If Rick Santorum is correct in describing President Barack Obama as a snob for wanting students to get a college degree, then a growing number of snobs plan to attend the 2012 Leading and Impacting Futures Today conference next weekend.
LIFT is a free conference for students in grades five through 12 and their parents. The purpose is to get all of them thinking, talking and doing something about getting more education after high school.
I realize Santorum's words were aimed at collecting votes in hopes of becoming the Republican nominee for president, but belittling Obama for urging young people to attend a community college, vocational school or four-year college or university doesn't serve anyone. The more educated the community, the better the community and the more money in that community.
That is the opinion of the Lexington Urban League Young Professionals, who are presenting this eighth annual conference with support from Chase Bank, Fayette County Public Schools, YMCA Black Achievers, Transylvania University, Lexmark International and Shadynook Baptist Church in Paris.
"I don't think it is snobbery," said Danne Johnson, who is chair of the parent component of the conference. A higher education should be the standard for everyone, she said.
Johnson, who teaches in a juvenile center, sees young people who can't read or write. "Our young people need to be motivated that school is one human capital that cannot be taken away," she said. "I think the young professionals and the Urban League are saying we care. Here are some tools, the same tools we have used to succeed. We know what we are talking about."
The conference will include three components. The one for parents is designed to make them aware of texting language, special-needs programs and individual learning plans in schools, cultural diversity in the classroom, and tips for tutoring math and reading. And, Johnson said, a Nicholasville police officer will discuss bullying and cyber bullying, showing the repercussions on both sides of the issue.
Another is for fifth-graders and middle school students.
"Our primary focus is to get the student prepared for the next level, transitioning into middle school or transitioning into high school," said T.C. Johnson, chairwoman of the middle school component.
Students in eighth grade will be treated to a session called "The Complete College Experience." They will tour Transylvania University, complete a college application and an essay, and hear college students talk about what to expect.
The session is important because, far too often, parents and students wait until the student's senior year and then scramble to get ready for college, Johnson said. So while the students are learning what happens, parents will be told the importance of participation and of staying on top of their child's future.
The fifth- to eighth-graders will break into sessions for their grade levels on Saturday for "Surviving Middle School;" "Career Showcase," which highlights community and vocational schools; and "Essential Skills."
The third component is for high schoolers.
"The seniors are in college mode," said Angela Roberts, chair of the high school component. "We are dividing out the senior cluster and talking to them about dressing for success, managing stress and activating their healthy mind, body and soul."
A major part of that is economic financial literacy, Roberts said.
High schoolers in ninth through 11th grades will learn about college planning, ACT and SAT preparation, and the real deal about college. A panel of students from Transy, Morehead State University and the University of Kentucky will speak candidly about campus life.
During lunch, three students will receive scholarships for essays they wrote. In the past, the conference has attracted only a handful of essays, Roberts said. This year, there were 40. Also, at the end of the conference, three laptops will be given away, along with other donated items.
Each year the program has been growing, and more seniors are attending this year than in years past, she said. I think that's a good thing, too. So does Vice President Joe Biden.
During an interview on Radio Iowa last week, Biden said six of every 10 jobs over the next 10 years are going to require a certificate or a degree obtained after high school. "It's not about snobbery," Biden said. "It's about allowing people to live a life like their parents lived, in a middle-class environment, decent home, good school, a promise to send their kids to college and being able to take care of their parents and not have to be taken care of themselves by the time they're their parents' age."
To help do their part to improve our community, the young professionals continue to present this event. Maybe next year they can call it the LIFT the Snobs Conference.