Resolve to Help Build the Future

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This New Year’s, let’s take a minute to consider our kids’ futures, and make a resolution to give them the best tool for success there is – a good education!

We can dream of the good old days, but having experienced them, I can say they weren’t always that great. Compared to the education and rigor of courses my grandkids are receiving, it is hard to relate.

However, with current cutbacks we see displacement of programs and services. Harsh economic realities are harming our classrooms and the tools to best deliver content and programs. On the flip side, Orange County has stepped up to the plate utilizing private and nonprofit solutions to recreate opportunities for parents, teachers and students to put their creative juices to work

The business community wisely understands we can’t compete in a worldwide economy without an educated workforce. Our teacher training institutions are rising to the task by educating teachers to meet the demands of the changing needs and opportunities for technological advances, particularly in health and the sciences. Our arts organizations are including arts education to fill the gap left in many schools. Much is being done to recognize cultural differences through the arts and multicultural programs.

I have had the privilege of working with organizations that have grown with leadership and community support to become state and national models for excellence. One example is the MIND Research Institute, an excellent example of bringing math concepts to kids through cognitive understanding with a little penguin called Jiji. Ted Smith a former CEO of FileNet, developed this program through research at UCI and with the creative genius of Matthew Peterson, who relates and creates a venue where kids love to learn. This program has gained nationwide attention with phenomenal results, and many of us believe it will change the way we teach math.

Another great program I have had the opportunity to work with is the Tiger Woods Learning Center, in Anaheim-LaPalma, Tiger’s home town, where he learned to play golf. A center that allows kids opportunities to participate in career learning experiences. A number of students have been provided scholarships in prominent universities that would never have been possible without the contributions of corporate, philanthropic and private donors. These centers are now being built on a world-wide scale.

Space does not allow for mention of all, but I must note a few more outstanding efforts, such as the Ocean Institute in Dana Harbor, with the Pilgrim for shipboard experiences, whale-watching expeditions for school children and oceanic science programs with great facilities – all supported through a nonprofit organization.

Another being the Environmental Nature Center in Newport Beach, environmental science and extensive nature education programs on a 24 hour basis from pre-school to high school. I have watched this program grow from the time it was developed by a beloved Harbor High math teacher – Robert House – with the assistance of Superintendent Norm Loats. I was president of the Newport-Mesa School Board at that time and was concerned about the Dover Drive traffic. I was wrong. iIt is completely exonerated from urbanization.

Of course, I have to mention the Discovery Science Center in Santa Ana, offering wonderful opportunities for school excursions to provide hands-on science opportunities for students and parents alike, aligned to state curriculum standards. (I am sensitive to that!)

Lastly our PBS SoCal TV provides opportunities for on-line and on-site experiences for students and teachers. Schools throughout the region take advantage of classroom instruction programs. Collaborating with many educational institutions, in providing teacher in-service instruction, preschool programs and many more. Tune in and you will find the former KOCE great for educating all ages.

Shifting unmet needs and creative opportunities to nonprofits such as the ones I have mentioned – along with many other school support programs – requires considerable community, private and philanthropic financial support, so while you are making your New Year’s resolutions, remember there is no better investment than educational opportunities for our kids.

If we don’t do it, who will?

And what will our future look like?

Sen. Marian Bergeson (ret.) is a former state Secretary of Education and member of the state Board of Education.


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