Sunday, Aug. 19, 2012 | 2:03 a.m.
In August, Brian Greenspun turns over his Where I Stand column to guest writers. Today’s columnist is Dallas Haun, president and CEO of Nevada State Bank.
To me, Nevada’s future begins and ends with education. We’ve all seen the statistics comparing Nevada’s schools and universities to those in other states. I’d like to suggest that we, as community leaders, need to find the time, the money and the resources to put into our educational system.
Three gentlemen, among others, have been doing good things in difficult times. Dwight Jones, the superintendent of the Clark County School District, assumed his role in December 2010, when the district was at a historically low point in funding, reputation and morale. He is to be applauded for his efforts in handling himself well in a difficult environment and keeping the focus on education.
Yes, we have many challenges to overcome, but with Jones’ help, we’re making a start. The news isn’t all bad. For example, in 2011, the CCSD had 34 students recognized as National Merit semifinalists, who rank in the top 1 percent of high school juniors. And Green Valley High School has won more Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics/Science Teaching than any other high school in the United States. If you make the effort to meet the teachers and administrators at your local school, you’ll find many more reasons to be optimistic about the future. You’ll also find opportunities to help shape that future, whether it’s volunteering to tutor students or encouraging your company to adopt a school through CCSD’s School-Community Partnership Program (ccsd.net/community).
Dr. Neal Smatresk, president of UNLV, is also facing challenges in a community where only about 21 percent of adults have a bachelor’s degree or higher. His administration is reaching out to the community to help make the most of limited resources. Internships are one way local businesses can help university students; they provide valuable real-world experience that can translate into job opportunities for students and bring fresh perspectives to the sponsoring companies.
I had lunch on Aug. 13 with Dr. Percy Poon, dean of the Lee Business School at UNLV, and he’s very excited about the 20 students in the intern program there. UNLV currently serves 27,000 students, and we know that at least 60 percent of them will stay in our community, so helping them is a good way to improve the future for all of us.
The College of Southern Nevada, headed by its president, Dr. Mike Richards, is helping to train the workforce for tomorrow’s jobs as well as today’s. The Brookings Institution study released last fall detailed seven industries that held the highest potential for economic growth, diversification and job creation in Nevada. CSN has training programs in all seven areas. In fact, as the state’s largest higher education institution, CSN offers degrees and certificates in more than 130 areas of study, from health and medical services to business and from clean energy to aviation technology.
The educational system in Nevada cannot overcome the challenges it faces without help from each of us. If you have children in school, you need to be involved. Join the PTA at your child’s school, and look for ways to help your school and its students achieve more.
Education starts at home. Take an interest in your child’s homework, read to them when they’re small, and have them read to you as soon as they are able.
If you’re in business, reach out with more than money. Make your business open to internships that give students practical experience in the business world. Mentor high school or college students to encourage them to stay in school and get the education they need to succeed.
With the help of dedicated educators like Dwight Jones, Neal Smatresk and Mike Richards — and support from all of us — positive change can happen, and our educational system can improve. It won’t be easy, and it won’t happen overnight, but if we make it a priority, we can build positive momentum for the future.