tied to these actions, focusing on measures to name and brand neighborhoods as well as developing a “Love your Neighborhood” program. Carter then discusses a potential city-wide block party, and explains how this communication and connection between neighbors is an extension of civic engagement.
Valparaiso residents are invited to share their ideas using this link. << CLICK HERE >>
Valparaiso has strong neighborhood identities, especially in historic and older neighborhoods.
Creating a survey asking residents about the people and places that resonate in their neighborhoods and how they participate.
Learn about the different things each neighborhood is active in.
Create indicators to develop a neighborhood toolkit
Sense of Place Initiative
Naming and branding neighborhoods.
Developing a “Love your Neighborhood” program.
No matter where you live in the city, your neighborhood’s sense of place matters, too.
Survey was created by Carley Lemmon, a Ball State graduate who has returned to Valpo in order to give back to her home.
Trying to create a community-wide block party.
Jesse-Pifer/Memorial neighborhood is an example of a neighborhood that is already throwing block parties.
Create a template for a city-wide block party in partnership with the Park’s department.
Take place at 5 parks throughout the city at the same time with food, music, and activities.
Celebrate what it means to be a neighbor in Valparaiso.
Build strong connections as neighbors and fellow citizens.
ValpoNEXT Coordinator Kathy Sipple speaks with Jeff Lewis, a member of the Executive Board and leader of the monthly Equity and Inclusion Community meetings. Lewis discusses the Equity and Inclusion Community Action Committee in depth. Some of its initiatives include “engaging our citizens” and “embracing our diversity,” which has translated to pushes for affordable housing and publicizing social services in Valparaiso. Diverse community members are asked to attend meetings if interested in order to bring together a wide variety of voices on each topic.
The Equity and Inclusion group’s connections to Valparaiso’s Advisory Human Relations Council are explained in depth. Lewis then goes on to discuss Project Neighbors, of which he is the acting president. This organization has formed several spin-offs to provide housing for vulnerable individuals, childcare, healthcare, and a variety of other services. Finally, they “call out” several individuals who have been active in the Equity and Inclusion community action committee, discussing their roles in the community and how they bring their own skills to help ValpoNEXT (as an example of how every volunteer is a tool for good).
ValpoNEXT Coordinator Kathy Sipple speaks with Thais Carter, Board Secretary and Community Action Committee Leader for Sense of Place. They discuss the timeline of how ValpoNEXT came to be, the reasons it was formed, and several essential members. The necessity for citizen engagement and volunteering is a forefront of the conversation as a whole, as well as ValpoNEXT’s dedication to communicating, convening, and celebrating. Sipple and Carter also discuss the current community boards and their main focuses, and give examples of the work that said boards are producing now.
“ValpoNEXT exists to convene, communicate, and celebrate the work that citizens, organizations, businesses, and city leaders are doing to help us live our shared values and dreams for our community.”
Podcast is an opportunity for conversations with the community action committee leaders and members, citizens, organizations and other with ideas to share and help us toward our vision to have Valparaiso be the most civically engaged city of its size.
ValpoNEXT is focused on the conversation regarding who we wanted to be and how to get there.
Garner Tullis initially served as the interim coordinator in the beginning.
ValpoNEXT is focused on civic engagement and how we care for one another, and this is a national sentiment that we implement at the local level.
Executive committee (updated):
President: Eric Zosso
Secretary: Thais Carter
Treasurer: Jeff Lewis
Coordinator: Kathy Sipple
Board represents many niches within the Valparaiso community: want this organization to speak for everyone in Valpo.
This initiative is a volunteer-led initiative. ValpoNEXT, a 501(C)3 only has one part-time paid worker (Kathy Sipple); every other member is a volunteer citizen.
ValpoNEXT requires time, care, and resources from its citizens in order to function.
Valpo is an amazing community, and ValpoNEXT wants to make sure everyone knows what options are available to help our community.
Become aware of all the ways our community members are stepping up.
Get all people invested in their projects the chance to get together and refine their work.
Bringing together the right people will amplify our ability to share our work and celebrate successes.
Email us at [email protected] if you have a similar success that you would like to share!
Community Action Committees: Public aspect of how ValpoNEXT functions
Encourage citizen presence at these meetings.
Check out our Facebook page to find the times and locations!
Current Community Action Committees
Equity and Inclusion
Nurturing Our Young People
Sense of Place
Land bank: Land banks are governmental entities or nonprofit corporations that are focused on the conversion of vacant, abandoned, and tax delinquent properties into productive use (Center for Community Progress)
ValpoNEXT will not create a land bank, but will provide information for passionate citizens so that they know how to achieve success.
Citizens who want to get involved but don’t know where to start can begin with ValpoNEXT.
Talk about what we want for our neighbors and for our families.