celebrate education - brought to you by the amarillo globe-news

Panhandle needs grads

By Brenda Bernet

An auto mechanic needs a computer just as much as a wrench to repair a vehicle.

"Today's vehicles, all of them, have more computers than Apollo 13," Joe Street of Street Toyota said during Monday night's kickoff of a new Celebrate Education program at the Globe-News Center for the Performing Arts.

Technicians need expertise in working with the technology of a 10-year-old truck, as well as the high-tech features of 2008 models, Street said. That knowledge demands that they have at least a two-year associate's degree.

Through Celebrate Education, the Amarillo Globe-News and its partners aim to bring awareness to the need for higher levels of educational attainment, Publisher Les Simpson said. The new program follows results of a study Panhandle Twenty/20 released in September on the low levels of educational attainment.

The study showed that too few Panhandle residents graduate from high school and go on to receive technical training or college degrees, Simpson said. If trends continue, the Panhandle will have a less-educated population and a less-skilled workforce, which will lead to a decline in wages and employment.

Nearly every employer in the Panhandle depends on workers with a higher level of training, Simpson said.

"At the beginning, everybody said, 'What are you going to do?'" said Anette Carlisle, study coordinator for Panhandle Twenty/20 and a trustee for Amarillo Independent School District. "We're not going to fix it in a year ... We can create success for more people in our community. Business as usual isn't going to change things."

Today, high school drop-outs face a lifetime of challenges, said Rod Schroder, superintendent for Amarillo ISD. They are much more likely to go to prison and to rely on governmental assistance. In the future, a person with a high school diploma could face similar challenges.

"The future will demand a more highly trained and educated workforce," he said.

The Celebrate Education program will include a number of special features in the newspaper, as well as events throughout the community to emphasize the importance of education and help residents find the resources they need, Simpson said.

Many resources and opportunities exist for students to continue their education beyond high school, but people need to know how to access them and the steps they should take to fulfill their dreams, said Mike Cook, director of the Ronald McNair Scholars Program at West Texas A&M University that helps first- generation college students pursue graduate degrees.

"The more you know helps students to make good decisions and know the opportunities that are out there for them," Cook said. "Things just don't happen."

calendar of events
  • January 11
    Kickoff of 2009 Program
    Find out what Celebrate Education is all about in this special section in your Sunday paper.
  • March 7
    Regional Spelling Bee, West Texas A&M University
    The annual Regional Spelling Bee will feature the top spellers from the Amarillo area. The top five winners will receive scholarship money ranging from $500 to $5,000 and the winner will travel to Washington, D.C., in June to represent the area in the Scripps National Spelling Bee.
  • Spring and Fall
    Amarillo Reads community-wide reading projects.
    Dates and details TBA
  • April
    Amarillo Education Matching Grants Program. Exact date TBA
  • April 10
    What's a Kid to Do Special Section
  • April 12
    What's a Kid to Do at the Amarillo Civic Center
    This event will focus on activities and camps for children to participate in during the summer..
  • May 8-29
    Beating the Odds
    A series of stories published daily in the Amarillo Globe-News during the graduation season that profiles people who have inspiring stories to tell about the degree they are about to receive.
  • May 12
    Ready for the Real World program at Amarillo Civic Center
    AISD juniors get training on what's going to face them in a little more than a year.
  • May 16
    Best and Brightest Special Section
  • May 16
    Best and Brightest Event at West Texas A&M University
  • Fall
    Discover College Day
    Fifth graders from area schools visit college campuses.
  • October 1
    Great Jobs Special Section
    Focusing on well paying jobs available in the area that people may not know about.
  • November 2
    Career Education Special Section
    Focusing on businesses and others in the community helping young people gain a career vision.
  • November
    Yes You Can Event
    Designed to help people gain information about the next level of education from GED to PhD. Date TBA.
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