"It's All About Choices"
One of the Lodi District Chamber of Commerce's committees is Partners in Education (P.I.E.). This committee focuses on mentoring students, promoting the importance of education, and raising awareness about jobs and their futures. Within P.I.E., there are a few programs the Chamber has supported the implementation of- the Mamas and Papas program, Choices Program, and the In Your Seat program. All three of these are geared towards different aged students. The Mamas and Papas program brings in retired volunteers to assist with elementary school children who may struggle with reading. The In Your Seat program places mid-20s, more identifiable business members of the community in high school classrooms so that Lodi's teens can relate to the struggles, opportunities, and choices made by the speaker. The Choices program reaches 8th graders in the Lodi Community to showcase how the decisions made in the present continue to affect their lives as adults.
Every 8th Grader in Lodi's community goes through the Choices program. Reaching students before they begin high school is critical and the reason the Choices program is targeted to 8th graders is to deter students from dropping out of high school by showing them the importance of education. The Choices program also allows volunteer members of P.I.E. the opportunity to speak on the importance of making good choices, having good role models, setting goals for oneself, and living life with a positive attitude.
One of the activities performed in the classrooms mirrors real life. Students are given a month's salary at minimum wage and they then have to "pay" their bills, including rent, utilities, car payment, insurance, groceries, and taxes. Most students think that $2,000 a month is a substantial amount of money, excited to even hold the fake cash in their hands. It isn't until halfway through the exercise that the classroom realizes that minimum wage does not mean a living wage. The visualization of money going to different entities strikes a chord with students- most of whom then agree that they need to work beyond minimum wage to thrive in life.
Another activity the students participate in is a "timeline" presentation. One of the presenters and student volunteers stand at the front of the classroom. One student holds one end of the scroll, while one student unwraps the timeline to show how many years kids are in school compared to the rest of their lives. Most students- especially kids about to enter high school- feel like they've been in school "forever!", but when they see how small of a section those "primary education" years are, they start to understand how important it is to make those years count.
Before they end the Choices program, students are given keychains in the shape of keys, stating "Key to Success," dog tags to signify they've passed, and they sign a High School Graduation Pledge. This pledge is then signed by them, their 8th Grade Teacher, and is given back to the students to keep. The hope being that these students use the High School Graduation Pledge as a motivator when times get tough and use it as a promise to themselves to continue in their education.
Tomorrow's leaders are in today's classrooms and it is the hope of Lodi District Chamber of Commerce to inspire these kids to make positive decisions so that they can make positive impact on our community's future. Our committees are driven by our Chamber members who volunteer their time to help the community. We are always looking for more interested volunteers and will be happy to discuss any of our programs. Please visit LodiChamber.com/Committees for more information.
The Choices program is funded through a grant from The Got Kids Foundation of LUSD.