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Lessons to Spare, and Share

by Mike Bailey |
Mike Bailey
Mike Bailey

Peoria Skyline

Welcome to Peoria Magazine’s Education edition, dedicated to those who teach, learn and use their accumulated knowledge to make their communities and the world better places. 

You wouldn’t think that theme would be all that controversial, yet between countless flash points — COVID protocols, curriculum choices, student debt issues, once-unthinkable aggressions, etc. — our institutions of education are being challenged as perhaps never before. Arguably nowhere else have the nation’s discontents and divisions been played out more intensely. Arguably nowhere else is more expected from those in whom less is invested (and we’re not just talking dollars).

Most of us are experts on the classroom, of course, because once upon a time, we all sat in one. 

What we can say with confidence is that where communities and classrooms, parents and professors truly partner, that tends to be a winning combination; that access-to-all public education played no small role in building America into an economic empire; that schooling far and away remains the most reliable ticket to a safe and secure future – the way out and the way up; that we downplay and disparage educational achievement to our collective peril. 

With age and sometimes wisdom, of course, come the realization that there are all kinds of smarts — book smarts, street smarts, work-with-your-hands smarts, art smarts, music smarts, etc. – and that people learn in different ways and at their own paces. In fact, no end of positive, inspiring stories exist out there.

In this month’s magazine, we celebrate those who have used those smarts to success in their chosen fields, from the juggernaut that is the Morton High School marching band – 16 consecutive state titles, now that’s a dynasty — to Troy Ummel’s genius at preparing food. We explore the changes taking place and the opportunities being presented in our K-12 schools, vocational institutions and universities, knowing that learning never stops and that we must better prepare ourselves for a formidable future. We dig with archeologists to potentially uncover eternal mysteries that may help unlock the answers to what stalls our progress as a people yet today, throw some sunshine on those saving young lives through education at a local church, ride along with Kirk Wessler on his Reinvention Tour, and wonder with a children’s books author how bugs might taste for breakfast.  

Trust me, it’s all very educational.

One other thing: We take a look at ourselves through the eyes of those who grew up elsewhere, chose Peoria against the field, and see in central Illinois what too many others – even those born here, raised here – sometimes don’t or won’t.   

There is a significant percentage of Peoria’s growing Indian-Asian community that owns a Ph.D., M.D. or MBA, they’ve experienced firsthand the value of an education as it pertains to their own lives as doctors and engineers, college professors and CEOs, and many confront the future with optimism in the place they now happily call home. They’re also realistic.

“We don’t sell Peoria to Peoria,” which is necessary before selling Peoria to the world, said Dr. Kiran Velpula, who works on treatments/cures for brain cancer when not advocating for fellow Peorians from his seat on the City Council. “We don’t appreciate what we have … That’s where I really feel we lose the battle.” 

In fact, there is little that cannot be accomplished from central Illinois, and people here – like Dr. Velpula – prove it every day. It’s a mindset. 

Something to ponder, as we unveil another Peoria Magazine. Enjoy.

MB - Mike Bailey

 

 

Mike Bailey
[email protected]

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