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Leadership Modesto – Education Day 

Patrick Burda

Patrick Burda

Early December greeted the 2013/2014 Leadership group with a chilly, but informative and fun day as they traveled across Modesto on Education Day. The day was made especially enjoyable as the Stanislaus County Office of Education’s Leadership Academy group (made up of local high schoolers working to become leaders) was able to join along for the day and participate with Leadership Modesto.

The day began at the Martin G. Petersen Event Center in Downtown Modesto, where the group was greeted with pastries, coffee and an energetic and uplifting introduction by Chairpersons of the day, Cynthia Fenech, Jeri Trainor and Vicki Bauman, all from SCOE. The Leadership Modesto group was able to meet and interact with the Leadership Academy students, learning about where they are in the college application process and their future plans.

Susan Rich, Assistant Superintendent of Administrative Services at SCOE, gave a short, yet enlightening presentation on the current state of the education system in Stanislaus County, and Amy Vickery from the United Way told the group about the Graduation Coaches Program, which partners future high school graduates with mentors to aid them in the process.

Before lunch, the Leadership Modesto and Leadership Academy groups boarded the finest tour bus in the area (thank you, Storer Transportation!) and traveled to the Stanislaus Military Academy, where they were treated to a Color Guard and awards presentation, celebrating the intermural football team champion of the year. They were then able to learn more about the cadets who were given the chance to speak in their own words during an intimate Q&A session about how they ended up in the Military Academy.

After the stop at the Military Academy, the group ventured on to learn about the Special Needs services provided by Stanislaus County at Early Intervention and the John F. Kennedy School. The group was able to hear from Sarah Grantano, Special Education Division Director of the JFK School, about the various ages and levels of services provided at the school. The Leadership Modesto and Leadership Academy groups subsequently took a tour of the immaculate campus and were able to explore the different types of classrooms and activities designed for different levels of needs. It was a very heartwarming trip, indeed.

The morning full of traveling, touring and meeting amazing people had the appetites of all attendees in a fervor. Fortunately, our next stop was Modesto Junior College, where the MJC Agricultural Department had a scrumptious tri-tip and homemade ice cream lunch waiting for us at the Mary Stuart Rogers Center. We were welcomed to MJC and their new state-of-the-art buildings by Andrew Campbell, President of the MJC Student Association, who also just happens to be a member of this year’s Leadership Modesto class. During lunch, the group was also introduced to Jill Stearns, President of MJC and George Boodrookas, Executive Director of Advancement & the MJC Foundation.Leadership Modesto

After a filling meal, the groups ventured off to an excursion of the new Allied Health Facility and new Science Community Center. They were able to receive an up-close and personal tour of the new classrooms, which allow for classes to be taken remotely at Columbia College; the nursing school (mannequins who make noises and blink can be terrifying if you are not prepared); and eventually, the highlight of the day for everyone, the new Planetarium for a quick Astronomy lesson. And although we weren’t able to take a tour of the new Agricultural Pavilion, a quick drive by of the building indicated a very impressive new addition to the MJC campus.

The Leadership groups traveled back to where we started the day, and after a snack of cookies and coffee, settled in for the final presentations. Rick Bartkowski, Assistant Superintendent at Instructional Support Services, enlightened the group on “Common Core,” the new education initiative sweeping the United States and “what all the fuss is about.” The Leadership Academy students seemed especially interested in this segment of the day, as they peppered Mr. Bartkowski with smart, intelligent questions pertaining to the new initiative. The last presentation of the day was given by Judie Piscitello, Stanislaus Partners in Education Executive Director, who shared how SPIE is assisting schools in preparing students for the world of work after high school and college.

Our fantastic day traveling around Stanislaus County was capped off by a spirited game of Pictionary between the young whippersnappers in Leadership Academy and the grizzled veterans in Leadership Modesto. For the first time in the history of the Pictionary challenge, the Leadership Academy came out on top and the day ended with hearty handshakes and mutual respect between the two groups.

Most of the Leadership Modesto class is more than a few years removed from high school. Partnering with the Leadership Academy class allowed us to learn about the current state of high schools, the challenges facing the students and the opportunities afforded to them as they finish up their high school careers. The rest of the day was a fantastic opportunity to learn about the current state of the local education system and the different educational resources afforded to Modesto residents. The general consensus from the Leadership Modesto group at the conclusion of the day was “The future is in good hands!”

A very special thanks to MOCSE Credit Uinion and the MJC Foundation for sponsoring Education Day.

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