There are many great reasons why our communities are recognized as great places to raise a family: exemplary schools, strong and safe neighborhoods and a thriving business community.
Underlining all of these strengths is that we live in a community where residents show care for one another, particularly when it comes to the future of children.
This care is demonstrated in many ways: older students helping younger students; senior citizens volunteering to help students in math and reading; parents working hand-in-hand with teachers on their child’s academics and future goals; and business representatives mentoring the next generation on their career options.
You see it every day in our schools.
For instance, a UCS senior has been sharing her interest in computer science with junior high school students to inspire them to pursue computer science. She recently held a camp with junior high school girls to create excitement about programming and address a gender imbalance in female students pursuing computer science-related careers.
Many schools have created Project Unify clubs, where friendships are created between general education students and students with special needs.
We have more than 50 senior citizens who work with our elementary students as part of the “Reaching Higher Across Generations” program.
Our local business leaders mentor students through work partnerships or by advising our school district on their needs and the skills they seek in graduates. One of my favorite events is the Career Focus Luncheon, where 2,000 sixth graders have lunch with business leaders to receive guidance on their hopes and dreams.
These examples show a community that rallies around its youth because it is the right thing to do.
It also has a direct impact on student achievement in another important way.
The knowledge that community members care about them is an important indicator of student success.
Last year, our students were asked to give us feedback on a series of factors that are proven to lead to academic success.
Specifically, we asked students about their:
- Engagement – their involvement in and enthusiasm for school;
- Hope – the ideas and energy they have for the future; and
- Well-being – what they think of their current experiences and future success.
The good news is that because of the strength of this community, UCS students are in a better place when it comes to these factors than similar responses received from students at a national level.
One reason for those positive responses?
The data we received from students demonstrated that a key factor for the optimism was that they know someone in this community cares about them – a significant caring adult such as a teacher, parent, coach or mentor.
No matter who you are in our community, your concern for the next generation is making a difference.
I wish you the best for the 2015-2016 school year.