Achieving Tomorrow’s “Voices” highlights the impact educators, administrators, community leaders, parents, and businesses can have when they join forces to help students succeed.
- All States
Achieving Tomorrow’s “Voices” highlights the impact educators, administrators, community leaders, parents, and businesses can have when they join forces to help students succeed.
Achieving Tomorrow’s “Voices” highlights the impact educators, administrators, community leaders, parents, and businesses can have when they join forces to help students succeed.
“I’ve fallen in love with robotics. It becomes a passion for every one of us.” Read More
“Our Principal Mrs. Yarberry is always kind to everybody. So that makes everybody want to be kind to each other. I love coming to school each day to see her and see our teachers.” Read More
“Every student in every classroom, without exceptions, without excuses. That’s my personal philosophy.” Read More
“Connecting our business with this school and seeing the success, the smiling faces everyday – it energizes us and keeps us going. We have 12,000 amazing employees at the Wynn and we never have a shortage of people who want to get involved.” Read More
“When I look back at my legacy, I want it to be that I made a difference for children. If every decision I made is best for kids, I did something right. That’s my hope.” Read More
“There are robotics teams throughout the country that are sponsored by General Motors or NASA. Relative to some of those big teams, we’re a low-budget team. But the kids understand that we hustle for what we get.” Read More
“It’s very important for us, as the Chamber, to advocate for a better system in order to improve academic achievement in our school system. We know that, at the end of the day, our education system is vital to our economic performance.” Read More
“When we level the playing field and give all children the chance to have a great education, it can change generations. For our community, and for our economy, this couldn’t be more important.” Read More
“A lot of these young people have been given messages by the education system, inadvertently or purposefully, that they’re not worth the investment, that they’re failures. Our message to them is not only do you belong in school, but this is your vehicle for success.” Read More
“I feel invested in Carlos. I want him to look at me not just as a mentor, but as a friend.” Read More
“I never wanted to let my circumstances define me. KIPP helped me realize my potential and the person I wanted to be.” Read More
“We can’t prepare people for the jobs of the future with structures of the past.” Read More
“We find that when children understand the relevance of what they’re learning and how it will affect their future, it sparks a new excitement in them.” Read More
“When a student can step outside of the classroom and experience something in a different way, it gets them engaged, and that’s the key.” Read More
“I think the business community can be a really important part of the learning experience, if we choose to.”
“Prior to working in early childhood education, I was the Director of Research at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. I tell people, I used to worry about banks, now I worry about babies.” Read More
“The best part of my job is being able to see players at their weakest and being able to help them get better. Helping athletes and watching them succeed after we’ve helped them as a team is fantastic.” Read More
“A zip code shouldn’t define a child’s destiny.” Read More
“If we don’t invest in students now, we’re going to face headwinds as a society.” Read More
“Everyone that I talk to agrees that talent is probably our most scarce resource right now. We need to nurture it across the entire educational and training spectrum.” Read More
“Challenging students to excel, no matter where they come from, is so important. Often students don’t understand how much they can achieve until they start doing it.” Read More
“If you look around the success stories of the state, you’ll see that there’s a common link, and it’s innovation. Innovation has kept the state very competitive, and we believe if we continue to advance our innovative nature, combined with our workforce advantages, we’ll be successful in the future.” Read More
“My wife and I are handing over what is most precious to us in the world when we send Bobby to school every day. We are so fortunate that in Nogales we know he is in good hands.” Read More
“Nogales really puts the community in community college. We pride ourselves on that.” Read More
“I live in Nogales. I work in Nogales. I really have a vested interest in helping this city to succeed. And for the town to succeed, our kids must succeed. It’s that simple.” Read More
“There is so much potential in Nogales. Our business community recognizes this – we work together to plant the first seeds in children from an early age. Then we will all reap the benefits.” Read More
“I wouldn’t be where I am today if my teachers hadn’t believed in me. Everything was against me and I wanted to give up, but they didn’t let me. Now, I know that I can accomplish anything if I just persevere.” Read More
Mexico and southern Arizona are so closely linked. We have $9.2 million of trade crossing the border right here in Nogales. We need to work as a community to make sure both cities, both states, and both countries benefit. Read More
“Neither of my grandparents ever had the chance to go to school. They were both born and raised in Mexico and didn’t finish elementary school. They instilled in my mother, who instilled in me, the importance of a good education.” Read More
“Our kids and our students are the future. The more we put into that investment, the better our future is going to be.” Read More
“Kids from Nogales have a tremendous amount of drive and tremendous amount of ambition, and those are characteristics that any business anywhere in the world would love to see in its employees. I’m proud of that.” Read More
“We never settle. Good is never good enough. How can it be when those are all our children? We always push one another. Improvement is continuous here in Nogales.” Read More
“To me it doesn’t matter where you come from, what you’re wearing, who your parents are. I have no doubt that every child can succeed. And that’s what I tell them.” Read More
“Education is a gift to all of us, and I think that it’s something so many take for granted. Coming from another country makes me so grateful to have had all of these opportunities in the United States.” Read More
“My grandma encouraged me most of all, but she’s not here any more. She passed away, but she is still telling me in my heart “Get distinguished, do your best, and don’t give up til you give it all you got.” Read More
“In Social Studies, we’re learning about what’s going on in the real world. We watch the news and learn about current events and I’m a little shocked by some of it… but I’m sitting in the back saying, “I want to help, I want to do something.” Read More
“Public education is a gift. I couldn’t think of anywhere else I would want my children to be.” Read More
“Nowadays my students can find the answers to everything on Google. But what’s really important is learning what to do with that information. I’m trying to make sure that I build students who can critically think and create solutions versus just memorizing facts.” Read More
“Why do I do it? I love it. I’m addicted to it. I love the challenge. I love working with these kids. I love working with teachers, the parents. All of it.” Read More
“Many of the individuals that grow up in Northern Kentucky stay in this region, so we see ourselves as having both a responsibility and an opportunity to contribute to its economic and civic vitality via the students we reach.” Read More
“It sets us apart, the level of collaboration here in Northern Kentucky. Folks are willing to come to the table and roll up their sleeves to find solutions to the persistent problems we face. Our businesses, educators and the whole community have put our heads together to create something transformative.” Read More
“The world is full of all kinds of different opportunities and we want kids to know what is available here in Northern Kentucky. When businesses become involved, they open children’s eyes to the possibilities that are out there, and often create that ‘Aha!’ moment.” Read More
“Traditionally healthcare jobs are thought of as nurses and physicians, but there are so many more opportunities in the healthcare field than just those two professions. We are hoping to show young people that “the sky’s the limit” in terms of their career options.” Read More
“Supporting education is really personal for me. If we don’t focus on our youth, that’s it. There’s nothing else. There’s literally nothing else more important in my mind. Nothing.” Read More
“Our business community really understands the importance of workforce development in ensuring that our community and our economy thrive for many years to come. I love that we’re also helping build a talent pipeline that is changing lives in our region.” Read More
Kathy Pruitt ESL Advisor, Kenton County I love being an advocate for these students. I truly believe they can reach the same goals… Read More
“I’ve always wanted to be a superhero. I thought that would be awesome: save people, change lives, make the world a better place. I guess being a teacher was, to me, the closest I could get to actually being a superhero.” Read More
“I am always interested in raising the bar and raising the standards, so that these kids can reach their full potential. It’s really exciting. The Box program has helped them grow, develop, and realize their passions.” Read More
“I love to see and hear about people’s jobs, especially women. I like to see how women express themselves and do what they want. It makes me want to do that too.” Read More
“If I could choose doing regular homework or the boxes everyday, I’d definitely choose the boxes.” Read More
“From the very beginning, education has been a critical part of HudsonAlpha’s mission.” Read More
“Years ago, when I finally got a hold of the new, higher standards, I felt like my teaching life had been made right then and there. It finally gave me the freedom to teach.” Read More
“We always knew we didn’t just want an education system for the best and the brightest and the most high-flying students. We believe that every student can rise to the occasion if given the opportunity.” Read More
“I hope that every child has that moment when a teacher comes to them and says, “you’re capable of more than you are taking on right now, and it’s time for you to try that.” Read More
“I guess I’ve always been attracted to paradoxes – looking at things that are completely opposite and trying to find harmony. Many people think science and humanities are opposites, but in Physics, we’re trying to find an equation or a theory for everything.” Read More
“I think as leaders, it’s incumbent on us to look for different projects, different initiatives, ideas, strategies – whatever they may be – to level the playing field, to give all students an opportunity to have the knowledge and skills that they need to be successful” Read More
“We rely on a wide variety of skill sets and are dependent on the best and brightest in the world. In order to attract and maintain the best we need to provide more than great job opportunities. Education is a big part of that.” Read More
“Soon, there won’t be many of us who worked on the Dr. Wernher von Braun Moon Landing Program left to continue volunteering our time and talking to people about what we learned. It’s going to be a lost history.” Read More
“Honestly, students with my upbringing will come across people who talk down to them and tell them what they can’t be and what they can’t do. I think that’s one thing that really motivates me.” Read More
“Light-bulbs came on. Kids began to understand what they needed to learn. They better understood what their goals need to be in school, what they need to study to go into a particular profession.” Read More
“One of the many strengths of the Huntsville area is the tremendous amount of opportunity for students to enter highly skilled, high-tech career fields” Read More
“Our Toyota plant doesn’t look anything like your grandfather’s automotive plant. We’ve got over one hundred different robots. We need people who can program and maintain those robots. Those technology skills are highly valued. We need people who are deep thinkers and problem solvers.” Read More
“With welding, you get to leave your impression on the world in the smallest way. I’m not a superstar or anything, but I can go back and say to my grandkids, “Hey, there’s a satellite in the sky that I welded on!” Read More
“Our businesses step up to support public education, while at the same time our superintendents and K-12 education leaders aren’t afraid to tell the business community what their needs are. Everyone comes together to support our kids.” Read More
“Space Camp cracks the cosmic egg of whoever comes here. We’ll let you really reach out and handshake the future, to try out what feels right for you and discover what path you might be able to go down.” Read More
Space Camp cracks the cosmic egg of whoever comes here. We’ll let you really reach out and handshake the future, to try out what feels right for you and discover what path you might be able to go down.
Here at Space Camp, we’re teaching kids how to bridge themselves from where they are today to where they want to be, and helping them start to understand what that path really looks like. We’re trying to support formal education with informal experience in a way that gives them a creational feeling about how to get there. I can’t teach a child 5th grade math or 7th grade biology while they’re here for a week; but what I can do is show them the different tools that they’re going to need in their toolbox to create their future, so that they understand why they have to take physics and why they need that chemistry class.
We truly believe that the potential for greatness exists in every child. The trick, for those of us who are leading and nurturing, is to bring that potential out. We take that responsibility very seriously. I’m reminded of a young woman who came through our visually impaired program. She was 10 years old the first time she came through. She came back a second and a third time. And today, that young woman is sitting on the console at the Marshall Space Flight Center, directing science experiments onboard the International Space Station. I think coming here lets the students’ dreams come alive. They begin to blossom into the person they know they can be. That’s the most important magic that happens here.
One of my favorite quotes is from Dr. Wenher von Braun. He said: “All one can really leave one’s children is what’s inside their heads. Education, in other words, and not earthly possessions, is the ultimate legacy, the only thing that cannot be taken away.
In my role, I spend a lot of time looking at the big picture and supporting the three school systems here in Madison County. One thing that I think works really well here is the partnership between K-12 and the business community. Our businesses step up to support public education, while at the same time our superintendents and K-12 education leaders aren’t afraid to tell the business community what their needs are. That conversation between stakeholders is so important. Everyone is coming together to support our kids.
In a way, I get to experience that connection on a personal level through my relationship with the student I mentor. We share lunch each week and talk about all sorts of things – from her passion for wind instruments, band competitions, AP exams and friends, to my kids and the books I’m reading. It’s such a special connection. I hope she is learning from me, but I know I am learning from her perspective and that helps me personally and professionally.
With welding, you get to leave your impression on the world in the smallest way. I’m not a superstar or anything, but I can go back and say to my grandkids, “Hey, there’s a satellite in the sky that I welded on. Just know your granny’s cool!
My grandfather was a biology professor and my Mom has a doctorate in food science. Science has always been a part of family life, but for me, I was different. I liked physically building things with my hands. I didn’t know what welding was until my junior year of high school when the tech department came and told us about their program. They had this neat little metal helicopter with the blades and everything; it was so cool. I thought to myself, “I don’t even know what it is, I just know I want to build that.” The tech program helped me to understand that I had a skill and that I was good at it. Now, I’ve got a good paying job in my field and I’m continuing to gain experience while some of my friends are still searching for what they want to be.
A lot of students aren’t encouraged to try new things. They are accustomed to what they see everybody else doing after high school. But, the rockets we send into space, the houses we live in, the cars we drive wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the welders who helped build them. We can’t be afraid to go outside the box.
Our Toyota plant doesn’t look anything like your grandfather’s automotive plant. We’ve got over one hundred different robots. We need people who can program and maintain those robots. Those technology skills are highly valued. We need people who are deep thinkers and problem solvers.
Toyota has always supported education here in Alabama, specifically for workforce development. The stronger our workforce is the better chance we’re going to have as a whole community. We talk a lot about getting involved in students’ lives early; we start from kindergarten to high school and go through college – we want to help build a really strong pipeline of potential Toyota employees.
We want children to be curious. We want students to be deep thinkers. That’s why we engage high school students by providing engines to their tech schools and why we invest in community college training programs. We want people who can solve problems and are open to different ways of doing things. They don’t have to worry so much about how to build a Toyota engine – we can teach them that. It’s more important that they have the right mindset and are willing to learn new things in a teamwork environment to be successful.
One of the many strengths of the Huntsville area is the tremendous amount of opportunity for students to enter highly skilled, high-tech career fields. Demand is high, and we want to see more students selecting STEM related college majors that will equip them to fill these roles. We, at Boeing, are investing in programs that support students of all ages in developing 21st century skills and inspiring them to extend the high-tech legacy here.
My employer, Boeing, is 100 years young and looking for the next generation of dreamers and innovators that will define the company’s second century. To get there, we’re investing in education programs that equip teachers, school leaders and parents to promote problem-based learning through hands-on experiences at school and at home to develop critical skill areas. We also open our doors for events like “Bring Your Child to Work Day.” This year hundreds of children came to see the many cool things Boeing does in Huntsville. One of the activities that day asked each child to write down their favorite subject in school and then their dream job. Many children wrote math or science as their favorite subject, but their dream job was unrelated. We believe that all children should follow their dreams, and we want to inspire local students to dream about careers that are in high demand here in Huntsville like building the technology that will take us to Mars one day. After all, Boeing was built by people who dream big.
Light-bulbs came on. Kids began to understand what they needed to learn. They better understood what their goals need to be in school, what they need to study to go into a particular profession.
We sponsored a robotics competition this past year and the really cool thing is not only do participants learn a lot, technically, about how to build a robot, how a robot functions, how you might get the most out of it, but there’s also a big teamwork element. The competition is based upon solving a real-world problem. We tried to help them understand this is exactly the kind of thing that you would be doing if you came to this company. Of course, slightly different situations, but these are exactly the kinds of procedures and things that you need to learn to do this for a living.
There were kids there that knew absolutely nothing about robotics in the beginning, but they found the role they could play, they found something they could get interested in, and hopefully they latch on and come work for us one day. We, as a business, have to work alongside education here in Huntsville to help kids be better prepared.
Honestly, students with my upbringing will come across people who talk down to them and tell them what they can’t be and what they can’t do. I think that’s one thing that really motivates me. We need to empower students, and the responsibility lies with both educators and businesses.
I first started out in engineering then moved over to communications and now work in Human Resources. I’m a big people person so wanted to deal with people. I think part of my passion is making sure students are prepared.
From a human resources perspective, I think it’s important to provide students with hands-on, industry experience. They need those skills to support the book knowledge. But before we can even go there, we need to engage students in the possibility of going into science or engineering, especially here in Huntsville with our industry. I mean, you have students that are geared towards engineering and math at an early age, but you also see students that really just don’t catch onto it. I think that’s where educators and companies have to come together to get those students engaged. “Okay, you may not like math but there are other ways to get into engineering.” I think you have to find out what their interest is. What really makes them go – whether it’s sports or the arts. Everybody views things differently. It’s about how do you break it down to help them understand it and make sure the right message is conveyed.
Soon, there won’t be many of us who worked on the Dr. Wernher von Braun Moon Landing Program left to continue volunteering our time and talking to people about what we learned. It’s going to be a lost history. We like to take every opportunity we can to pass this knowledge on.
Over the years, I’ve had two goals, one is to inspire young people to strive to full potential and not be afraid to take on difficult and challenging endeavors, and two, to stimulate adults to insist on national leadership to invest in all areas of science and technology. There are no programs today to drive technology like there were in the 1960s.
When the lunar program started, no one had ever done this before. Everything that was done was done for the first time. There were no textbooks, you couldn’t Google anything. We had to start from scratch everyday solving new problems, and that raised additional problems. In fact in those early days, the common feeling was that this was impossible, that we would never succeed and if we did manage to launch someone we’d strand them on the moon or do something disastrous. But what I try to get across to the kids is the only thing that is truly impossible is the thing you never try. We used teamwork, put the best minds together to try to decide what to do, and we argued over the best ways until we were able to succeed.
We rely on a wide variety of skill sets and are dependent on the best and brightest in the world. In order to attract and maintain the best we need to provide more than great job opportunities; we need to do everything we can to provide a great quality of life in areas outside of job satisfaction. Education is a big part of that.
There’s incredible technology research and development going on here in northern Alabama. Education is a priority for us because our employees need to continue their educations, we need to replenish our aging workforce and because our employees want the same educational opportunities that they enjoyed for their kids.
We rely on the community and they also rely on us. We want our education systems to be world-class – from Pre-K programs all of the way through to PhD and beyond. Our missions are world-wide and even interstellar. It’s amazing to think what the next generation may accomplish and we’re grateful to have good education partners with common goals.
I think as leaders, it’s incumbent on us to look for different projects, different initiatives, ideas, strategies – whatever they may be – to level the playing field, so to speak, and give all students an opportunity to have the knowledge and skills that they need to be successful as they move throughout school and beyond.
One night I was watching Shark Tank and I saw an idea for monthly boxes. I thought to myself, “Wouldn’t it be cool if we could mail out boxes to kids with some kind of hands-on learning activity inside?” That was how the ‘Think Outside the Box’ program started.
We send a color-coded monthly box to kids in each grade level. We have three main goals. The first is to create excitement by letting kids look forward to receiving a box in the mail every month. The second is to encourage them to spend some quality time with their family, sitting down together and going through the activities. The final goal is to provide context and understanding about what the kids were learning in the classroom. We list the standards that each activity relates to, and the parents can actually understand how everything connects together in a positive way.
The kids love the program. They really enjoy it. They’ll tell me at school and stop me in the hallway to say “Hey, I love my box” or “When’s the box coming?” It’s pretty great to see kids light up and be excited about learning. That’s why we do what we do.
I guess I’ve always been attracted to paradoxes – looking at things that are completely opposite and trying to find harmony. Many people think science and humanities are opposites, but in Physics, we’re trying to find an equation or a theory for everything. This includes the concrete and the abstract.
My AP Physics teacher was one of the most enthusiastic and all-out motivating people that I have ever met. It’s because of him that I know with certainty that I want to pursue Physics. Instead of teaching from a PowerPoint presentation, our classes would actually devise formulas and equations based upon things we built or developed. I remember one project where, because we live in a space town, we made rockets to study drag force and different parts of air resistance in regards to parachutes. We built them out of water bottles with this extremely high pressurizing device and a compartment for a raw egg. The true test of our knowledge was whether we could design a rocket and parachute that would keep the raw egg in tact after being launched. I thought that was one of the most exciting applications of Physics I had ever done. And, yes, my egg remained whole!
I hope that every child has that moment when a teacher comes to them and says, “you’re capable of more than you are taking on right now, and it’s time for you to try that.” We want every kid to have a teacher who believes in them… who gets more out of them.
Teaching was always in my family. It took me spending ten years working in sales and marketing before I realized that I, too, wanted to be in the classroom.
I think what I learned in the corporate world about project management and product management was easily applied to education. You need to have a plan for everything you are trying to accomplish and know who has to collaborate for that plan to come to fruition – even the responsibility for profit and loss. It sounds strange to say that there’s a profit and loss model in education, but there is. In a lot of ways, education has the same mentality you have when you’re trying to keep a business afloat – except you simply cannot afford to have a loss. Every single student has to be a profit.
We always knew we didn’t just want an education system for the best and the brightest and the most high-flying students. We believe that every student can rise to the occasion if given the opportunity. That’s why we pushed for higher and better standards for all.
As a member of the State Board of Education, one thing I have worked really hard to do is to provide opportunities for business and industry to be at the table with education. They need to be in the same room, talking to each other about real issues like what skills and abilities do our local employers need in our graduates. In the past, they have been operating in silos, and that’s not effective.
There is an understanding among our business leaders in Alabama that education is a give and take. Business has to support education in order for education to be able to support business. Our companies understand that the students we graduate today are going to be their employees tomorrow. For this reason, they stay very involved. We have all sorts of businesses that are working daily in our schools. We have companies like HudsonAlpha, Boeing, and Toyota that are involved in real ways. It’s a wonderful gift to have companies like these that really understand their role in education and the fact that it’s a significant one.
Years ago, when I finally got a hold of the new, higher standards, I felt like my teaching life had been made right then and there. It finally gave me the freedom to teach. You can approach the standards anyway you want, so you can help every single child in their own way. That’s what I absolutely love.
Higher standards allow children to think; to become problem solvers. Sometimes, children are looking for someone to give them the answer. My students know that doesn’t work with me. I make them ask questions. I allow them to think.
I tell them it’s okay not to have the answers, to struggle. I equate it with the butterfly and the caterpillar. I tell kids, “when butterflies are trying to emerge out of the cocoon, it looks like they are having a hard time, but it’s for a purpose. They have to struggle because that makes their wings stronger. If you help the butterfly get out of the cocoon, well, now their wings aren’t strong enough. Now they can’t fly.” Now think about that as an eight-year-old. If I’m giving you the answers, if I am telling you what to do, you will never be strong enough to take on those twenty-first century jobs and have those skills that it’s going to take to get you to the next level.
Higher standards let them become better thinkers. To me, better thinkers are better doers.
From the very beginning, education has been a critical part of HudsonAlpha’s mission.
My team provides hands-on experiences to help students understand complex concepts and to equip them with the skills and knowledge essential to a career in biotechnology and related fields.
One example of our approach are ChromoSocks®, which we developed to help explain cell reproduction and the nature of chromosomes to students. In the beginning, we tried using a lot of different tools and analogies, but as soon as we put the socks in their hands, it was like a light bulb went off and they understood that chromosomes come in pairs. ChromoSocks® are now in classrooms across Alabama and available all around the world through a partnership with Carolina Biological Supply Company. It’s really exciting to see.
If I could choose doing regular homework or the boxes everyday, I’d definitely choose the boxes.
Each month, I do the activities in the box with my sister, brother, mom and dad. I like doing it with my family more than just by myself. It makes it so much more fun that way. I really like learning things with other people. I still like learning from the textbooks in school but these boxes take you on a different kind of adventure.
My favorite box had gummy worms. The activity was about measurement and we measured the different worms, but we also got to eat the worms afterwards. It was awesome. It was about math but it felt really fun. You’re learning something but you just don’t realize it, I guess.
I love to see and hear about people’s jobs, especially women. I like to see how women express themselves and do what they want. It makes me want to do that too.
When I was in third or fourth grade, I went to this science and math camp. We had an actual forensic scientist come to talk to us about her job. It really influenced me. Seeing her and hearing her talk really showed me what different kinds of jobs I could be doing if I became a forensic scientist when I was older. She explained the different tasks like collecting DNA samples, or fingerprints, or actually investigating the crime scene. I like knowing the different types of cases you can do and the problem solving you have to do. It was cool to see an actual forensic scientist but even cooler that she was a woman scientist.
I love that in almost every Box there is a problem solving part of the activity. It makes you want to do a job that would cause you to problem solve because you see how it can be fun.
I am always interested in raising the bar and raising the standards, so that these kids can reach their full potential. It’s really exciting. The Box program has helped them grow, develop, and realize their passions.
What I like about the Think Outside the Box program is the hands-on way of learning. It’s fun to watch the kids get excited whenever they get the box. It’s fun to watch them do these experiments on their own. They can go at their own pace. They can do it with their siblings. It’s fun to watch them interact in a positive way and learn together.
We don’t really know what these kids, not just my kids, but any kids, can achieve until we test their limits. If we’re always satisfied with the bare minimum, then that’s what we’re going to get. I am always interested in raising the bar and raising the standards, so that these kids can reach their full potential. It’s really exciting. The Box program has helped them grow, develop, and realize their passions. It’s just really great to see the light bulbs go on, and see them get excited and passionate about the things that they want to do.
I’ve always wanted to be a superhero. I thought that would be awesome: save people, change lives, make the world a better place. I guess being a teacher was, to me, the closest I could get to actually being a superhero.
I left teaching for about 3 years to work at NASA, and when I returned I tried to bring as much passion and humor, silliness and excitement as I could to inspire students to participate in class. I’m a big proponent of project-based learning where it’s not just “sit and listen to me talk,” but rather “let’s get you up and get you moving!”
This is partly why I created an engineering academy in our high school. It includes three classes that allow students to get a general idea of what engineering is like, plus a half-day internship where they actually go and work at an engineering company. We had 7 students graduate in our first year; I called them the magnificent 7. One particular student was struggling to find his place in school. He took engineering for the first time and found he was really good at CAD modeling. Through the academy, he was able to find something that was his thing. He ended up getting a scholarship to attend college and he is going to be architectural engineer. For him to be able to find success in high school and now a career: to me, that’s exciting.
I love being an advocate for these students. I truly believe they can reach the same goals as other students; they just need additional scaffolding and support to get there.
My career in the ESL field actually began because I loved to travel. I had the travel bug and I spent time working in a school in South America – that’s where I really caught the teaching bug. When I returned, I realized I could combine my skills to help children that face unique challenges in learning because English isn’t their first language.
People may not realize how diverse our region is, but some of our schools have 30 different languages spoken by students. It’s so important for us to be making sure that we’re setting all of them up for success. My focus used to just be on helping these kids stay in school, and working with other teachers to make sure they have the right tools in their toolbox for that. Now, it’s a question of what college these students might go to, what kind of career they might have. We have a broader set of tools and a new world of opportunity has opened up for our kids.
Our business community really understands the importance of workforce development in ensuring that our community and our economy thrive for many years to come. I love that we’re also helping build a talent pipeline that is changing lives in our region.
Getting kids excited about the real opportunities that are out there is essential. Too often, they sit in algebra or grammar class, but don’t make the connection that what they’re learning will apply to a career someday, let alone know what that career might actually be. To foster that knowledge we need educators to be willing to open the door, to let industry come in and have those conversations about what type of curriculum is important, what type of competencies are important. But more than that, to really show kids what kind of possibilities actually exist, to make them real. And they need to do all of this in a way that makes it exciting for young people and helps them to connect the dots of their future.
Our business community really understands the importance of workforce development in ensuring that our community and our economy thrive for many years to come. I love that we’re also helping build a talent pipeline that is changing lives in our region. To see that we can help students, incumbent workers, and the underemployed attract good paying jobs and further build their self-sufficiency – that’s all so exciting. To be able to help create a thriving community that you can see around you really means something.
Supporting education is really personal for me. If we don’t focus on our youth, that’s it. There’s nothing else. There’s literally nothing else more important in my mind. Nothing.
As a business person who does a lot of interviewing and hiring, I come across candidates who simply aren’t prepared for the workforce. I ask myself, “how can a student progress through school, graduate school, and still not be able to grammatically write a sentence, or speak properly, or complete a math problem? How do these individuals graduate from high school?”
For those of us doing the hiring, we can sit here all day and complain about the quality of people that are applying for our jobs, but we also have to ask ourselves what we’re going to do about. How are we engaging with the schools in our community? How are we letting the schools know what we need? How are we helping teachers and education systems to prepare children for the careers ahead of them? That responsibility lies with us. If I was talking to another business leader, I would say, “well, if you don’t do it, who’s going to?”
These questions are difficult, but I will tell you this: I know that there are some phenomenal educators out there, that there are some amazing programs, and that there are a lot of people who want our kids to succeed. This is why our collective efforts are so important. Being able to get all of the key players – business leaders, educators, nonprofits – together to give feedback and be part of the decision making around education in our area is so crucial.
Traditionally healthcare jobs are thought of as nurses and physicians, but there are so many more opportunities in the healthcare field than just those two professions. We are hoping to show young people that “the sky’s the limit” in terms of their career options.
We’ve made amazing progress in health technology. For example, complex surgery that was once invasive and high-risk is now being performed by surgeons using robots through tiny incisions! And it’s not just healthcare – knowledge in every field and industry is becoming more technical and more advanced. If we’re not preparing our students in K-12 programs to achieve at that level, then we’re not going to be able to keep pace with these advancements.
That’s why, as the largest employer in our community, it’s so vital for St. Elizabeth Healthcare to invest in education. We have to engage our young people to instill that desire in them to pursue a career in healthcare. And we love helping students see our field differently, to truly understand it. I have a friend whose daughter took a genetics class in high school, which she loved. She came to me and asked, “What can you do with genetics and healthcare?” I said, “Oh, there’s so much you could do!” and we had a wonderful conversation about all the different opportunities, like genetic counselling, and the ways that you can make a difference in an individual and a family’s life. She made that connection: “Wow, I took this class, it sparked an interest, and I could have a career doing this!” We want to help children throughout the region have that same experience.
The world is full of all kinds of different opportunities and we want kids to know what is available here in Northern Kentucky. When businesses become involved, they open children’s eyes to the possibilities that are out there, and often create that ‘Aha!’ moment.
I have spent time living in other cities in my life, but I always knew I wanted to come back to Northern Kentucky. Every institution that I have been involved with – going all the way back to my kindergarten or elementary school classes, or even the YMCA – played an important role in helping me to become who I am. This is a big part of why I have such a strong desire to give back. I want to help them, and this region, to succeed.
I also think Northern Kentucky is the “right-sized pond”: it’s small enough that anyone can make a genuine contribution. The wonderful thing about our community is that if you step up and say “I want to give back; I want to get involved,” we can find a place for you. You can start making a difference at a young age, at an old age – it doesn’t really matter. You really see this manifest itself in the education space and the workforce space. The entire community has joined forces to collectively solve some of our most difficult challenges. We’re trying to create a whole greater than the sum of its parts and make sure our children, and our businesses, are set up to succeed. It’s what I love about my job and about our region.
It sets us apart, the level of collaboration here in Northern Kentucky. Folks are willing to come to the table and roll up their sleeves to find solutions to the persistent problems we face. Our businesses, educators and the whole community have put our heads together to create something transformative.
This is my 43rd year working in education. I began as an elementary school teacher and spent 25 years in the classroom before I decided I needed to do something different, to learn more, so that I could help more students. About ten years ago, while I was minding my own business working at the University, I suddenly had the opportunity to become engaged in education on a different level through what is now the Northern Kentucky Education Council. I told myself that “perhaps through this I can be a part of something that impacts the whole region.”
We have eighteen public school districts here in the region, and through the Council they all come together to say “let’s share our learning with each other; let’s help each other.” They want to make sure that a child in a classroom on any given day can walk into another classroom in a different county the next day and not fall behind. It’s that collaborative spirit that’s really been the key to moving Northern Kentucky forward. And it’s not just public schools, but our postsecondary institutions, community partners, businesses and industry leaders that have that same mindset. They all recognize the importance of investing in our children’s success, so they’re working towards a common goal and are deeply committed. We set clear goals and use data extensively to ensure we’re making progress. That’s how we’ve been able to create such strong collective impact.
Many of the individuals that grow up in Northern Kentucky stay in this region, so we see ourselves as having both a responsibility and an opportunity to contribute to its economic and civic vitality via the students we reach.
As a university, we don’t have the capacity to be as nimble as business or industry, so we have to plan ahead over very long time horizons. We know that a large percentage of the jobs that will exist in twenty years don’t exist today. For that reason, we have to focus on skills that are not discipline- or job-specific. We have to prepare our students to be nimble, to be creative, and to be adaptable given how dynamic the workforce is going to be over the next twenty to fifty years and beyond. Above all, we seek to instill a passion in our students for lifelong learning and an ability to embrace change and be resilient.
And it’s important that we not wait until college to start these efforts. When we look at the challenges that we face in our region, and perhaps in our country, all of the data shows that we need to do a much better job of preparing children from a very early age. If we fail to do that, we will face headwinds, all the way from kindergarten through to college graduation. That’s why we feel invested in the entire education spectrum in this community. It’s not just about our self-interest as a higher education institution, but about what’s important for education here more broadly.
Why do I do it? I love it. I’m addicted to it. I love the challenge. I love working with these kids. I love working with teachers, the parents. All of it.
I’ve been doing this for ten years now. When I started at Glenn O. Swing, the proficiency in reading and math was around 20 to 30%. Over the past decade, our teachers and our kids have raised that to about 70%. We look at progress here in little pieces, as small wins all the way. That’s our job, to keep moving forward one step at a time.
That outlook directly translates to the number one thing we teach our kids, which is to never give up in the classroom. It’s important to us that our parents know that we have very high expectations for our kids. It has taken many years to get that understanding and get that mindset changed in our school and with our parents, but our parents are realizing that we’re not going to let their kids slip. They’re going to struggle, and that’s okay. Sometimes a student might go home and be upset about that and it takes conversations with the parents. We tell them, “It’s okay that they struggle, we’re going to be right there for them, we’re going to let them struggle, and in the end they’re going to have more success.”
Nowadays my students can find the answers to everything on Google. But what’s really important is learning what to do with that information. I’m trying to make sure that I build students who can critically think and create solutions versus just memorizing facts.
Schools are not contained within four walls anymore. With technology, the entire world is at our students’ fingertips. The research that our kids can access at such a young age is just phenomenal. It creates amazing opportunities, but also an enormous responsibility for us as teachers. We have to teach children to navigate all this information, and need to make sure that we’re creating the guidelines and setting expectations. I’m trying to make sure that I build students who can critically think and create these solutions versus just memorize facts.
I want my students to be able to push out information into the world, but then to also be able to take it in. I want, above all else, for them to be great citizens. Regardless of where they have come from or their zip code or their economic status, I want them to know how to advocate for themselves and how to advocate for others. I want to make sure they are lifelong learners and are invested in everything that is around them. That way, when they get older, they can see those problems that might exist, that we can’t even anticipate now, and have the tools to analyze and then create solutions.
Public education is a gift. I couldn’t think of anywhere else I would want my children to be.
I think it’s so important to have high expectations for our children. It’s the only way they’re going to learn and be prepared for their futures. If a teacher says to me, “I’m going to push your kids,” I say “Great! Absolutely! Push them as hard as you can. If you don’t get the respect that you need, then come to me.”
I want my children to work as hard as they can and to open every door possible for themselves. If they’re not doing well, I want them to be given more work, extra time, whatever they need. And I really feel like they’re getting that through their public education here in Northern Kentucky. Back when I was in school, the public system wasn’t what it is today. I went to private school myself – but public education has improved enormously in our region. I couldn’t think of anywhere else I would want my children to be.
In Social Studies, we’re learning about what’s going on in the real world. We watch the news and learn about current events and I’m a little shocked by some of it… but I’m sitting in the back saying, “I want to help, I want to do something.”
I love learning new things. In Social Studies, we’re learning about what’s going on in the real world. It gives so much context to the things we talk about. We watch the news and learn about current events and I’m a little shocked by some of it, but I like knowing so I can possibly help when I get older. Adults sometimes think that not a lot of kids want to help the planet or solve the world’s problems, that most of them are too engaged with their electronics. But I’m sitting here saying, “I want to help, I want to do something.”
That’s why I think it’s so important to be involved and to ask questions. In grade school, I hated Math, but now I love it because I finally understand it. I worked really hard and now it makes so much sense to me. I don’t think a lot of kids take enough time to try and make those breakthroughs. I think it’s so important to do your best, whether that’s understanding what’s going on in one class or being open-minded about different subjects and venturing out into more areas. Putting in effort makes school so much more interesting, but it also makes sure that your education helps you understand the world.
My grandma encouraged me most of all, but she’s not here any more. She passed away, but she is still telling me in my heart “Get distinguished, do your best, and don’t give up til you give it all you got.
I really like my school. Our teachers are some of the best teachers in the whole school district. And I really like Principal Alter. He cares about us as students, and about making sure we get a good education and care about learning.
Some days, I wake up and think, “I’m ready to go to school,” but other days I think “I don’t want to get up.” But I know that if you don’t go to school you might not get the ending that you hope for. If you do go, you most definitely have a chance.
My family has always taught me that learning is important – they all did, my great grandma, my great grandpa and my grandpa. My goal is to be distinguished in every class.
I think I could change the world someday.
Education is a gift to all of us, and I think that it’s something so many take for granted. Coming from another country makes me so grateful to have had all of these opportunities in the United States.
Our school had a theme this year of ‘College and Career Ready’. Even though the children are very young, we called the universities and asked them to send us brochures. We wanted to show the students where they could go and to tell them that each one of them is capable of making it there. We take them on field trips to the University of Arizona, which is so close by. They get to see what lies ahead of them and begin to understand how their education journey will take them down that path. I had a class walk by the chemistry building and at the time, we were studying science. They saw the students and the figures of scientists outside and said “Ms. Gamez, look! They’re studying science just like us!” It was so special to watch them make those connections. They start to understand and imagine what’s possible for themselves.
We want all our students to think of what’s possible, to believe that anything is possible. We have a lot of English Language Learners here in Nogales – I was one myself, actually. It’s a unique experience, but we don’t let it stop us from holding everyone to the same, high standards. We want to prepare them to succeed, not just inside the classroom but outside the classroom as well. And we make sure everyone knows they are just as capable as all the other students, no matter what their background is or what challenges they might face.
To me it doesn’t matter where you come from, what you’re wearing, who your parents are. I have no doubt that every child can succeed. And that’s what I tell them.
Every child has a backstory. It’s our job as teachers and administrators to learn the backstory and support that child however we can. At our school, we set high expectations for each student that comes through our doors; and we do the same for our teachers, too. I tell them, “we need to ask a lot of ourselves because we’re asking a lot of the kids.” It creates this beautiful sense of partnership, where we’re all invested in the outcome.
That’s actually the way all of Nogales approaches education. You should see our high school graduation! It’s pomp and circumstance – it’s such a grand event. Everyone in the community is there and is proud, regardless of whether they have a child graduating or not. We’re all related one way or another Nogales. We’re bound together by these deep connections. It’s what makes this town so special. I attend every year, and I see children I know or those I taught once, and I cry every time. Someone will ask me, “Oh, who do you have graduating?” and I say, “No one, but this is so wonderful!” It’s the culmination of twelve years of school that we all did as a team, and that’s something that I celebrate as an administrator and that we all celebrate as members of this community.
We never settle. Good is never good enough. How can it be when those are all our children? We always push one another. Improvement is continuous here in Nogales.
What I think makes us different here in Nogales is that we have great partnerships. Actually, that’s probably an understatement, they are enduring relationships between all of the stakeholders: community members, parents, educators and business people. We all work together to be sure that our children are the best that they can be. I think that’s what makes this city so special. We say, ‘Juntos, si podemos’: ‘Together, yes we can’. That’s the attitude here in Nogales.
Education is very important to everyone here. Families stay and grow and create new families. We have that interest in making sure our students do well because they aren’t just our students, they are our grandchildren or our children or our neighbors’ or friends’ children or grandchildren. We are a family. I think in other places they may say that it takes a village to raise a child, but this is something we actually do.
Kids from Nogales have a tremendous amount of drive and tremendous amount of ambition, and those are characteristics that any business anywhere in the world would love to see in its employees. I’m proud of that.
This is a really unique border community because of the amount of trade that we have with Mexico and the products that come through here, between maquiladora products, cattle, mining equipment and mining minerals. It’s not just produce!
As our industries evolve, the education requirements are evolving too. In the produce industry, we are dealing with a host of different countries in the importation of fruits and vegetables. It’s more and more important for us to find employees that are able to work in a global environment. Whether it’s in international accounting or as an attorney that has to review international contracts.
I think it’s part of our responsibility as business leaders to try to get kids involved in what we do and make them understand that our industry is extremely important all over the world. We’re working with the community college here to develop specific curriculum that the produce industry and the maquiladora industry may need in the future. It’s going to be an exciting project not only for us, but for the community college and the student who will be participating.
We also participate in scholarship programs. Nogales has some incredible, bright students that don’t have the financial support to attend the colleges they may get accepted into. They just need a leg up and then they can flourish. A lot of businesses in our community help with that.
Our kids and our students are the future. The more we put into that investment, the better our future is going to be.
Being a border town, Nogales brings together two cultures. Students that come
from Nogales, Sonora in Mexico bring a lot of their heritage with them. They bring their traditions and customs that blend with the kids from Arizona to truly enhance the local culture.
No matter what background our students have, you need to, as a teacher, treat them in all the ways that you would want your own kids to be treated in their classrooms. When I was teaching, I always held every student to the same high standards, even when students were learning a new language, which is difficult. Hopefully it just pushed them harder.
Now as a director of educational programs, I hope to expand my reach even further by working to prepare all children in our county for college and careers. The future that our kids face now is so different from what we faced when we were growing up. In our College and Career Readiness Educational Opportunities (CCREO) Program, we’re using project-based learning to expose kids to local industry and to what our community is going to need as far as skills to get a job here. The CCREO program is working toward bringing business and industry in to collaborate with schools, so that all kids in Santa Cruz County are prepared for the workforce.
Neither of my grandparents ever had the chance to go to school. They were both born and raised in Mexico and didn’t finish elementary school. They instilled in my mother, who instilled in me, the importance of a good education.
At first I was really nervous about going to Stanford, because the majority of students come from private schools where they’re really prepared and where they’ve had private tutoring their whole life. However, once I got there, I realized that I was actually a lot more prepared than I thought. I’ve always known that I’m capable and I did really well in Nogales, but I didn’t know if that was going to translate well to such an elite institution. Then I started college and I realized how amazing my teachers were and how amazing the opportunities I had were.
For example, Nogales High School requires all seniors to do a senior capstone project where you research a topic you’re really passionate about, write a paper and then present it to the entire community. At first a lot of students here were really hesitant, but I think it really prepared me for the projects I’ve had to do in college.
I was also really surprised by how many people I’ve met that don’t speak a second language or have never been out of the country. Those are the experiences students in Nogales have all the time here. It made me realize how lucky we are: Nogales prepares its students for their future academically and beyond.
Mexico and southern Arizona are so closely linked. We have $9.2 million of trade crossing the border right here in Nogales. We need to work as a community to make sure both cities, both states, and both countries benefit.
Nogales is a major port of entry between the United States and Mexico. We say that it is like one big region that happens to have a border in the middle of it. Many people cross every day for work, school or to visit relatives. There is a constant exchange of goods, services and people.
We have a lot of students that come from Mexico and go to school in the U.S. but there are also a lot of Americans living or working on the Mexican side in the factories called Maquiladoras. Because of this, we need to work with the education system on both sides of the border to hold students to high academic expectations. We all want them to have a better future and to contribute to our businesses and economies.
We have a smart and hard-working workforce in both southern Arizona and Mexico, anxious for new opportunities – particularly our youth. Both of our governments are working together to develop those opportunities. It is for the mutual benefit of our citizens and of our societies.
I wouldn’t be where I am today if my teachers hadn’t believed in me. Everything was against me and I wanted to give up, but they didn’t let me. Now, I know that I can accomplish anything if I just persevere.
I lived and went to school in Mexico until 6th grade. When I got into 7th grade, I started at a school in Nogales. I remember the first months of crossing the border each day – it was strange. And I would have to wake up at 5:45am just to get to school in time. I was so nervous on my first day of class, in particular. Everything was so unfamiliar and I was so far behind the other students. I didn’t know how I would ever catch up.
Now, I’m completing my International Baccalaureate Diploma Program and am the President of the Mathematics, Engineering, Science and Achievement Club. When I finish school, I want to go to MIT and become an aerospace engineer so I can help humans become an interplanetary species. I never would have thought this was possible when I first arrived in Arizona. I could barely speak English. It was actually one of my teachers, Ms. Donnelly, that changed my life. She put so much work into helping me – not just in English, which she taught, but in every subject. I wanted to work harder every day to get to the level that she believed I could. And now, I know that I can accomplish anything if I just persevere. I will never forget that.
There is so much potential in Nogales. Our business community recognizes this – we work together to plant the first seeds in children from an early age. Then we will all reap the benefits.
In Nogales, we are a truly bilingual, binational city. Some people might think this would make education difficult. But our educators actually see this as an asset rather than an obstacle. They are developing students that can work in two languages, that have a whole set of skills like flexibility, adaptability, and resilience. These skills prepare them to be successful in whatever path they follow in life. It’s why I’m so proud to have grown up here and to be able to raise a family here.
My company adopts this approach as well. As a large power and gas provider for the region, we are deeply invested in economic growth. We know we have a part to play through investing in the community, not only through our own workers or our business investments, but through education. We take this very seriously. We have a foundation that supports students, and we engage with leaders in the school districts. We even go into the classrooms and talk to kids. We want them to see what opportunities are out there and what options they have. Hopefully, when they learn about all of the possibilities for their future, they will be inspired to keep working in school and to continue on to higher education or training. And then we can hire them!
I live in Nogales. I work in Nogales. I really have a vested interest in helping this city to succeed. And for the town to succeed, our kids must succeed. It’s that simple.
Twenty years ago, when I started working at the hospital, there were positions that didn’t even require a high school diploma. Now, the hospital has changed so much, as have the skills and experience of our workforce. Actually, our entire society has changed and become more advanced. I’ve seen this trend in the education system, too. Students in high schools in Nogales are now heavily involved in planning their future and the actions they need to take to build their careers. It’s amazing to see how focused they are and how rigorous their curriculum is.
We try to support that planning through our engagement with the local high schools. We have students come into the hospital for job shadowing, and it really allows them to imagine their futures. I don’t think there’s any way of knowing if you want to be in a certain field for the rest of your life unless you realize what it means to attain a particular position and the schooling that is involved. We’ve actually seen a lot of students who have done shadowing go on to become full-time employees in our hospital, so these have had a strong, two-way benefit!
Nogales really puts the community in community college. We pride ourselves on that.
In order to protect the economic health and viability of Nogales, it is essential to train people from our area to have the skills required to work in local jobs and contribute to our success. We see that as a vital part of our role as a community college. The majority of our successful graduates end up staying in the area, which is why our efforts are so important. We are helping to train the Nogales workforce. I think a lot of communities around the country recognize the interdependencies between education, vocational training and industry, but our region really differentiates itself by actively strengthening that relationship. It’s what drives us.
We are also a community college in the truest sense of the word. While education and training is the core of what we do, we’re also embedding Nogales’s culture and home-town community feel in a unique way. We have fabulous students and fabulous staff. Everyone here is dedicated to helping students succeed, move forward, support their families and give back to our community. It’s a cycle, really.
My wife and I are handing over what is most precious to us in the world when we send Bobby to school every day. We are so fortunate that in Nogales we know he is in good hands.
I was born and raised in Nogales, and making the decision to stay here was easy. I have actually been working in Tucson since 2008, but I have chosen to commute every day rather than relocate. A few hours in the car each day is so worthwhile, because I know that my son has the opportunity to continue his education here. The schools in Nogales care about each student; they care about their future and what they can achieve. As a parent, there is nothing more you want for your child. My wife and I are handing over what is most precious to us in the world when we send Bobby to school every day, but here we know he’s in such good hands.
I also love that the schools embrace our community’s culture. I never did that when I was young. My mother is Mexican, but for some reason I refused to speak or learn Spanish – I was so stubborn! Of course, years later, when I accepted a job across the border I wanted to kick myself. I slowly learned the language and grew to love everything about the culture and the people. My wife is Mexican and thankfully Bobby is completely bilingual. The schools here do a wonderful job of fostering language development; in fact, they foster our entire community culture. It’s wonderful.
If you look around the success stories of the state, you’ll see that there’s a common link, and it’s innovation. Innovation has kept the state very competitive, and we believe if we continue to advance our innovative nature, combined with our workforce advantages, we’ll be successful in the future.
Here in Minnesota, we’re heavily engaged in education because it’s the future of our state’s workforce. The availability of skilled workers is at the top of mind for virtually every sector of our state’s business economy. That includes traditional sectors, like manufacturing, but also our evolving high-tech sectors, which require advanced skills and STEM training.
Minnesota has had a long tradition of providing a skilled, high-quality, hard-working workforce. Today’s workers may not be tomorrow’s workers and as business evolves, as our economy evolves, we need to make sure that the workforce evolves with it. That’s why we stay connected with the institutions of education: to make sure they’re meeting the needs of the workforce today, and the future workforce as well. This partnership will help ensure that we have a bright future for Minnesota.
For our education system to thrive, we need to continue setting the highest standards for ourselves and for our students-from early childhood to K-12 to postsecondary or college and beyond. We need to constantly look ahead, to be agile and flexible. We’re also very dedicated to making sure there’s a meaningful connection among workers, employers, and educators, so that the students of tomorrow will understand the connection to the job opportunities that exist for them.
Challenging students to excel, no matter where they come from, is so important. Often students don’t understand how much they can achieve until they start doing it.
I was born in Liberia, West Africa. As an immigrant student from a developing country, going through the U.S. education system was really hard. The high standards were challenging, but in the end, they helped me to succeed. I was able to get into an amazing college, and I received a scholarship from United Health Foundation that made it possible for me to actually attend. And they didn’t just support me financially – I felt like they actually believed in me. The Diverse Scholar program helped to shape my entire career and afforded me professional opportunities and inspiration for my work in healthcare.
Having a strong STEM education has been so important for my work – it’s actually crucial for so many jobs. It teaches you how to think, how to solve a problem, and how to approach an unknown. I can apply the ‘way of thinking’ that I learned during STEM classes to everything I do, including the pivot I made to the business side of healthcare. At Optum, we’re constantly solving healthcare issues and healthcare problems, and the ability to think critically is a crucial part of this.
Everyone that I talk to agrees that talent is probably our most scarce resource right now. We need to nurture it across the entire educational and training spectrum.
Dunwoody College of Technology has been in Minneapolis and educating students for more than 100 years. We’ve always focused on hands-on, applied education to meet the needs of industry. To do that, we need to keep up-to-date with industry’s current demands and to make sure our students are ready be relevant on day one for whatever field they’re going into.
Dunwoody ensures students have the skills they need to be analytical reasoners, problem solvers, and lifelong learners. The only thing constant across all industries is how much everything is evolving and changing. It’s very important that our students have the capacity to learn and function and grow as things change in their profession. Not everything is going to be taught in the classroom. A lot of new technology is going to show up on the shop floor in four to six to eight years from now. Students need to be able to figure out on the job site or on the production floor how to utilize that technology. Being able to adapt is just as important as being technically competent.
If we don’t invest in students now, we’re going to face headwinds as a society.
One of the programs that U.S. Bank is most proud to participate in is the Step Up program run by Achieve Minneapolis. It is the brainchild of our CEO, Richard Davis, and former mayor of Minneapolis, R.T. Rybak. He saw a significant opportunity gap for students from lower-income families. Many of them didn’t have access to internships and couldn’t find jobs connected to corporate positions or public office.
Step Up focuses on addressing this. We facilitate internships for students from low-income backgrounds at businesses in Minneapolis like U.S. Bank. We have had 114 companies participate in the program. We aim to help high school students experience the workplace, and to see how what they’re learning in the classroom translates into the real-world skills they need for their careers.
At the end of the day, these students represent our future. If we’re not providing them the opportunities now, it’s so easy for them to lose their way. By investing in kids now, and by surrounding them with strong leaders and mentors, we can remove some of the headwinds that they might otherwise face.
A zip code shouldn’t define a child’s destiny.
KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program) is a national network of charter schools that exists to ensure that kids from all backgrounds have access to high a quality education that puts them on a track to success in college and career.
Minnesota is known for having a strong educational system, yet it ranks almost dead last in the country in graduating African American students, Latino students, and Native American students. The average public school graduation rate for black students was just 62% last year. The benefits of education are passing a lot of children by. That’s why our school is based in Northern Minneapolis, where a majority of schools are low-performing or under-performing.
On average, our 5th graders come to us about two years behind in reading and math. We share those data points with students and their families so they are informed and motivated to work hard. We then talk about plans for the next several years of and how we are going to help them grow academically to be college and career ready. We use student data to motivate the kids, and we empower them by giving them a role in improving their outcomes.
We also have an intense focus on results at KIPP. We set very clear goals for student achievement and we measure and monitor progress regularly. If a student is not performing, we ask what we, as educators, can do differently. We are rigorous with applying standards and continually look for opportunities for improvement.
The best part of my job is being able to see players at their weakest and being able to help them get better. Helping athletes and watching them succeed after we’ve helped them as a team is fantastic.
I first learned about athletic training as a seventh-grader. I met an athletic trainer for the high school that I went to. He kind of took me under his wing, and the rest is history. I spent six years working as a volunteer athletic trainer. It afforded me the ability to be good at something and to develop a passion for something. I had to use science and I had to use math. I had to read. I realized how important these skills were in affording myself this opportunity.
One of the most important skills kids nowadays can acquire in school is learning how to learn. Learning skills are invaluable. We’ve see so much change in our society, it’s important to be able to adapt to these changes. In the 25 years I’ve been a certified athletic trainer, 20 of which I’ve spent in the National Football League, the technology has changed so dramatically. My team and I are still learning every day. We attend courses, we read, we constantly try to better ourselves so we can contribute to the organization.
Collaboration and teamwork are also so vital. Just like the football team, our sports medicine group is a team. We have athletic trainers, physical therapists, massage therapists, chiropractors, orthopedic surgeons, medical doctors, all working together to get to the end result: a healthy athlete. An athlete that can perform to the best of their ability and help the team win games, which is the ultimate goal of every day that we come to work.
Prior to working in early childhood education, I was the Director of Research at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. I tell people, I used to worry about banks, now I worry about babies.
I got involved in education completely by accident. I was working at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis and I had lunch with an early education advocate. This was fifteen years ago now. I told him, “I have a problem with your argument. You’re basically making a moral argument that early ed is the right thing to do.” And I was concerned that this reasoning wasn’t going to work because policymakers have limited dollars and many competing priorities. I said, “I think you’d have a better chance, politically, if you made an economic argument.” And this trickled back to the Governor and the Mayor. They called me and asked me to help make the economic argument.
I began my research and what we discovered was that the return for investing in early childhood education is actually enormous – 18%! We calculated and recalculated, and we now realize that this is likely a conservative estimate. It’s very clear that if you invest in children early, especially those that are most vulnerable, they can start school healthy and ready to learn and they will succeed.
I’ve argued for almost two decades now that the best economic development you can do in this country, is to invest in young children. I call them my High Return Children. If they succeed, there are not only benefits to the children themselves, but enormous social benefits; our communities are so much healthier, our schools are so much better, and our workforce is so much stronger. Early childhood development is economic development.
I try to stay apolitical about this, to say that it’s just about the numbers and the return. But once you get into the field, once you see the impact of these investments, of early childhood scholarships, it’s hard not to feel affected. It really is hard.
I think the business community can be a really important part of the learning experience, if we choose to.
One of our values at Bremer Bank is giving back to the community, so we encourage our employees to volunteer with all sorts of different charities. These experiences are not only very rewarding for our team, but are also great personal and professional growth opportunities.
We participate in the BizTown program because it’s a great way to connect directly with students and teach them about our work. Our volunteers partner with the students and can teach them things like how to handle their finances, how to save, and how to invest. Our employee volunteers also work very closely with teachers to develop curriculum about banking and savings and those kinds of things.
The vast majority of our folks are wowed by their experiences working with students. Watching the kids as they go through the process and when the light bulb goes on is a pretty special experience.
When a student can step outside of the classroom and experience something in a different way, it gets them engaged, and that’s the key.
Often in school, students are moving between seven different classes in a given day where they sit down and listen to a teacher talk. Then they do a little bit of independent work but it’s a rare occurrence that students sit in groups and work collaboratively using real world applications of classroom learning. When a student can step outside of the classroom and experience something in a different way, it gets them engaged, and that’s the key. Moreover, it helps students that normally don’t thrive in traditional environments to have an opportunity to discover another way of learning.
We talk about this at our school all the time: how do we get kids to do more life-meaningful work in a history class or in a geography class, or – like I tease the math teachers – in the boring math classes? How do we create more experiences that connect the dots for our kids? We have to constantly keep thinking and challenging ourselves.
We find that when children understand the relevance of what they’re learning and how it will affect their future, it sparks a new excitement in them.
Junior Achievement is a non-profit organization. We work with business people, teachers, and educators to prepare students to succeed in the global economy.
Most of what we do happens in the classroom. We partner with nearly 10,000 volunteers, mostly business professionals, to deliver our programs to local K-12 students. We help address the social studies, language arts, and math standards, but we teach it through the eyes of business in order to really bring relevance to a child’s traditional education.
For example, we focus on teaching math through personal finance, or social studies through an election and the students’ role in a democracy. It’s a really eye-opening way for children to understand how their traditional education will be applied in their future, and perhaps is already being applied. For the students, being exposed to industries, business people, and workplaces helps them to envision their future. We want them to aspire to obtain jobs and develop skills for the companies that reside here in Minnesota.
We can’t prepare people for the jobs of the future with structures of the past.
I work in digital marketing, which is a rapidly evolving business. A few years ago, I realized that we had a huge need for human capital, but that no one was teaching the skills we were looking for. We were hiring people and training them from scratch. I realized this was a ripe opportunity for partnering with a higher education institution. We found a willing partner, the University of Wisconsin-Stout, and worked to create a targeted curriculum. We now have dozens of students enrolled and we are creating a pipeline of skilled workers. My employees also help to write and teach the curriculum, which gives them a lot of job satisfaction.
I was able to do this because my company has created a culture that allows for innovation. Now, more and more folks in our industry have heard about this work and have joined us. When we work together to support a skilled workforce, everyone benefits. We can’t just lament that we don’t have the talent we need. We have to innovate and contribute, whether that’s by working with higher education institutions on training, or going in to high schools and getting kids excited about our work by showing them the pathways to get there. We all need to be part of the solution.
I never wanted to let my circumstances define me. KIPP helped me realize my potential and the person I wanted to be.
When I moved to Minneapolis in 2012, I wasn’t enthusiastic about attending KIPP at first. But once I found out what was in store for me and what that would mean for my life, everything changed.
KIPP meets you wherever you are academically – whether that is at, above, or below standards. I was always above standards, and my teachers were able to challenge and push me to thrive. But no matter where someone starts, they help them move on the path to academic success. They don’t want anyone’s circumstances to define them, because they believe every student can reach their full potential.
My friends and I talk about the fact that, no matter where you come from, no matter whether you’re rich or you’re poor, we can still become a success story. The road may be a lot harder or easier depending on where you start, but anyone can achieve their dreams.
I’m already thinking about college – I will be one of the first people in my family to go. Knowing that a lot of my family members were never able to achieve their dreams makes me want to achieve mine all that much more. KIPP has helped me to believe this is possible and to see the pathway to getting there. I would not be where I am today if it weren’t for KIPP.
I feel invested in Carlos. I want him to look at me not just as a mentor, but as a friend.
Carlos: “The Step Up program gave me the chance to do an internship at a U.S. Bank Branch, and Rene has been my supervisor.”
Rene: “Carlos has been at the bank for two years now. I’ve seen him grow so much. He went from not really understanding anything about banking to now having a clear grasp of our work, and applying what he’s learned to other parts of his life, including his education.”
Carlos: “The work helped me understand some of the things I was learning in school and how they applied to the real world. It has also helped me decide my own direction. I’m studying financial management now.”
Rene: “Carlos did so well in his initial program that he actually stayed on at the bank beyond his original timeline. We gave him a promotion a few months ago, and he’s now working as a teller.”
Carlos: “My mom is really proud of me!”
Rene: “I am very glad that U.S. Bank participates in this program. I feel like it’s a really important way of investing in the future workforce. And I really hope I can make an impact on kids like Carlos.”
Carlos: “Rene has helped me so much, not only professionally, but personally. Having such a supportive person in my life has made such a difference.”
Rene: “The truth is that Carlos has had an impact on me as well. I feel invested in him.”
A lot of these young people have been given messages by the education system, inadvertently or purposefully, that they’re not worth the investment, that they’re failures. Our message to them is not only do you belong in school, but this is your vehicle for success.
When I was in high school, my parents were going through some marital difficulties and I became completely disengaged. I barely graduated and even had a counselor tell me I should just drop out because I would never amount to anything. I was apparently not supposed to be college material.
The motivation to prove that person wrong pushed me all the way through to graduate school. Today, it helps me understand the students we work with at JAG. They don’t fit neatly into that mainstream. They typically come in from the bottom quartile of their academic class, have a relatively high number of absences or a low GPA. But these kids are very smart and very talented. What we need to do as an education system is find new and creative ways to support them.
The key to our success is our connection with the students. We provide an in-school intervention, so we are a part of the system. There are three components to our work. The classroom component focuses on workplace readiness and personal development. We then have a career association that includes leadership development, fundraising, civic engagement, community service. The third component of our work is assigning each student a JAG specialist tasked with developing a plan for each student and keeping them on track to graduate. And it really works. Our graduation rate last year was 83% – higher than the state of Nevada! We are proud of this but we want to keep doing better.
When we level the playing field and give all children the chance to have a great education, it can change generations. For our community, and for our economy, this couldn’t be more important.
When I was Chairing the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce, we created a program called Be Engaged: Business Education Engaged. We knew that it was important to recruit the business community and enlist their support in strengthening the education system. We sat down with our Superintendent, Pat Skowkowsky, and his team and said, “What are some of your needs?” We then brought together 50 nonprofits to share with business leaders the highest priority challenges for districts, as well as some of the solutions in place and the services currently being delivered. We knew that there was a huge need for more resources, expertise and talent, so we started matching businesses with those groups and we had some wonderful successes.
This year, we expect to have about 700 business owners at our Business Engagement event in March, and we hope to recruit a couple of hundred of them to participate in mentoring for community and education leaders around organization change, budget management, and other key executive functions.
Our company is a big supporter of K-12 education and higher education. We have employees that volunteer their time, we support programs and we provide financial resources. Even though our bank primarily serves the business community, we know that our clientele rely on a healthy economy in order to succeed and grow, and the foundation for that is a healthy education system that produces people to fill the jobs of today and the jobs we anticipate coming down the pike in the next decade or two. By supporting education, we’re also supporting our employees that have children in the school system. I’m a product of the Clark County School District myself, so I truly see how important our investment and engagement is.
It’s very important for us, as the Chamber, to advocate for a better system in order to improve academic achievement in our school system. We know that, at the end of the day, our education system is vital to our economic performance.
Businesses are the number one customer of education. Employers in our community have a vested interest in making sure that we are delivering our education services in a way that makes sure our students are career and college ready.
After the recession, we were one of the hardest hit communities in the entire United States. As a result, we’ve had to pull ourselves up by the bootstraps. There’s a culture here of people helping each other. Education is one area where the community has stepped up to offer their support. When it comes to student achievement, when it comes to graduation rates, when it comes to college and career readiness, we really aren’t very high on the scale. It’s extremely important for our business community to be engaged in partnership with the school districts, but also in advocacy.
Nearly two-thirds of jobs in the next decade are going to require some sort of an advanced postsecondary degree or a high-level certificate. We need to grow our economy here in Nevada, in order to be globally competitive. And we’re not going to be able to do that unless we can develop the workforce of the future.
There are robotics teams throughout the country that are sponsored by General Motors or NASA. Relative to some of those big teams, we’re a low-budget team. But the kids understand that we hustle for what we get.
During my first year of teaching, there was some seed money available to start a robotics team in Las Vegas. I was talking to a group of students and threw the idea out there. One of them grabbed me and said, “We have to do this. This is great. We’re going to build a robot!”
We started with seven kids in a small classroom back in 2002. And it just snowballed from there. We now have a world championship robotics team. There were 80 kids at our first meeting this year. Everybody knows about us. And you wouldn’t believe that we’re a regular, local community high school. I think it gives everyone a sense of pride that Cimmaron Memorial High School is the epicenter of robotics in Las Vegas. We’ve had our kids graduate and go off to the top schools in the country. We’re out-performing teams sponsored by NASA and General Motors. It’s pretty incredible.
The kids understand that we hustle for what we get. It creates such a sense of camaraderie. We sometimes spend 10 hours a day together in the shop in competition season – even more on weekends. Everyone’s on equal footing here and we really feel like a family.
When I look back at my legacy, I want it to be that I made a difference for children. If every decision I made is best for kids, I did something right. That’s my hope.
This is probably the most at-risk school in Clark County. 100% of our students live in apartments. 100% of our students qualify for free and reduced price lunches. We face a lot challenges right off the bat.
When I first took over the school, we compiled data and I was horrified. Only 2% of our children were on grade level. We knew right away we had to change how we were thinking. We celebrate those children on grade level, but we also celebrate achievement. We celebrate effort. We celebrate participation. I know if I can keep you engaged and trying your best, you’re going to grow and eventually I will get you on grade level. And we’re seeing the right growth but it takes time. I wish I had that magic wand or silver bullet that would make it happen instantly, but we are getting there.
We’re not going to let these kids fail. We don’t lower our expectations – they’re incredibly high. They are the same as at any other school. Our scaffolding may look different, but we know our children are just as capable as any other student across the country. They are special. They have wonderful personalities. They come, oftentimes, with a lot of baggage, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t succeed. It just means they need a little more of our help.
Connecting our business with this school and seeing the success, the smiling faces everyday – it energizes us and keeps us going. We have 12,000 amazing employees at the Wynn and we never have a shortage of people who want to get involved.
I’ve had the opportunity to work for Mr. Wynn since 1986. He consistently empowers people to figure out new ways to give back and support our community. With the Petersen program, we’ve found a real partnership.
In early 2016, the superintendent of schools here in Clark County, Pat Skorkowsky, came over to our corporate office with Krista Yarberry, the Principal of Petersen Elementary School. They had a mission, “We want to connect businesses with the public school district and we want you to pioneer and launch this program with us.” We weren’t really sure what this ask would end up leading to, but we certainly wanted to be involved.
One of the first things we recognized is that we had to start with basic necessities, so we tasked our design team to get the facilities to be fully operational. They brought in chairs, tables, and carpeting. They repaired broken appliances, painted walls, fixed TVs and sound equipment. Then we shifted our focus to the students. We were able to distribute 145,000 supplies so students’ basic needs were met and they could focus on learning in a place they wanted to be.
Then, we started to think about how to make our program more fun, to take it up a notch.
We now have monthly birthday parties, appreciation day for teachers, departments adopting classrooms, and even a career day to expose students to different opportunities.
It’s easy to write a check, but we wanted to roll up our sleeves and become a true partner, to dig in and add genuine support. I hope that when we’re out there sharing time with the kids, they see how much we care and how committed we are.
Every student in every classroom, without exceptions, without excuses. That’s my personal philosophy.
When I began in my role, I knew we were facing some unique challenges. Almost sixty-four percent of our students in the district are on free and reduced price lunch. Almost twenty percent of our students are English language learners.
I also knew there were perceptions in the community that the Clark County School District wasted money. One of the first things I did when I started in my role was to bring business leaders and community leaders to sit down at a table with me and have an honest conversation. I opened up my books to them and said, “Here is my entire budget. I want you to go through it and show me where we can find better efficiencies in using money to support the kids in our classrooms.” What started as a simple conversation has evolved into a three-year partnership. We started looking at the return on investment of our dollars. We wanted to see what was working in a school that was getting achievement gains, and who was doing it for the lowest cost. It has really involved into meaningful impact for our district and our students.
Our partnerships have been instrumental to this. I have said, over and over again, that one person cannot change education in southern Nevada. It takes the entire district and every one of our community members to understand the challenges, to step up, to support the work that’s being done in our schools. It has really been a collective effort between business, the community and the education sector here in Clark County.
Our Principal Mrs. Yarberry is always kind to everybody. So that makes everybody want to be kind to each other. I love coming to school each day to see her and see our teachers.
Our teacher, Miss Green, told us that what we learn in fifth grade is going to help us when we grow up. I like having goals because it keeps me motivated to do what I want to do; I would like to be a lawyer when I grow up and go to Harvard!
Miss Yarberry is a great principal. She’s one of the best principals I’ve ever had. Since she came to this school, it’s been a huge success. She helps out all the students. She gets things done the right way. She’s just an amazing principal. I’ve been to many different schools but everything is really good in this school.
When you come to school in the morning, everyone says “Hi, welcome.” Your teacher greets you. It always helps me if I’m not feeling good, because it shows me that the teacher does care about every single one of us. It makes me want to stay and never leave this place. I imagine my future being great.
Our teachers really help us and really push us. They help us achieve and they tell us that we can keep getting higher grades, every time. That we can go up and up. I really like that. If you don’t get pushed and then you stay at the same level, you’re just gonna stay in your comfort zone. You have to get pushed out of your comfort zone. I love class because of my teacher… She loves us and we love her back. We’re a joyful class. And the whole school is great. Last year, I didn’t even feel safe. This year, I feel safe.
I’ve fallen in love with robotics. It becomes a passion for every one of us.
Oscar: Our team started with a few students and a wooden robot frame in a small classroom. We are now world champions, we travel across the country to compete, we’ve help start a robotics team in a foreign country, we have connected with the business community – we’ve come a long way.
Jordan: I moved across town to be a part of this program. There is no other opportunity like this. It’s the teamwork that sets us apart. I was a more nervous person when I started, but now I truly enjoy working with others.
Kirstie: the drive we have for the team correlates with the drive they have for school. If we can build three robots in six weeks, it changes our perspective of what’s possible in a school context.
Oscar: During build season, we spend every day together, even on weekends. We all have that sense of working together to achieve our main goal of building a robot that’s competitive, while also learning
Kirstie: I love looking at problems, determining why something isn’t working, dissecting and coming up with solutions. Taking the skills of robotics and applying them to real life and school has really helped me grow as a person.
Jordan: It doesn’t matter what your strengths are or where you start, everyone on the team has an opportunity to learn and grow.
Oscar: Not only is this program about robotics – it’s teaching students skills that help them in all other areas of their lives.
Kirstie: This has really changed my point of view in life. I used to want to be a doctor, but I love working hands on and being able to do engineering and mechanical work. I never really picture myself as a machinist, but now it’s my passion.
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