December 17, 2014

Partnerships make the difference

Partnerships were on display at the annual business appreciation breakfast of the Santa Maria Valley Industry Education Council recently, demonstrating what takes place when businesses join hands with education to make a real difference in the lives of young people countywide.

The annual Computer Connections distribution at the breakfast provided eight area students with new computers. In September and October, 10 computers had been provided, and over the past 10 years, the program awarded more than 200 computers to young people who otherwise would be on the wrong side of the digital divide that separates students with access to technology from those without.

In modern times, such tools are essential to the learning process and to the workforce. The research opportunities, the connections made through email, and the chance to take part in online learning can no longer be duplicated through any other medium. Students need Internet skills for schoolwork and for workforce preparation as well. Young people without those skills and tools will be at a real disadvantage in an ever-more-wired world.

The Computer Connections program, a model partnership with many area businesses, including Santa Maria Energy, Wells Fargo Bank, and the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce, therefore makes a real difference in young lives. In the South County, the Computers for Families program, another major partnership, helps bridge that divide as well. This is enlightened self-interest on the part of all our business partners — by investing in our students they help secure an educated, informed, and skilled workforce and consumer base.

At the SMVIEC awards breakfast, each north county school district superintendent selected a company, individual, or nonprofit organization for special recognition, in light of outstanding efforts to support education. The broad range of honorees this year included: Altrusa International Foundation of Santa Maria, Assistance League of Santa Barbara, Colette Hadley of the Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara, Del Taco #833, long-time educator and master teacher Georgia Schrager, Plantel Nurseries, and Rabobank. The diversity and range of honorees underscores the breadth and depth of partnerships that abound.

These organizations, institutions, and individuals, along with scores upon scores of others honored at the program, provided funding, program support, and mentoring opportunities that will truly change young lives.

It is not possible to overstate the positive impact of these partners and all those countywide who pitch in to help students and schools.

I have always believed that the strength that comes through partnership cannot be matched by any other individual effort. That is why my office strives to form and nurture partnerships in all aspects of the programs we provide to students. Partnerships are the central thread that runs through the fabric of all we do countywide. Those partnerships create a synergy that benefits students, teachers, schools, and programs.

We salute all those businesses, large and small, who provide resources or support that makes a difference in the lives of children. Partnerships are key. In this most loving and giving of seasons, we thank all our partners for their generosity of spirit.