In 1962, the state of Indiana sent out a call for school corporations to provide educational opportunities for adults who did not have a high school diploma. Portage Township Schools answered that call. Under the leadership of founder and director Ken Woodruff, the Portage Adult Education Program was conceived. The program began as a few nighttime high school classes for adults who wanted to earn their diploma. By the early 1970’s, a GED learning center and a GED testing site were added. Over the next four decades, the program expanded its community outreach into six northwest Indiana counties.
Thousands of adults, age 16 and older, turned to the 24 different adult learning centers each year to prepare for the GED, college, or the workplace or to learn English as a second language. The nighttime high school credit program expanded into a fully accredited high school program that served 350-450 primarily Porter and Lake County high school students each year. Over the 49-year history of Portage Adult Education, thousands of lives were impacted by the educational programs, the teachers, and the outcomes achieved.
In January of 2011, the Portage Township Schools’ Board of School Trustees voted to end its sponsorship of adult education programs due to financial reasons.
In the weeks following the PTS vote to end adult education programs and with a June 30, 2011 deadline for closure looming, an alternative plan was formulated to continue the valuable adult education and high school services. With the support and backing of a local non-for profit organization, Project Neighbors (PN), and with the enlistment of PN board members and the support of the community, teachers, and students, Neighbors’ Educational Opportunities, Inc. (NEO) was organized as a non-for-profit organization dedicated to the mission of continuing these vital programs. During the spring and summer of 2011, NEO made great strides in securing a viable and sustainable future for Neighbor’s Adult Education. In its first six months of operation, NEO:
Secured the lease to the adult education building from PTS
Obtained 501(c)(3) status with the IRS
Was awarded the contract to run the adult education GED and ESL classes
Solidified the contract to serve as an official GED Test Site
Become a United Way Membership Organization
Acquired agreements with local superintendents to run a credit recovery program during the transitional year
Submitted a proposal to Ball State University for Neighbors’ New Vistas High School (to replace the Portage Adult High School)
NEO’s First Year
During the 2011-2012 school year, NEO’s adult education program served close to 400 students, who came to complete credits for their high school diploma, study for the GED, learn English as a Second language, or study for their high school End of Course Assessments or college entry exams.
On December 5, 2011, NEO received word that it was awarded the charter to run New Vistas beginning in the fall of 2012. Over the course of the next few months, NEO administrators and staff prepared for the school’s opening. On September 4, 2012, NEO opened its doors to the 137 students who made up the initial class of Neighbors’ New Vistas High School.