In February, I told our education liaison, Bill Collier, that I wanted to visit different schools in the community. Being a lifelong educator, he had the ability to make that happen in fairly short order. I was a product of catholic grade school and high school and graduated from Illinois State University with a bachelor’s degree in industrial technology. My wife of nearly 20 years is a product of public schools in Washington and the St. Francis School of Nursing. Our three children have attended Peoria public primary, middle and high schools. There’s a wide range of educational experiences there. Over the coming months, we’ll be visiting several schools each month. We’ll visit public and private schools and all different grade levels to raise awareness of the tremendous educational opportunities this community has to offer. I wish you could see what I’m seeing when I visit these schools. I wish I could instill my hope for our children in everyone in our community.
I’ve spoken recently about my mission to help our community understand the importance of providing a world-class education for all of our children. What a statement that will be to our state, which struggles to adequately and fairly fund education. What a statement to our country that right here in the heart of America, Peoria recognizes that providing our children with the opportunity for a world-class education will be what sets us apart from other cities in this highly competitive, knowledge-based economy. What a statement to the world that Peoria, Illinois, USA, gets it. It’s about educational opportunities for everyone—top to bottom, left to right, white to black, rich to poor. It is an opportunity for everyone to obtain a world-class education. Impossible, you say? I disagree. This is one city that can get the job done. By the end of this year, Peoria Promise will be a household name, synonymous with a progressive community that demonstrates leadership in the area of educational opportunities for everyone. A professional advisory board is being established and will have already met for the first time when this this column is published. Look for the website and the kickoff for fundraising to make Peoria Promise a reality soon. I wish I could snap my fingers and make this vision a reality, but there’s a lot of hard work ahead. I can’t emphasize to the business community how important it is to embrace this initiative. I wish everyone would.
As you can see, there’s a lot of wishing going on in this month’s column. And there’s a reason. In my visits to area schools, I’ve realized that there’s some wishing going on in our schools too. We all know that the budgets in our schools are very tight. You likely also know that there are supplies and equipment that, while not mandatory for instruction, are helpful for our students and teachers. I’m going to make an appeal to our business community to consider demonstrating support for some educational needs in our local schools. Our education liaison is formulating a School Wish List. Many of you have extra equipment or supplies that could be donated to local schools. Are you replacing computers in your office? Upgrading your copy machines? Getting a bigger paper shredder? Do you have used-but-nice printers, digital cameras, calculators, musical instruments, office chairs, office furniture, conference tables or art supplies? Before you throw it away or trade it for pennies of its real value, consider donating to our schools.
Another wish by school teachers is for speakers to come talk to their students. They’re looking for speakers to address foreign language classes, speakers with special interest and knowledge of U.S. history or other areas of history. They would like motivational speakers, speakers to talk about careers and speakers with stories about real life and real opportunities. If you’re that person or your company can provide people that fit this description, we need you.
The realization that we’ve got a lot of work to do is clear. We’re getting it started and we’re going to make a difference. It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen. Raise your hand and give us your support. To donate to the School Wish List, contact our education liaison at [email protected].
And while I’m wishing…I wish you would all go out and vote this month. April 17th is Election Day. Please vote and encourage your employees or co-workers to vote too. We must have a larger turn-out than we had for the primaries. Our future is now. IBI