Pacers Foundation donates $500,000 to Common Goal

June 3, 2008
The Greater Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce today received a $500,000 financial contribution from the Pacers Foundation, Inc. for Common Goal, the Indianapolis Chamber’s high school graduation rate initiative. Common Goal, a communitywide collaborative effort, intends to raise the Marion County high school graduation rate to 80 percent by 2012, a 10 percent increase over the next four years. When achieved, Marion County public schools will be among the top-performing urban schools in the nation.

The announcement, made at Conseco Fieldhouse, featured representatives of the Indianapolis Chamber, the Pacers Foundation, Indiana Pacers and Indiana Fever, Mayor Greg Ballard and Marion County school superintendents. The Pacers Foundation is contributing to Common Goal because the Chamber-led initiative’s mission of helping Indianapolis youth succeed echoes the Pacers Foundation’s mission.

“The Pacers Foundation is excited to partner with the Greater Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce in this results-oriented project,” said Cindy Simon Skjodt, Chair of the Pacers Foundation. “This will benefit at-risk youth and our overall community, both economically and socially.” Pacers Foundation’s cash commitment, coupled with support from the Indiana Pacers and Indiana Fever, will serve as a “match” to generate additional funding to bring the total community investment to at least $1 million.

“This very significant contribution from the Pacers Foundation will allow us to put in place interventions tailored to the needs of the individual schools in Marion County,” said Greater Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce President Roland M. Dorson. “Communities across the country have been wrestling with low educational attainment levels for decades. With support like this from the Pacers Foundation, we can begin to engage our entire city in making our schools better than anywhere else in the country.”

Chaired by Community Health Network President William Corley, Common Goal is a collaborative effort that includes all 11 Marion County public school superintendents, the MindTrust, City of Indianapolis, United Way of Central Indiana, Center for Leadership Development, Center of Excellence in Leadership of Learning (CELL), the Urban League and the Indiana Department of Education. In addition to the targeted 80 percent graduation rate, Common Goal also will decrease the dropout rate from 7.7 percent to 5 percent by implementing customized intervention strategies. More than 1,000 mentors will be recruited to work directly with students to help them stay on course for graduation.

“The contribution from the Pacers allows us to further the efforts of Common Goal to guide more kids to graduation,” said Indianapolis Public Schools Superintendent Eugene White. “All 11 Marion County public school corporations are working together to provide the support our students need. We appreciate the leadership displayed by the Greater Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce in spearheading this public-private partnership."

Through the efforts and funds provided by Common Goal:

  • A mentoring program has been established to give students one-to-one guidance.
  • Six graduation coaches have been placed in four high schools to identify students in need of interventions and social services.
  • Three additional coaches are planned.
  • Reading programs are available for below-level and struggling readers.
  • Computer-aided instruction has been implemented to help students catch up on credit hours.
  • Every high school in Marion County participating in Common Goal has designed researched-based initiatives and best practices for implementation in their respective schools.

More than 200 mentors are already in place throughout the county, trained by Junior Achievement, another community partner in the Common Goal effort. RW Armstrong is one of those companies that has committed to helping the community achieve a Common Goal.

“We’re asking 20 of our employees to become Common Goal mentors because we strongly believe it is an investment in our community,” said Tim George, vice president of RW Armstrong. “Just imagine how much of a difference we can make if all 4,300-plus Chamber members pledged just one mentor. I am challenging all Chamber members to join us in achieving our Common Goal.”

Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard supports Common Goal because it is vital to the city’s economy.

“Educating the children of Marion County has been one of my highest priorities since I first announced I was running. We cannot improve our economy without also working to improve the quality of our educational system,” Ballard said. “In order to attract and retain companies in Marion County we must provide them with a viable workforce. When nearly a third of our students fail to graduate from high school, we are not achieving that goal. That’s why public-private partnerships, like Common Goal, are so important. The successful progression of students from high school to the workforce is a vital component of Indianapolis’ long-term economic success.”

Those interested in assisting in the Common Goal initiative can get additional information at Commongoalindy.org.

Founded in 1890 by Colonel Eli Lilly and a group of Indianapolis business leaders, the Greater Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce is the voice of the central Indiana business community. Today, with a membership of more than 4,000 businesses, the Indianapolis Chamber is still a voice of progress and improvement, bringing together businesses for a thriving community. For more information on the Chamber, visit Indychamber.com.