Saturday, March 24 , 2018, 11:22 am | Fair 57º


Partners in Education Celebrates Local Businesses, Organizations With Annual Breakfast

Partners in Education event speakers include Cottage Health president & CEO Ron Werft and Dos Pueblos High School senior Antonio Chamu

Dos Pueblos High School senior Antonio Chamu, 17, told his personal story about how he was inspired to pursue a career in medicine and overcome using drugs and alcohol. Click to view larger
Dos Pueblos High School senior Antonio Chamu, 17, told his personal story about how he was inspired to pursue a career in medicine and overcome using drugs and alcohol.  (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

Members of Partners in Education work to prepare students with the skills, knowledge, and attitudes required for lifelong learning and the workforce, as well as becoming productive members of their communities. 

More than 250 community leaders, educator and business partners gathered at the Earl Warren Showgrounds Wednesday morning for the annual Partnerships Breakfast to recognize collaborations among local businesses, and education and nonprofit communities.

This year’s special guest speaker was Ron Werft, the president & CEO of Cottage Health.

He addressed the audience about the power of partnerships and leadership within the community.

“The only way we can improve our community's health is through partnerships with others,” Werft said. “Santa Barbara is big enough to have leading educational institutions, fine arts, great health care and natural beauty. We are also small enough to create possible solutions together. If you have a problem or an idea, pick up the phone and you have a partner.”

Werft said Cottage Health has gifted more than $16,000 in financial support, partnered up to promote medical-related education, and employees have donated countless hours during volunteer activities with Partners in Education. 

He said nurses that grow up in Santa Barbara are four to five times more likely to stay with the local hospital throughout their careers, compared to employees recruited from outside areas.

“It makes sense to invest and start young,” Werft said. “This organization can change lives in a meaningful way. The teenage lives change communities.”

Student speaker, Antonio Chamu, 17, said motivation and educational support helped him overcome drugs and alcohol, and break connections with gang involvement.

Partners in Education held its annual Business and Education Partnerships Breakfast at Earl Warren Showgrounds Wednesday morning featuring speaker Ron Werft, president & CEO of Cottage Health. Click to view larger
Partners in Education held its annual Business and Education Partnerships Breakfast at Earl Warren Showgrounds Wednesday morning featuring speaker Ron Werft, president & CEO of Cottage Health. (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

“There are many students like myself, who are going through hard times, and sometimes they need a little help to get them going,” said Chamu, a Dos Pueblos High School senior. “Sometimes things have to change before you learn to get better. It wasn’t until after I hit rock bottom that I was inspired.”

In middle school, Chamu said, he was not an engaged student and was using marijuana and alcohol.

By the age of 15, he was placed on probation after getting caught tagging with markers, and said he started to surround himself with gang members.

One night, he and some friends were attacked in a fight, and his parents brought him to the emergency room after he had been knocked to the ground and punched. 

His body was covered in bruises and doctors discovered his lung had collapsed.

While in the hospital, Chamu's conversation with nurse practitioner Juliette Fish sparked his interest in a medical career and he hopes to attend USC.

His junior year in high school was a turning point, when Chamu felt motivated to be responsible and was admitted into Dos Pueblos High School's Advancement Via Individual Determination Program. He had expected his GPA was too low, but applied anyway, interviewed with school officials, and was accepted. 

“I was shocked,” he said. “I now put so much into my education. I don’t let anything distract me from making school a priority.”

More than 250 people attended the Business and Education Partnerships Breakfast at Earl Warren Showgrounds Wednesday morning. Click to view larger
More than 250 people attended the Business and Education Partnerships Breakfast at Earl Warren Showgrounds Wednesday morning.  (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

Through the help of Partners in Education internship program with the MedCenter, the enthusiastic young adult has hope for a successful future.

Through that program, he completed seven weeks of job readiness training that covers communication in the workplace, how to dress for a job, financial literacy, resume building and preparing for an interview. 

He thanked his parents, girlfriend Brenda, and Fish for their support, who all attended the breakfast. 

“I wouldn't be where I am now without the support I received,” Chamu said. “You never know if a simple word of encouragement can change someone.”

The student received a standing ovation from attendees after his speech.

The event also commemorates the thousands of community members and hundreds of businesses that support local education through Partners in Education by either hosting high school interns, volunteering in schools, or donating computers to families who need them, said Chelsea Duffy, the organization’s executive director. 

The nonprofit allows students the opportunities to meet with and learn from local business professionals.

Partners in Education helps community members find a role in supporting education through one of its three programs — Computers for Families, the Countywide Volunteer Program and the Paid Student Internship Program.

Educators submit requests for volunteer support through the organizations website, and it works within their network of businesses and volunteers to connect community resources with the educational needs presented, according to Duffy.

Volunteer coordination focuses on career readiness activities, such as mock job interviews, resume coaching, career days and guest speaker series, as well as help for individual classroom needs.

“We work hard to bring a variety of individuals and professional backgrounds into classrooms, so that students gain exposure to the wide array of career opportunities and pathways to success that are available to them,” Duffy said.

Partners in Education also supports schools and youth-serving nonprofits by recruiting and screening tutors and mentors, mostly college-aged volunteers, who act as homework helpers, reading buddies and more, Duffy said.

The event also featured the Los Prietos Boys Camp Color Guard, Deputy Superintendent of Schools Susan Salcido, Partners in Education Board President Marybeth Carty and paid special tribute to the President’s Council, a group of more than 30 businesses that contribute financially to the organization annually.

Two videos were shown, showcasing the work of Lucero Carlos, a San Marcos High school student who created them as part of her Partners in Education Paid Student Internship Program.

Partners in Education was formed by education leaders and local businesses in 1977 and its programs are administered by the Santa Barbara County Education Office, an intermediate agency between the California Department of Education and 20 school districts within the county’s boundaries.

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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