"Our children are the future we may not see."
With this in mind, I launched the Pleasant Hill Education Initiative last February as a multiyear communitywide volunteer effort to enhance the quality of education of Pleasant Hill students. Barely eight months later, we are already seeing the success of our efforts.
Shortly after putting forth this proposal, we formed a steering committee representing many of the community groups and civic organizations in Pleasant Hill. We formed subcommittees to develop programs, recruit volunteers, and work on the logistics of making all of this happen.
Our Programs subcommittee formed action teams to develop and run programs, events and forums. The first event was held in September at the Pleasant Hill Library. Led by Patrick Remer, the library's own "Pied Piper," and in partnership with the library, we staged the "Return of Night of a 1,000 Inventions."
This wonderful event was filled with robots, mind-controlled helicopters, a tornado machine, smoke ring cannon, a mechanical horse, and lots more hands-on innovations for kids. The evening brought joy and wonderment to the eyes of the more than 300 children and their parents.
In partnership with the Pleasant Hill Education Commission, in October we launched our second event, a free parent education forum on navigating middle school. This open forum held at Pleasant Hill Middle School was designed to inform parents of new middle schoolers and elementary students about "the ins and outs" of middle school.
Principals from each of our middle schools, along with teachers and educators in our community, and veteran middle school parents, shared their knowledge and experience in managing this educational and personal transition.
Scores of parents took advantage of this opportunity to understand the mysteries of middle school so their children will have an easier time adapting to their new environment.
One of the primary purposes of the initiative was to place volunteers in the classrooms to help kids learn. I'm delighted to say that we are ready to start doing just that.
Our volunteer coordinator, Cindy Rubin, is working with Pleasant Hill schools to determine their volunteer needs for this school year. This fall, we're focusing on placing volunteers in our elementary schools to help with reading readiness programs for kindergarten through second grade.
You can sign up to be a volunteer for this project or any other of the initiative's projects at www.pleasant-hill.net/phei.
None of our volunteers can work in the classrooms without being fingerprinted and passing a TB test. In order to make it easier to qualify volunteers for the classroom, the initiative has conducted two rounds of fingerprinting and TB testing. To date, we have certified 73 people to volunteer in Mt. Diablo School District schools.
This has all been the result of a tremendous volunteer effort. I want to especially thank Kristine Nachand, the YMCA staff, Rachel Anderson (chairwoman of the Commission on Aging), and the Explorer cadets at our Police Department for making this happen.
Our Green Team is focusing on the development of interdisciplinary educational programs on organic gardening, healthy food and nutrition, sustainability, and recycling. They intend to integrate this program with Common Core by applying these principles and practices in conjunction with STEM programs, engineering, and AP Environmental Science.
We're also working with Junior Achievement, a national program designed for K-12 students, to inspire and prepare them to succeed in the global economy. We plan to introduce this program into several of the Pleasant Hill schools this year.
But we're just getting started. My hope for the intuitive is to create sustainable, long-term programs that make learning fun, provide better educational opportunities for students, and help to better prepare our kids for college and future careers.
On that subject, we are planning a Career Night for College Park High School students. This event will focus on engineering, manufacturing, architecture and construction, and will take place at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 20, in the Multiuse Room at College Park.
None of these programs would be possible without the hard work of our Steering Committee, and the dedication and energy of our staff liaison, Martin Nelis, Pleasant Hill's public information officer. I also want to thank Martin for providing the information in this column.
The Pleasant Hill Education Initiative has already shown great promise for enhancing our children's education. But we have much more to do and we can use your help.
Please go to the city's website and sign up to be a volunteer. As President Franklin D. Roosevelt once said: "We may not be able to prepare the future for our children, but we can at least prepare our children for the future."
Harris is the mayor of Pleasant Hill. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.