Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Leaders and Innovators of the Future

Today, the 40-something Ivy League students from around the West Contra Costa Unified School District attended the district's School Board Meeting. At the meeting, students, organizers and sponsors of the Ivy League Connection were honored for their achievements and, in the case of the students, the bright futures that they come closer to reaching every day.
Supporters of adult education holding up signs in the back of
the crowded room. (Sorry for the blurry photo.)
In addition to being honored, though, I was also able to see what a school board meeting was like. On this day, the issue concerning a large portion of the community was the possible termination of adult education. While I had no prior knowledge of the situation before hearing what many speakers said, and while I may have only heard one side of the story, I was very moved by what some of the speakers said in their defense of adult education. The vast majority of the speakers defending adult education did not speak English as a first language and simply wanted to be able to help their kids with their homework. They said they felt powerless and useless not being able to help their children with elementary school homework simply because they had not developed English skills yet. Thankfully, adult education was/is there for them, and it has been able to slowly combat this problem. One comment, though, which particularly impacted me was when one man said he needed to learn English because he did not want to be "a burden to this country." While I do agree with the man that learning English would help him, the fact that he felt he would be a burden if he did not learn English disturbed me a little bit. While he did not openly say it, I feel the comment reflected a feeling of being unwelcome, that he was less wanted here if he did not master English skills. I believe the man should feel quite the opposite; no one should be a burden on anyone because we should all be working together for the common good. Regardless of the language we speak, we are all moving in the same direction together. This is pure speculation, I have no idea if the man simply chose the wrong words or if I am misinterpreting what he said, but no one in this country should feel like they are burden because they are not the same as everyone else. Just my two cents.

After the public speakers, the ILCers were acknowledged. Each chaperon brought up their students and gave a brief speech regarding what the students plan to accomplish and what the Ivy League Connection means to them. We proudly stood holding the Columbia University flag as Ms. Lilhanand read off our names and described what we'd be doing this summer. After each chaperon introduced their cohort, two former ILCers spoke regarding their experience with the Ivy League Connection and where it has taken them (Yale and Harvard, not too shabby). They emphasized what a wonderful opportunity the district and the program's sponsors (who were also honored) had given them. As the speeches progressed, it became more and more clear what a success the Ivy League Connection has been. Highly acclaimed around California, even in the nation, the ILC has given students the opportunity to grow into the leaders and innovators of the future. I can say that from this school board meeting alone, I have learned about the importance of adult education, and in the future, when hopefully I am a leader somewhere, I will fight for adult education. Of course, I realize that the district is obviously not against adult education, the bottom line is just the state is billions of dollars in debt and everyone in nearly every public sector is suffering from a lack of funding. Nevertheless, after today, I feel like I know more and I feel like stronger about my positions and who I am. And as the summer progresses, I anticipate having this feeling more and more.

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