Transformed – This Final Four, think of HEA as Elkhart County’s ‘glue guy’

Mario Garcia (right, sitting) signs his letter of intent to become a youth apprentice at Robert Weed Corporation in Elkhart in 2019.

It’s that “most wonderful time of the year” in Indiana — not Christmas, of course, but rather the March Madness of college basketball tournaments.

If you watch several of the games (and it would be un-Hoosier-like not to), you’ll hear this odd term: the “glue guy.” It’s applied to players on both men’s and women’s teams, and it refers to the player who makes the team function at its best.

The glue guy rarely scores the most points, or makes the highlights on the news after the game. Instead, the glue guy just seems to know where to be on defense to make the steal, or when to set the pick that allows the driving teammate a free path to the basket, or how to toss the no-look lob so the team’s star has a poster-worthy dunk.

That’s a lot of jargon, if you’re not into the sport. Suffice it to say that the glue guy is an expert at anticipation, who can see three steps ahead of where the game is right now; the glue guy is a facilitator, getting to the right spot at just the right time in order to do just the thing that enables teammates to be successful; above all, the glue guy is a hard worker who embraces the unglamorous but essential tasks necessary for team success.

This isn’t to say that the glue guy just has miraculous instincts. Glue guys are notorious for their preparation: they watch films of the other team, strategize about how to attack and defend, and come to the game ready to implement their plan.

HEA is also all about anticipation, facilitation, hard work, and preparation. We have done our homework, “watched the film,” and made our plans. In our case, our “team” is the people of Elkhart County, and our “opponent” is everything that could get in the way of our mission: to support Elkhart County in building a system of world-class education and training that supplies the workforce that is needed by our employers, and helps each Elkhart County resident pursue a lifetime of well-being and meaningful work.

During our first decade of work, we’ve come to understand our “opponent” quite well. HEA has a very high opinion of our Elkhart County people: given a fair chance, we will succeed at almost any undertaking. Unfortunately, the current system isn’t working for all of us, and some find they are not prepared. To these folks, it feels like they don’t have a fair chance. Consider the following: 

  • the child who enters kindergarten without having the skills and knowledge necessary to thrive doesn’t have a fair chance
  • the middle schooler who hasn’t been supported in learning how to get along well with peers doesn’t have a fair chance
  • the high school senior for whom a college pathway isn’t a good fit, but finds so few other pathway options available in our community, doesn’t have a fair chance
  • the adult who needs new technical and employability skills in order to receive a promotion, but can’t find the right education–or finds it cost-prohibitive–doesn’t have a fair chance
  • the parent who is overwhelmed by challenges they never saw coming, and with nowhere to turn for parenting help, doesn’t have a fair chance.

Again, we believe that in almost all cases, our Elkhart County residents could meet their challenges if they were adequately prepared. Sadly, without that adequate preparation, many will get stuck; in too many cases, “getting stuck” becomes a prelude to a downward spiral.

So here comes HEA, the glue guy for Elkhart County. We have prepared and anticipated, we have done the hard work of learning more about what is needed, and facilitated the community coming together to be responsive. We’re passing the ball quickly and crisply, making sure everyone is engaged and contributing to our county’s future success. Again, consider the following: 

  • We’re bringing partners together to research our current early childhood system, and forming action teams to build a strong system that helps many more children be ready for Kindergarten by age 5.
  • We’ve partnered with schools to create curricular programs that help our youth develop “life and employability skills,” so they can be contributing members of our community and get along well with others in the workplace.
  • We’ve pulled businesses and schools together to greatly expand the number of “pathways programs” in our county, giving our youth more options for pursuing their dreams. One new initiative is CareerWise modern youth apprenticeship programs … with an assist from Switzerland, no less.
  • We’ve facilitated connections amongst higher ed partners that have led to innovative training programs for adults, providing workers with the skills employers want.
  • We’ve worked with 100 partners (nonprofits, schools, businesses) to build Triple P — Positive Parenting Program, an initiative that supports parents all across Elkhart County to be positive and engaged parents.

Again, you won’t often see HEA on the highlight reels. Instead you’ll see the happy, confident preschooler naming her colors, or the middle schooler surrounded by friends, or the high schooler graduating with a solid job lined up in manufacturing, or a mom or dad in midlife showing off their first paycheck at a better job to their family, or a parent’s big smile as they expertly maneuver their way through what could have been a big tantrum from a young child.

Of course, HEA makes mistakes. But even then — actually, especially then — we’ll be working hard, studying film, and always bringing people together to develop strategies to address the next challenges. We won’t stop until Elkhart County has a system that provides world-class education and training to each person, so that our employers have the workforce they need for success, and our people are fully prepared for their lifetime of well-being and meaningful work.

By Brian Wiebe
President/CEO of HEA

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2022-04-01T16:10:37+00:00
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