Guest Opinions

Guest Opinion: Innovation, collaboration can maximize education impact

The latest State Board of Education report on the number of students going on to college presents a clear challenge: Only 50 percent of our students are enrolled in a two- or four-year institution a year after high school.

Through funding from a national College Access Challenge Grant, the State Board of Education established the Educate Idaho Network, a statewide collaboration of resources promoting education and career readiness and success. College access network models have strengthened the college-going culture in other communities facing similar challenges.

The Educate Idaho Network is hoping to improve Idaho’s college go-on numbers. Our membership represents the state’s K-12, higher education, business, policy, early childhood education, and nonprofit communities, thereby providing coordination among sectors that may not interact during a typical day. Our goal is to serve as the statewide network of resources promoting education and career readiness for success along the full continuum of learning.

So how will we do it?

We will provide regional collaboration, collective partnerships and support systems for those who know Idaho best. Our 50 percent go-on rate does not mean there are no successful programs in the state. Rather, it means that the successful — and potentially successful — go-on programs that do exist need to be better shared and expanded. The cross-disciplinary collaboration inherent in the Educate Idaho Network will support the innovation, testing, and monitoring of strategies and programs so that we can see and share best practices.

We need to tailor conversation to different regions and communities to better meet local needs. We are excited to be learning about and sharing the successes of many organizations and collaborations throughout the state that are making a difference.

The conversation around Idaho’s college enrollment and graduation rates is not new. Some efforts to improve those rates have worked while others have fallen short; still others need to be given more time.

One key element sometimes missing from these conversations has been how to support those working day in, day out to promote college and career preparation and success. How do we, a broad cross-section of Idahoans, support the supporters? How can constituencies in diverse sectors work in partnership, given that our collective success depends on a well-prepared citizenry and workforce?

On Sept. 1, Educate Idaho will host a conference in Boise to build collaborative efforts across the state. By bringing educators, policymakers, business leaders, community members and education advocates together, we will highlight issues and initiatives, inform, share resources, and advocate — both regionally and statewide — for the purpose of improving education outcomes. Dynamic speakers will spark innovative thinking around big challenges. If you want to participate in this critical conversation, please join us. If you know of others from across the state who could contribute to and benefit from this event, please tell them to come. The conference will begin at 7:30 a.m. at the Riverside Hotel; more information and registration can be found at

We share the best of intentions; let’s share our best ideas and practices, too. Let’s maximize our collective impact. Let’s innovate to educate. Let’s Educate Idaho.

Molly Lenty is vice-president, community affairs officer for Wells Fargo and co-chair of the Educate Idaho Network. Rep. Rick Youngblood (District 12, Nampa) serves on the Educate Idaho Steering Committee.