Community updated on State of Education, NVC recognized for commitment, leadership, dedication
More than 150 Napa Valley leaders attended the first annual Legislators Breakfast November 29 at Napa Valley College.
Invitees heard an update on education from State Sen. Bill Dodd, State Assembly Member Cecilia Aguilar-Curry, Napa County Superintendent of Schools Barbara Nemko and the event host, Dr. Ron Kraft, NVC President. Rep. Mike Thompson also spoke via pre-recorded video.
Kraft emphasized that NVC is "an institution in the California Community College system that enjoys an extraordinary level of support from legislators from our cities, county, state and federal level."
He recounted the college's two years (2015 and 2016) as the #1 ranked community college in the state and its reputation as one of the state's top performers in career and technical fields of viticulture and winery technology, health occupations, welding and machine tool technology.
Dodd spoke about NVC's reputation for preparing students with practical knowledge to pursue careers and contribute to the local economy. He received applause for recounting his support for legislation designed to protect students who came to America as children, contribute to the local economy and fear deportation due to a lack of documentation.
Aguiar-Curry told the audience that her background as mayor of Winters and a fighter for economic opportunity prepared her for the Assembly, where she fights for public education that helps students develop careers and achieve the American Dream. She praised Napa Valley College for focusing on career development and academic success.
Superintendent of Schools Barbara Nemko spoke about the technology imbedded in Pre-Kindergarten to Grade 12 education, which is helping to close the achievement gap. She also spoke about Napa's public school reputation throughout the state as a high-tech learning center and about NVC's track record for advancing students to careers and four-year colleges and universities.
Following a videotaped message from Thompson, attendees heard a personal message from his Napa County staff representative Maira Ayala, who presented the college with a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition "in recognition of your volunteerism and dedication to the community during the Northern California Wildfires and for demonstrating exceptional leadership in the face of extraordinary circumstances" by providing emergency shelter to some 780 evacuees.
"By opening your doors, the college showed its heart to the community," said Ayala.
Dodd and Aguilar-Curry also presented the college with a Certificate of Recognition from the California State Legislature for its "commitment, leadership and dedication to the Napa Valley Community and for your substantial contributions and generosity" in connection with the operation of three emergency shelters on campus.
In his video, Thompson noted that "students are working harder than ever to secure a higher education and, sadly, too many find it out of reach, and many of our leaders in Washington seem unwilling to help bridge this gap.
"But this isn't about Republicans or Democrats. It's about putting students first and pursuing policies that expand access to an affordable education for anyone who wants one, because the bottom line is that when we invest in education, we are investing in a more prosperous future.
"In California, we've made great strides in expanding access to higher education. Not only have we been able to keep the cost of state community college tuition the lowest in the nation, but just last month, we passed a law making the first year of community college free.
"So the good news is the challenges we face and their solutions are not complete mysteries. But it's up to each of us to speak up, stay engaged, and make sure our leaders are working to expand educational opportunities for all students."
Rafael Manzo, Associated Students President for the college, said he was "beyond impressed" by the event.
"It's my first presidency, so I just assumed our college has been hosting this for years. I come to find out this was the first, and what a knockout success. I think it's so key to call forth a gathering like this.
"My local leaders, leaders in education, and legislators could represent and update ourselves with all of the big happenings taking place. Every speaker that addressed this super team was really quite remarkable and eloquent.
'I have to acknowledge Barbara Nemko, because her first update was filled with so much passion and humor, that the tone for the rest of our dialogue was set. More than anything, I got the sense that we've got some amazing people fighting for education and that Napa Valley College is a key player, helping us all stay interconnected. Sometimes I overflow with how proud I am to be here."