Let's skip the issues this week and probe the Madison school board candidates on their community involvement and their advice for students moving up to high school. We've asked them to describe their most fulfilling volunteer experiences, as well as what they would say to a graduating class of eighth graders.
The Daily Page: Imagine that you are the featured speaker at an 8th grade graduation of a Madison middle school. Briefly, what is the substance of your message?
As these graduates are preparing and imagining what the next four years will offer, I would encourage them to think about their own unique path to success. They should take the time to discover themselves and explore the many opportunities that high school can offer them. This next chapter in their lives can be filled with much hope and promise if they commit to staying curious and engaged in the learning process.
This exploration process need not be overwhelming and the student should be aware that they do not have to go it alone. They should seek out the resources that will be available to them; keeping an ongoing open dialogue with their support network, which should include, parents, family members, adult and student mentors, teachers, guidance counselors and friends.I would encourage students to ask themselves what changes they want to see in their lives and to make those changes come about by setting forth a plan and taking the steps necessary to make the changes in their lives that they want to see. High school does play a role in ones future opportunities but those opportunities can be vastly different for many students. If they are so inclined, students should be encouraged to explore non-traditional paths for future success in the real world.
Students should make the most of their high school years by appreciating and taking advantage of the educational, social and political opportunities that will be available to them.
Congratulations on successfully completing middle school. Today you take a big step toward your future as you head on to high school. High school will offer you many more choices, in academics, activities and friends.
That's both exciting and scary stuff. Each positive choice you make will make you better. This is a time of huge decisions and opportunities. Challenge yourself academically; don't listen to anyone who says a class is beyond you. Take advantage of everything the school has to offer, in academics, clubs, sports and the arts. Follow your heart and tap into your interests. Your new interests and skills will serve you well throughout your life. Plus, you'll have a lot of fun.
With these opportunities comes responsibility. Part of growing up is giving back to your community, sharing your gifts. You'll feel good, and you can make a difference. The decisions you make and the actions you take affect others. Whether you tutor, coach a soccer team, befriend a student with a disability, visit elderly people in their homes, or clean up a park, your actions determine the future of our community. You have power to make positive changes from your school all the way to the White House.
You're on your way to becoming responsible, independent adults. Make sure you're learning every day, figuring out what you like. A lot happens in four years of high school. As Johnny Depp said, "The thing to do is to enjoy the ride while you're on it."
Whenever I speak to kids I like to emphasize that the world is full of opportunities, and that they should experience as many of them as possible.
I would encourage the graduates to challenge themselves in all aspects of their lives. Academics, sports, civic activities, the arts, vocational training, and spiritual growth are all essential as they move on to high school and their life after high school. I would encourage them to challenge themselves by taking difficult courses and trying as many new activities as possible. I would also challenge them to get involved in their communities and start giving back to others. It is through service that we grow and make our community stronger.
Finally, I would encourage them to keep themselves busy with positive activities and positive people. Do not let yourself become involved with negative people, as they will only bring you down. People will treat you the way you want them to if you show respect and behave in a dignified manner. Challenge yourself, and you can achieve great things.
What civic, educational or religious involvement has given you the most satisfaction as a volunteer?
I have lived in Madison for the past fifteen years. During that time, my life has focused on working for the betterment of the community. All of my volunteer activities have been rewarding but the most gratifying experiences have been through my extensive involvement in my children's schools.
When my son was young, I worked with other parents to integrate the Transitional Education Program (TEP) for homeless children into Emerson Elementary School. The parent organization, social service providers and administrators worked together to stabilize the learning environment for the children who were attending Emerson as their neighborhood school and for homeless children who were participating in TEP. Due to this collaborative effort we were able secure full day kindergarten at Emerson the following year.
As my family entered Sherman Middle School, I helped to revitalize a parent organization at the school to ensure parents, students and community members had a presence to discuss their concerns with administrators regarding a school that was in decline. There was a lack of leadership at Sherman during that time and I volunteered on the interview committee to find a strong principal to begin the process of turning a troubled school around.
Currently, I am an active member to the Purgolder Booster Club at East High, and for the last five years I have managed the concession sales at all home football and basketball games.
I have taken on volunteer opportunities at schools, behind the scenes, that some parents may have been reluctant to do. These duties may not have been the most glamorous but they have provided resources that have directly impacted students. These experiences have been very rewarding and I am very proud of these accomplishments.
During my life I've derived satisfaction from many different activities ' from serving in the Peace Corps to my recent contributions to the school referendum victory. But my work with A Helping Hand for Autism (AHHFA) has inspired me the most.
Two years ago, a group of 4th and 5th graders, calling themselves A Helping Hand for Autism, invited me to lunch. The 8 students had been meeting since spring of the previous year because they had a classmate they cared about. I was thrilled to be a part of a grassroots student group whose focus was to learn, teach, and be inclusive. During the meetings, we learned about autism and including students who struggle socially in school. We also had fun and designed T-Shirts. I was impressed by the level of compassion and empathy the students had. The empathy the students showed and their willingness to take a stand against injustice still impresses me. I learned firsthand how effective peer teaching and example can be.
The group grew to 35 members and wrote a presentation on autism and AHHFA for every class at the school and made a DVD to take to Middle School (see < a href=http://www.mossforschoolboard.com>www.mossforschoolboard.com).
In middle school AHHFA continues to grow. I feel privileged to work with students who come together to help classmates with disabilities and to educate their peers. I am honored to be associated with the 110 AHHFA members who have made a positive change in the school climate at their three schools.
I am involved in many different activities in our community and it is very difficult to choose only one. From my work as President of the Sauk Trails Optimist Club to my volunteer work in the schools to my work as the coordinator of the Good Shepherd Food Pantry, I receive great satisfaction in knowing that I am greatly influencing the lives of many young people in our community.
If I must choose one activity, I guess I would choose my work as an advisor with the Spartan Youth Service Team at Memorial High School. This club does an incredible amount of service to our community every year. We currently have over 150 members who are required to do a minimum of 20 hours of service per year. Most do much, much more. These students truly exemplify what is right with our youth.
We so often hear about what is wrong with our kids and schools. These students show that high school students care about their community and are giving back. Every school has great students who would love to give back to their community if given a chance. We have a great resource in our young people, and we need to harness it to make this community stronger.
Finally, by being a part of the Spartan Youth Service Team I have grown in my commitment to the youth in our community. Helping all students be active, positive members of our community is truly why I am running for school board.