Thursday, May 18, 2006

Cast a vote for our future

You can help pick the winners of a contest that will give California students scholarship money for college. Before 11am PDT, May 21, visit the contest page of the Campaign for College Opportunity. There you can read finalist essays by middle and high school kids and view the posters and TV ads they've created on the theme "Save a Spot for Me in College." Take a look and cast your vote for the overall winners.

Do this and you'll be participating in an innovative grassroots lobbying effort. The Campaign for College Opportunity seeks to impress on state legislators the need to support community college education for all students who graduate from high school. The state master plan has called for such support for many years; the state's higher education system has been much of the engine of California's prosperity. But state government has been hamstrung by the refusal of Republicans to agree to any new tax measures, and consequently, community colleges have begun to crack under demand that exceeds the supply of places. They have raised fees, limited the availability of classes, and cannot provide the counselors who might help get students through the bureaucratic maze.

So the Campaign wanted to collect California students' own thoughts and dreams about college to share them with legislators. What better way than a contest with real money prizes?

Last month I wrote about serving as a reader in the first phase of the contest. It was a fascinating experience. Hundreds of us helped winnow down 8000 entries.

Now the Campaign seeks our online votes which will be used alongside those of a panel of judges who include:

  • Farai Chideya, author and correspondent for National Public Radio
  • Don Hahn, Interim Head of Feature Animation at the Walt Disney Company
  • Joe Kapp, former NFL star
  • Josefa Salinas, radio personality for Hot 92 Jamz in Los Angeles
  • Peter Schrag, columnist for the Sacramento Bee
  • Mike Sklut, host of "High School Sports Focus" on Action 36 in the Bay Area
Reading these student essays, what came through so poignantly is that these young people, many of them immigrants or children of immigrants, want to be what they think of as "good people" -- productive workers, supports to their parents, participants in their community. Read their own words at the contest page and help give them a leg up toward their dreams.

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