Over coffee and breakfast, more than 500 of Santa Barbara’s movers and shakers packed into the Earl Warren Showgrounds banquet room Wednesday morning to celebrate the involvement of the business leaders who help prepare local students for careers and life.
The annual Business and Education Partnerships Breakfast was hosted by Partners in Education, a nonprofit organization that aims to connect businesses and individuals with local schools and their students.
Partners in Education was formed in 1977, and “the focus was to strengthen career education,” Bill Cirone, county superintendent of schools, said as he welcomed the crowd.
The organization began launching successful programs including a Volunteer Program and Computers for Families, which distributes hundreds of refurbished computers every year to families in need.
Since that time, he said, Computers for Families has helped more than 9,000 students and families.
California’s recent economic woes and reduced funding for education created even more of an opportunity for the organization to step up, Cirone said, which it has done by sending out an army of volunteers and interns into local schools to help fill the gaps for students and teachers.
Executive Director Michelle Magnusson spoke about how the organization has spread from humble beginnings at Hollister School to dozens of campuses across the South Coast. Coordinators Lucille Ramirez and Chelsea Duffy also shared information about the events that help prepare students for the job world, including mock interviews, career days at area junior high schools, and job fairs.
Perhaps most enjoyable was hearing firsthand how those programs have helped students such as Joseph Gonzalez.
Gonzalez, a graduate of La Cuesta Continuation High School, took the stage and spoke about his high school experience. While first enrolled at Santa Barbara High School, Gonzalez said, he struggled in his classes and began getting into trouble.
“I could barely focus, even when I did go to class,” he said.
After transferring to La Cuesta and finding it a better fit, Gonzalez began an internship at the YMCA with the help of Partners in Education.
“I wanted to be a counselor to kids like me,” he said.
Gonzalez eventually was asked to work for the Y full-time, and works another job as well while taking classes at Santa Barbara City College.
He has also been able to give back and speak at several career day events, and he volunteers through Partners in Education.
Click here for information about how to get involved with Partners in Education,