Our Future is in Good Hands

In Who's Doing Cool Stuff? by Mark Sylvester

MADAcademy-featuredImage I recently spoke with Dan Williams, the director of the Multimedia Arts and Design Academy at Santa Barbara High School, and am more convinced than ever that our future leaders are in good hands. One of the cornerstones of the 805connect project is the alliance we have built with educational leaders throughout the region. The students in class today are the leaders of tomorrow.
Watch out, here they come.” – Dan Williams

How does the school-in-a-school Academy program work?

Throughout the 805 area there are High School Academy programs that provide an immersive educational experience. In Santa Barbara and Goleta there’s an Engineering Academy, an Entrepreneurial Academy, a Visual Arts and Design Academy and a Health Careers Academy, you can see the entire list here. If you know of other academies in the region that should be listed, please mention them in the Comments below. These academies enjoy a higher than average graduation rate because the mission of these programs is to find a way to engage students in a relevant learning experience. They learn leadership, team building and work on understanding and developing emotional intelligence. These are exactly the types of skills we want in our employees.

How connected are you to a local educator?

Students in these programs are being prepared for the workforce. As you build a connection to your local school and give some of your time as a speaker or a spot for an intern, you will make a huge difference for them and you. In talking with Dan and asking about his connections with the local business community I learned that many of his students graduate into amazing jobs as a result of those connections. He’s built an Advisory Board that’s made up of local business leaders including Jacob Tell, the 35-year-old CEO of Santa Barbara based Oniracom. Jacob told me that he’s got a pipeline of up and coming media students working on projects with his professionals, such as this recent project, documenting the recent Earth Day. He gives them real-world experience, they get work for their portfolio and participate in doing something to give back to the Community. Jacob says that he’s able to reach the best and the brightest as interns, then offers them jobs upon graduation. He sees his role in grooming this new generation of leaders and wants to have an active voice in guiding their education.

Giving Back. Teaching students the value of community involvement.

Dan says that a big part of the MAD program is giving back. They have an annual trip to Mexico where they have built homes, over 50 in ten years. He asks the students during the application process, “How would you improve the lives of people in the world through what you learn here?” This mission led one student to create a video series to support a Lost Limbs non-profit in Mozambique.

Giving back as a business.

There are plenty of opportunities for you to give back to make a difference. Your local high school is always looking for experienced Guest Speakers, which lead to conversations about interns, which leads to bright, energetic new additions to your workforce. Have you ever given a talk to a room of engaged 16 year olds? You’d be impressed. A famous local photographer spoke to one of the MAD classes, which inspired one of the students to show him his video reel, the photographer was so impressed he hired the student on the spot to do video editing for him. One of the MAD students went on to win three Grammies for Sound Engineering. Another is the Set Director for ELLEN and another went a completely different direction and is now a famous attorney in San Francisco. His time at the Academy helped him to be a healthy, balanced and centered citizen able to contribute well outside the specific area of new media.

Your call to action?

Contact your local high school and ask to speak to someone in the principal’s office or the Career Center and find a way to give some of your time and enthusiasm. You’ll be thrilled you did it, even if this is the first time you’ve ever volunteered. Do it today.

Extra Credit

Here’s another way to get involved. Consider being a part of TEDYouth this November. You can host a live simulcast of the event at your place of business. It’s a way for you to experience the energy of TED and invite students to get a first hand glimpse of your work environment while watching students present on stage. Here’s more information on TEDYouth. This year’s theme is Made In the Future. It’s on a Saturday, November 14th, and is a perfect excuse to get more involved now.