In a recent Fort Wayne Legacy Committee meeting, the Questa Foundation's request for continuation of funding was considered. Media coverage indicated a lack of support, but in fact the conversation was extremely positive about the Questa Scholar program and the outstanding results of the current Fort Wayne-Questa Legacy initiative. The request, however, was not voted on as no motion was put forward during the discussion.
The request did not get an endorsement because the verbal consensus was that the request was ineligible because the guidelines established by City Council placed a priority on capital projects, not ongoing program support. It is important to note that though the Legacy Fund is an important funding source targeted to serve more Fort Wayne residents, the Questa Education Foundation is not in jeopardy and continues to be financially stable, serving all northeast Indiana.
The financial support from the Legacy Fund began several years ago thanks to Mayor Tom Henry's effort in collaboration with Councilman John Crawford and others. The four-year, $200,000 per year resolution was unanimously endorsed by City Council and included the stipulation of ongoing funding unless the council acted to end funding. There was a clear understanding that investing in Fort Wayne residents for further education was essential to address “brain drain” and especially a growing talent gap.
Growing the talent pool was and is important for the city to have a thriving economy and provide support for overall quality of life.
This decision to provide Legacy funding for the Questa Scholars Program was decided prior to formation of the Legacy Committee and the current City Council guidelines for funding. That prior decision was both to fund the initiative and to endorse Questa Education goals: increased postsecondary training and education, completion with less debt and retention of talent.
In contrast, the concern of the Legacy Committee was in regard to its own guidelines. One could argue the guidelines provide priorities and guidance, rather than strict definitions on what can be funded. In the discussion, the Legacy Committee suggested the Questa Foundation request for extension of the funding could be acted upon by City Council if the council continued to support investing in people as an important asset.
Though this funding and city endorsement is important and has served an increased number of students now living and working in our community, I would like to reiterate that the Questa Foundation is not in jeopardy and continues to serve hundreds of individuals in northeast Indiana.
The foundation has served nearly 1,000 individuals since 2007 and supports scholars focused on receiving their industry certification, associate's or bachelor's degree. Of those scholars, two-thirds upon graduation are living and working in our community, giving back their talents to the northeast Indiana economy.
The initial reason for Legacy funding was to help go broader and deeper in support of city residents for their education. The ongoing results have been reported annually to City Council, demonstrating the positive impact accomplished. In December, the next annual report will be presented to City Council; our hope is that at that time a request for extension of funding will be followed by a vote to continue this vital program.
I would encourage everyone to go to our website, questafoundation.org, to learn more. If you agree with the importance of this initiative, then please let others know of your support.
After all, investing in people goes together with investing in buildings, riverfront development and other capital investments. Fort Wayne needs people to teach in our schools, carpenters, electricians, plumbers and welders to build those buildings; health care professionals to support the health care system; and more. We also need to help some of the 60% already in the workforce to get additional postsecondary education and become part of that talent filling the talent gap.
By investing in people, we will see ongoing growth in our local economy, including growing businesses and individuals with livable wages who can afford to buy homes, feed their families, pay taxes and have a good quality of life.
Marc Levy is executive director of the Questa Education Foundation.