Saturday, September 19, 2015

Advocacy for education

Education is a right for every child in our hemisphere.  In my opinion, it evens the playing field.  We are often reminded by great achievements by those who climbed out of despair, poverty or abuse to rise out of the shambles.  Education has a way of doing that.  It is something that we perhaps take for granted.

I often volunteer to help kids in education.  For almost three years I have been volunteering for Junior Achievement, where one is armed with teaching aids, representing major companies in the community as a way of giving back.  The skills covered are economics, budgeting, finance, credit, applying for jobs, understanding expenses and so on.  As volunteers, we are also setting positive examples for kids aged 14 and 15.  

I have also volunteered to prepare and distribute lunches to kids in an elementary school with demographics that show much lower than average household finances.  This was under United Way, another great organization that helps the community thrive.

Recently, our organization, did a fundraiser within our department about a month ago under the charity Stephen's Backpacks  It was set up as a contest among about 10 teams of about 13 individuals on each.  Basically, we were given two backpacks and filled it up with supplies for students, given suggestions by breakdown by group of elementary, junior high and high school (as needs vary).  As our social prime, we also raised funds, some donated filled backpacks, others supplies and others money.  It was a worthwhile cause, helping kids in education.  It helped build team work.  Sprinkled with a little competitive spirit to make it charged.   

I grew up with advocacy for education.  My parents gave each of us the opportunity to go beyond high school to post secondary education.  I was the only one of four to take advantage of it.  It wasn't always easy.  Sure, my tuition, housing was covered while I had to become innovative to get food.  I ended up volunteering on the Yearbook Staff, then moved into the Student Union as its Secretary.  Part of the reward was monthly meetings and afterwards a paid dinner at the cafeteria.  I also was a Floor Senior in the Students' Residence.  There must have been a free meal in their somewhere.  Both allowed me to attend social events for free, and there must have been free food in there as well.  I worked part time for a while but the hours of 5pm to 2am didn't always compliment getting up for 8am classes.  

I am thrilled that my second youngest daughter is attending University.  Her father had tried to take her to the Armed Forces recruitment office to subsidize her education.  I advocated her to follow her passion and dreams.  Both her father and I contributed towards an education fund the moment all three of our children were born.  It certainly helps today.  My daughter says that she knows how lucky she is to be getting an education without the cloud of graduating with massive debt.  She took a gap year off, traveled a lot, played competitive soccer and partied some.  I was always nervous that she would get too used to money and put off going back to school.  

I surveyed lots of friends and associates on the matter.  Was a gap year wise?  Looking back, I can see why she did do it.  She is a January baby, very articulate early, starting preschool in French emersion at age 3.  It wasn't playschool it was PREschool.  Then, she was a year younger at graduation than most of her classmates.  I understand she needed a break before she buckled down and went to school.  She took the time to explore her interests and decided on Fine Arts.  That was after Marine Biology, Meteorology, etc.  

What kids have today in some of the schools is career planning early.  Taking quizzes and skills tests to cross reference attributes with career paths.  She was advised to be a stock broker, given the reason that she was in strong in math and had personal integrity and honesty.  Her dad would have done back flips since he had taken the Canadian Securities Course from interest and built knowledge for investing.

My stepdaughter was all set on going into nursing from the time I met her.  She started work as soon as she could and glided from that into a strong position with a strong organization that provides ongoing on the job training which is not the same as a post secondary education.  We can foresee her working her way up as she has already moved upwards a fair bit for someone her age.  

Our youngest has moved cities, expanded herself and spread her wings.  She is starting to say that she has started to settle on an education direction now.  Communications.  I hope she does.  At least I've learned that they have to make the decision themselves even if the expectation is deep rooted and money set aside.  

The best thing we did, was start from the get go with an education fund.  It allowed the opportunity to always be there to back up the encouragement.  Their father and I met at college but didn't graduate with student loans.  

In the long run.  Education is the distinguishing factor that can set anyone apart.  It takes sacrifice, discipline and intelligence to start and continue.  If our governments really wanted to avoid political positioning by playing with education, they would encourage parent or organization finance for post secondary education for all.  

I understand that many US citizens consider the government paying for things like education and health means gravitating towards a socialist state.  I'd say, put your paranoia aside, it doesn't have to mean you're on the brink of communism.  It simply means that you are investing in your future.  Your children.  Their education.  A better chance of survival and financial security than some of their parents.  Educated households, I would imagine, statistically have less abuse of drugs, alcohol or domestic violence.  

We can break the chain of disfunction by protecting all of our futures by investing in our children's education.