Tag Archives: Students

Golden Knights Debate Their Way Through the Pandemic

As more summer programs were being canceled, I saw there was a need for keeping students engaged and stimulating their creativity. Being a high school student myself, I could only imagine that those younger than me must be struggling. With COVID-19 bringing in a new distance learning environment and a summer lockdown for students, a group of eight middle school students (Milpitas Golden Knights) with my active volunteer guidance came up with a creative plan to spend the summer holidays safely indoors and socially connected – engaging in Public Forum Debate.

How did this idea begin?  

Eight 6th grade Merryhill school students showed interest in practicing and learning techniques for public forum debate.  With my assistance and leadership as the debate Advisor and judge, the debate club was formed and sessions were organized.  I helped design the debate classes and practice sessions every week for 12 weeks with the idea to keep the students connected, stay mentally healthy, and keep connected during challenging times.

About the Debate Sessions

With dedication, we started to practice from the end of May and the kids continued to learn and acquire the skill that would assist them through middle school. Every week, the team gathered in a virtual meeting session and reviewed through debate materials/rules, watched debate videos, and practiced speeches.  The program was executed as four teams with two members in each team. For every debate topic, the team members were regrouped to support each other. The debate team independently handled work sessions between themselves during the week to prepare for the debate and keep connected. This helped the students to learn and practice teamwork. At the end of each debate, the group voted for the next debate title and continued to challenge themselves. In addition to debate sessions and in the spirit of rewarding and motivating the students, the program was expanded to include a general knowledge quiz, which covered topics like science, history, geography, politics, and sport, at the end of each debate session.

Reward

By the end of the debate session, the kids were able to meet at a local park to celebrate their achievements, while social distancing. It was their first time meeting in real life since the start of the summer and the kids enjoyed catching up. They were presented with trophies and medals to congratulate them on their progress and improvement in debating. Team pictures were taken and speeches were given to thank everyone for their participation in the program.

Presenting to the Mayor of Milpitas

The final debate session was attended by the Principal of MerryHill School, Ms. Quinn Letan who recognized the effort put together by the students.  The students were also given the opportunity to present the program to Mayor Richard Tran of Milpitas. In the end, the credit really goes towards all students of this program – Nalika, Diya, Saatvika, Aadya, Sohan, Adithya, Hrithvik, and Katthir. 

If you would like your child to join the debate team, contact sundramr@hotmail.com for more info!


Meghaa Ravichandran is a high school sophomore at Notre Dame High School is the leader and coach for the Milpitas Golden Knights team.

11th Grader Starts Free Virtual Tutoring Service

From all over the Bay Area, students have stepped up to the plate to aid their communities amid the coronavirus outbreak. Here’s the story of a Mountain View student who decided to help the people he knew best – students. Kanav Mittal, a rising senior at the Saint Francis High School, started Free Virtual Tutoring. True to its name, this youth nonprofit organization provides Zoom classes to students of all ages. Since its humble beginnings, Free Virtual Tutoring has established a clientele of 40 students, with 20 math and computer science classes. We had a chat with Kanav to understand FVT’s unique journey over the past few months.

IC: What prompted you to start FVT? While there are a plethora of tutoring services in our area, few offer free classes. Why (and how) do you teach at no charge? 

K: A couple of weeks after schools shut down in response to COVID-19, I read some Nextdoor posts from parents who were frustrated at how the school district was handling their students’ learning. Elementary-schoolers seemed to be the worst affected, as it is quite difficult to transition to online learning at such a young age. Knowing that many elementary schoolers were struggling and falling behind, I wanted to help, so I contacted my friend with an idea for a free virtual tutoring service. Free Virtual Tutoring was born.

We teach at no charge because we want our service to be accessible to everyone during these times of crisis. We want any student struggling with the burden of school closures and catching up in schoolwork to be able to come to us and seek help, and we don’t believe that money should be a barrier to this. 

IC: What is your teaching philosophy? How do you structure classes and curriculum? 

K: Our teaching philosophy is to build relationships with the students and teach concepts in a fun, engaging, and interactive way that takes advantage of these relationships. Why do we focus so much on relationships? Partly because many students, including us high schoolers but especially elementary schoolers, may be feeling isolated during this time. We hope that through Free Virtual Tutoring, not only can we support students academically but we can also support them emotionally by just being there to help them and by trying to connect with them.

Our classes, which are one hour long, consist of presentations, lots of practice problems, and a fun Kahoot! to wrap it up and review. Throughout our classes, we always try to relate to the students, putting in funny memes or cracking jokes that get students excited about learning. Interactive discussions and practice times during the classes allow us to engage the students more deeply in the concepts.

While creating the curriculum, we look at our old workbooks and consult our younger siblings for advice, some of whom have just finished up elementary school. We can also draw on our own memories – elementary school was not that long ago! Our curriculum is based on reviewing concepts taught in school and introducing more advanced topics to prepare students for the next step in their academic careers.

IC: What challenges did you face in founding FVT? Was it easy to build a consistent clientele? 

K: At first, it was quite challenging to figure out a system for how we would offer classes. What times? How would they be structured? How would they be conducted? Nevertheless, these questions were naturally resolved as we went through our first few weeks and became more skilled at running classes.

Another major challenge that we faced was outreach. As our team is just high school students, many times people do not take us seriously. To compound this, when it’s free, people often don’t believe in the quality. Therefore, it has been difficult to conduct successful outreach efforts and tell more students about our service. However, after receiving excellent testimonials from parents, and after parents have told their friends about our service, we have received many more signups!

Speaking of outreach, it was not easy to build a consistent clientele at all! Again, people would often not take us seriously. However, through our unflagging dedication to students’ learning and wellbeing, we have been able to build a group of students who consistently come. Since we see these students every weekend, we have basically become friends with them! 

IC: Your group teaches students from different age groups and learning capacities. How do navigate this kind of diversity, and make the material accessible for all? 

K: In each class, we have a minimum of two tutors, so while one tutor is presenting, another tutor is available to answer any questions via Zoom chat from the students. If a student is having a hard time on a concept, they can chat with our other tutor, who can work with them individually. On the other hand, if a student finds a concept too easy, our tutors can provide them with challenge problems to keep their minds stimulated.

Our individual drop-in help time is a great time when any student of any age group in K-8 or any learning capacity can come in to seek help. Just like during meetings, we not only can help students who have trouble understanding concepts but also help students who are looking for more challenging work. 

We also share all our materials with the parents afterward so that they can work on it with their children. We create worksheets that have dozens of problems with varying difficulty so that students of different age groups and learning capacities can all practice their skills. 

IC: According to your website, your tutors primarily focus on subjects such as computer science and mathematics. Are you planning on branching out into more fields? If so, which subjects can we expect to see offered at FVT? 

K: Yes! We are planning on branching out into more fields. We soon plan to begin advanced math classes (problem solving i.e. competition math) and advanced CS classes (Python). Perhaps in the future, we are looking into adding world language classes (Spanish and Chinese) and public speaking classes. The world language classes would focus on conversational skills to prepare students for middle-school and high-school level world language. Finally, we are very open to suggestions for new classes from parents and students.

We also offer individual drop-in help time, when we can help in almost any subject. These subjects have ranged from Spanish and writing lessons to learning how to play the game Roblox!

IC: With the coming academic year, schools are considering many possibilities in terms of teaching styles, attendance, etc. What are your thoughts on another year of distance learning? Should schools in the Bay Area open their doors? 

K: Obviously, distance learning has its disadvantages. From personal experience, I preferred in-person learning much more than distance learning. In-person learning allows for a deeper understanding of concepts through the face-to-face interaction students have with teachers – something that is difficult to replicate in distance learning.

Nevertheless, I feel that distance learning can improve. Most of the systems put in place by school systems from March onwards are likely going to be improved during the summer, as officials discuss how to best structure another potential year of distance/hybrid learning. 

Schools in the Bay Area should only open their doors if it is safe to do so, whether through a fully in-person or hybrid model. We must prioritize the health of everyone during the COVID-19 pandemic.

IC: Do you have any advice for students who are trying to adjust to a virtual learning system? 

K: It is essential to stay organized. If your school does not have a designated schedule for classes, make one yourself, and do your work in the assigned time slots for each subject. 

One of the best things about in-person learning is the relationships you build with friends and classmates, so keep that going in a virtual learning system! Email or text them, or video call them to work on a project. It’s super important to stay in touch with your friends during virtual learning.

Finally, don’t be afraid to seek help. We’re living in crazy times, and virtual learning is no exception. So, if you need any assistance in your schoolwork or in life in general, don’t hesitate to ask your teacher or parent, or you can come to us by signing up at freevirtualtutoring.org!

Kanchan Naik is a rising senior at the Quarry Lane School in Dublin, California. Aside from being the Youth Editor at India Currents, she is the Director of Media Outreach for youth nonprofit Break the Outbreak, the editor-in-chief of her school newspaper The Roar, and the 2019-2020 Teen Poet Laureate for the City of Pleasanton. 

Reopening Colleges & Keeping Students Safe

Saint Mary’s College in Moraga, California, is open for business this fall — but to get there, you really have to want it. Tucked amid verdant hills 23 miles east of San Francisco, accessible by a single road and a single entrance, the small, private Roman Catholic school receives almost no visitors by accident.

This, in the age of a pandemic, is good news indeed for its administrators.

“We can control who comes in or out in a way that larger, urban campuses perhaps can’t do,” said William Mullen, the school’s vice provost for enrollment. “Those campuses are in many cases more permeable.”

As colleges and universities across the country juggle student and staff safety, loss of opportunities and loss of revenue during the COVID-19 pandemic, even seemingly secondary considerations — how many entrances a school has, how close it sits to community foot traffic, how food is served — loom large.

And while officials are loath to make broad guarantees about safety, they can’t ignore public health advice and thus are immersed in an effort to at least minimize the potential for harm. What that looks like will vary wildly from campus to campus, but in almost every case it will include attempts to limit close contact with others — a difficult job for educational institutions.

The stakes are enormous. Some universities are already projecting financial losses in the tens of millions due to declining enrollment and the uncertainty ahead. But at its core, this is a health problem that remains both simple and vexing: How do you open up a campus without inviting mass infection?

One preliminary answer: Don’t let too many people hang around at the same time.

“I would never use the term ‘make it safe,’” said Dr. Sarah Van Orman, who oversees student health services at the University of Southern California, a private school in the heart of Los Angeles. “I would say we’re going to reduce the risk to the degree possible to have everything in place.”

“I would never use the term ‘make it safe,’” said Dr. Sarah Van Orman, who oversees student health services at the University of Southern California, a private school in the heart of Los Angeles. “I would say we’re going to reduce the risk to the degree possible to have everything in place.”

On many campuses, that means reducing class size (even if it requires adding new sections), making large survey courses online-only, cutting dorm residencies by as much as 50%, limiting or eliminating common-area food service, and perhaps even alternating students’ in-person attendance according to class level (freshman, sophomore, etc.) by quarters or semesters.

That’s in addition to the protocols recommended by the American College Health Association. The ACHA, to which more than 800 institutions belong, has called for a phased reopening of campuses “based on local public health conditions as well as [school] capacity.” Its guidelines include widespread testing, contact tracing, and isolation or quarantine of both ill and exposed individuals.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention laid out even more daunting instructions for what a campus should do in the event of a positive test, calling for potential short-term closures of buildings and classrooms that might extend into weeks in the middle of a semester. Among other things, the CDC said, the scenario could include having to move some on-campus residents into short-term alternative housing in the surrounding community.

Van Orman is a past president of the ACHA, but her school has yet to announce a definitive plan for the fall. That puts USC in good company. Although a rolling survey by the Chronicle of Higher Education suggests that nearly 70% of schools are planning for on-campus education, almost every institution directly contacted by Kaiser Health News was actually planning for all contingencies, with fully or partly opened campuses simply being the best-case and most publicly touted scenarios.

Making a campus virus-ready could take all summer, according to officials at several schools. Most of them don’t yet know how many students will return, and about half the schools contacted by KHN said they’ve pushed back the decision deadline for incoming freshmen to June 1, a month later than usual.

Those decisions have huge ramifications for university budgets. Ben Kennedy, whose Kennedy & Co. consults higher education institutions, said most are planning for an enrollment drop of 5% to 10%. “They’ll experience the big financial hit this fall,” Kennedy said.

At Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., a projected $50 million shortfallprompted voluntary furloughs, suspended retirement contributions and construction stops. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology reported $50 million in unexpected costs, while Janet Napolitano, president of the University of California’s 10-campus system, estimated combined losses of $1.2 billion from mid-March through April in announcing salary cuts and some freezes.

At the same time, large-scale restructuring will be required at bigger campuses in response to the pandemic. Converting some multiperson dorm rooms to singles will become the norm at many schools, although not every campus — or community — is prepared to handle a surge of students needing to find other housing as a result. Solutions are still being studied to address those who will be in close quarters in shared dining halls, bathrooms and common rooms. Some schools plan to set aside dorms for students who test positive and need to be isolated or quarantined.

“Students with existing health issues will have priority for single occupancy,” said Debbie Beck, executive director of health services for the University of South Carolina’s 33,000-student Columbia campus. “Testing in the residence halls will be critical.”

Several schools are considering ending their fall semesters before Thanksgiving, which Beck said “would further reduce risks and control the spread of COVID” as students are sent home until January. Stanford University, meanwhile, is pondering a range of possibilities that include permitting only a couple of class years on campus, perhaps alternating by quarters.

A common misperception, several officials said, is that college campuses have been “closed” since the outbreak of the coronavirus. Although student life has been restricted, other parts of many campuses have remained in operation, particularly at research institutions.

“We have research departments and laboratories that really don’t work if you’re not there,” said Dr. Jorge Nieva of USC’s Keck School of Medicine. “It’s difficult to do mouse experiments with cancer if you’re not doing mouse experiments with cancer.”

California’s two massive public university systems embody that dichotomy. California State University Chancellor Timothy White said the 23-campus CSU system, primarily instruction-focused, will mostly conduct remote learning. Napolitano expects the research-heavy University of California campuses to be open “in some kind of hybrid mode,” which many other schools likely will adopt.

“These kids are digital natives,” said Nieva, whose son was a freshman living on campus at USC before students were sent home. “A lot of what they’re experiencing, they’re perhaps better equipped to handle than another generation might be.”

Back in Moraga, Saint Mary’s will reduce dorm capacity, record lectures for online retrieval and institute strict guidelines to prevent the spread of illness — but it plans to continue a 150-plus-year tradition of close, personal education for its 2,500 undergraduates. In its case, being small is the biggest advantage.

“If we already only have 15 or 18 students in a classroom that can hold 30, then it becomes much easier to adapt to the new guidelines and protocols,” said Dr. Margaret Kasimatis, the school’s provost. “That’s a pretty good start.”


This story was produced by Kaiser Health News, which publishes California Healthline, an editorially independent service of the California Health Care Foundation.

School Closures Hurt Families and Children

Millions of Americans are experiencing threats to their health and economic security during the pandemic, says Mayra Alvarez, President of The Children’s Partnership, but it’s “especially true for children from immigrant families” who have been severely impacted by the lockdown.

Covid19-related school closures are hurting children who have traditionally relied on the safety net that schools provide.

Schools play a critical role in offering education, physical activity and enrichment activities for children across the country, says Alvarez, but many children from low income and families of color also rely on school meals for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks.

“For many families, schools are a key source of childcare.”

School closures mean months of lost time in classrooms, but they adversely impact vulnerable children who have lost access to low-cost or free school meals, the community of their teachers and classmates, and other benefits built into the educational infrastructure.

Covid-19 is likely to exacerbate the inequities in learning opportunities that have existed for far too long for marginalized children, Alvarez said.

Along with a panel of experts, Alvarez was discussing the pandemic’s effects on minority communities and the implications of going back to work after the lockdown, at a telebriefing organized by Ethnic Media Services on May 1.

What school closures mean

At least 55.1 million students at nearly 124 thousand public and private schools have been impacted as the majority of US States have ordered or recommended school building closures for the rest of the school year said Alvarez.

But, as schools transition to remote learning environments that offer a ‘multitude of distance learning resources’, children from underserved communities may not be able to access web-based academic instruction and enrichment activities during the closure.

Many of them will lose months of normal instruction. As a result, children who are already academically behind and underserved will suffer without the support schools offer them and their families, said Alvarez.

It’s an “unprecedented risk to education and wellbeing,” she said, particularly for the most marginalized children who rely on school for education, health, safety and nutrition.

Families are Struggling

Immigrants and their families who are being excluded from federal relief efforts face increasing economic hardships and health risks, Alvarez pointed out.

In a recent survey by the Children’s Partnership and Education Trust West, a poll of 600 parents across California showed that more than half of parents with young children (aged 0-5) were uneasy about personal finances. More than a third were not confident about being able to pay for basic needs like food, housing and healthcare.

The results were ‘not surprising, but deeply disheartening’ said Alvarez. COVID 19 is threatening the physical, mental and emotional health of families

About one in three parents are skipping or reducing meals so their kids don’t go hungry, a number that increases significantly among new parents with a child one to six months old, low income parents, Latinx parents, and families in some Los Angeles counties.

Less than a quarter (18%) of families are currently able to access their doctor through telehealth and nearly 1 in 3 parents have missed health appointments for their child due to Covid19,

Researchers also learned that 72% of families (57% of black, 76% of Latinx) are worried about mental health, and 23% of parents worried about the impact of substance abuse and domestic violence.

Results reveal that young children under five are facing significant mental health risks at an age when their brains are rapidly developing and are most at risk from trauma and adverse childhood experiences.

The coronavirus has been incredibly disruptive, risking the heath and wellbeing of parents and children across California, says Alvarez.

As families struggle with financial and food security, access to health programs and web-based support, their challenges are made worse by existing inequities for low income families and families of color in particular, says Alvarez.

“‘It’s clear from the data that the children whose families are being hit hardest by this crisis are the same children that our systems of education, health and social services have long failed to support. We can and must do better” urged Alvarez

How will children emerge from this crisis?

In California, Governor Gavin Newsome has issued a roadmap for reopening the state, its schools and childcare centers.

Modifications include an early start to the next school year, class sizes cut in half, staggered schedules and expanded childcare facilities. Safety measures feature protocols for protections, physical distancing and limiting the number of students during meal distribution, PE classes or recess.

However, there remain many unknowns, says Alvarez, and a timeline is still unclear.

What is clear is that families and children, especially in marginalized communities, need a level playing field as communities reopen.

How children emerge from this crisis will depend on how they are affected by the choices parents and caregivers make about basic expenses, Alvarez suggested. That means:

  • Parents and caregivers need financial resources, so they don’t have to worry about basic expenses or make choices on what to spend on in this crisis – healthcare, food or housing.
  • Students returning to school need support to address emerging academic, health & psychological needs.
  • People need web-based support and free online resources to access distance learning or virtual storytime, so they don’t fall behind.
  • Families need support to access telehealth and health professionals for their health and wellbeing; It is critical that they get childcare arrangements and parenting support they need.
  • Providing meals for families with food insecurity need (EG: Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer) critical in reaching vulnerable communities.

“Our response to the pandemic must ensure that of children of color, dual language learners, and children from low income families are at forefront of priorities”  says Alvarez, as California and its schools start to think about reopening and rebuilding their communities.

Meera Kymal is a contributing editor at India Currents

Photos by Charlein Gracia on Unsplash

 

Take the First Step this Fall at Las Positas College

Apply Today and see what LPC has to of er when classes begin August 19.

(Livermore, CA) – Las Positas College (LPC) is ready to help usher in the next generation of an educated workforce with degrees, certificates and transfer programs that are designed to help students and working adults further their career opportunities. 

This fall, students enrolled at LPC can take advantage of guaranteed transfer programs to four-year universities and career technical education programs, such as Fire Service Technology, engineering technology, and Early Childhood Development. 

All students are encouraged to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which is the only way to see which types of financial aid – everything from California College Promise Grant to scholarships and loans – are available. DREAMers should file a Dream Application, which provides similar financial assistance. Additionally, students may qualify for Bookstore loans, work-study programs and textbook loaner programs. 

 

About Las Positas College Las Positas College currently enrolls 8,000 students and offers curriculum for students seeking transfer to a four-year college or university, career preparation, or basic skills education. The College provides university transfer classes, retraining classes for those in need of employment or career advancement, a first-time educational opportunity for many adults, enrichment classes for those seeking a broader perspective, and career and technical training for those entering the technical and paraprofessional workforce.

https://youtu.be/Kv_vszjQitc

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An All-Inclusive Prom

Flowers adorned the Foothill Presbyterian Church’s Fellowship Hall as the sun began to set. Girls and boys of all ages and abilities were dressed in their finest, the sound of their laughter uniting everyone. Graced with flower crowns and boutineers, these kids were ready to partake in a trademark high school tradition: InFUSE’s first annual all-inclusive prom! 

InFUSE, a nonprofit organization, is the brainchild of a group of friends, namely Mrs. Selvi Pragasam, Mrs. Lavanya Gopal, and their respective families, who want to create a more inclusive environment for neurodiverse children and young adults. Since April 2017, InFUSE has been providing personalized educational pathways and activities for the neurodiverse community via an afterschool program in order to uncover each student’s unique strengths and abilities. InFUSE also offers bhajan classes and a peer interaction dance program. Founders Mrs. Selvi and Mrs. Lavanya are also passionate about empowering the next generation with the tools they need to make an impact on their community. 

As a volunteer at InFUSE, I am supposed to be teaching the students, but on many days, I feel like I am the one getting taught by all of the inspiring students. As humans, we are so quick to claim that we are stressed or something is too hard and that our efforts are futile, but spending just a few minutes with our friends at InFUSE is enough to show us what true persistence is and how to live life to its fullest. InFUSE truly has its doors open for everybody, embodying the saying – stronger together. 

InFUSE’s First All-inclusive prom 

The attendees of the all-inclusive prom having a dance party
The attendees of the all-inclusive prom having a dance party

As a junior in high school, I had attended prom with my friends a couple of months prior to the all-inclusive prom (held on May 18th 2019). It was there that I realized that although prom is considered a rite-of-passage for high schoolers, there are many who cannot experience this event. For many neurodiverse students, loud music, lights, and a crowded atmosphere can make prom an anxiety-inducing experience When talking to the parents of InFUSE students, many voiced similar concerns regarding their high school’s prom. In order to provide a solution to this problem in our community, along with Mrs. Selvi, Mrs. Lavanya, and volunteer Nithika Karthikeyan, I led efforts to coordinate an all-inclusive prom catering to both the neurotypical and neurodiversity communities in the Bay Area. 

Held at Foothill Presbyterian Church’s Fellowship Hall, the prom had a theme of an enchanted forest while all kids came dressed as their favorite princes and princesses. There was a photobooth, talent show, and  a parade for the attendees to show off their outfits. Parents pitched in to provide a scrumptious, multicultural potluck while a local band, Gifted Connections played the night away. Paintings by the students of InFUSE were showcased in an art display as well. The goal of this event was to recreate the trademark high school tradition of prom in a way where kids of all ages and abilities could participate and have fun. 

Mrs. Haritha, a mother of one of the kids who attended InFUSE’s prom, stated, “Thanks so much Selvi, Lavanya, and the other volunteers for a fantastic event. Namit did not even know what a prom is. He got to experience it yesterday. Thank you so much for filling so many kids’ hearts with happiness.” 

Vaibhav Gopal, Mrs. Lavanya Gopal’s son and a highschool senior from the neurodiverse community, said, “The InFuse prom was a great and lovely event. People of all ages could come and enjoy the entertainment and delicious food. It made me feel that I belonged to the group and I enjoyed the enchanted evening.” 

InFUSE is located at 2847 S.White Rd. Suite #209, San Jose, CA 95148. You can contact us infuseteam.org or by calling 1(669)223-1644. Middle schoolers and high schoolers interested in volunteering can contact us directly. 

Simrithaa Karunakaran is a rising senior at Evergreen Valley High School. Along with being an avid volunteer at InFUSE, she runs a nonprofit organization (Hand-In-Hand Art), which provides art lessons to the neurodiverse community. In her free time, Simrithaa can be found with her nose buried in a book, enjoying a good movie, or traveling with her family.
If readers want to get involved, they visit InFUSE’s website at: https://www.infuseteam.org

 

John Sculley, who turned around Pepsi and Apple, has a new cause

The 80-year-old executive is now trying to solve the problems of America’s health-care system — and inspiring students to help change the world

As a marketing manager, John Sculley developed the so-called Pepsi Challenge, which enabled the company to gain market share from Coca-Cola. In the 1980s, Sculley ran Apple — and had a famous run-in with Steve Jobs.

Today, Sculley, 80, is urging young people to take the “noble cause” challenge. That was his rallying cry to my students in a lecture at Carnegie Mellon’s school of engineering at Silicon Valley on Monday.

Having sold obesity and sugared water in his earlier days, Sculley is now trying to solve the problems of America’s health-care system — and inspiring the next generation of engineers to make the world a better place. He is making amends.

From Pepsi to Apple

Sculley told my students the story of how Jobs had recruited him as Apple’s  chief executive officer in 1983, asking him the now-famous question: “Do you want to sell sugar water all your life, or do you want to change the world?” The Macintosh had not yet been introduced. Computers were sold largely on their technology features. What made Apple different, said Sculley, was its goal to create, in Jobs’ words, an “insanely great consumer experience.”

“On the one hand,” Sculley told the class, “Apple might have missed something big by not being a technology-licensing company, but that’s not the business we were in. We were in the business of marketing the experience.” That led the Macintosh to become the top-selling personal computer in the world.

As Sculley explains it, the problem was Jobs’ “reality distortion field.” Jobs was clearly a genius, but one who never “let the laws of physics get in the way of his ambitions to put a dent in the universe.” He had the brilliance to see the world 20 years ahead of the rest of us, but wasn’t yet a sensible business executive. And, in early 1985, he was depressed. Jobs ran the Macintosh division. But his crown jewel, Macintosh Office, introduced in January that year, had rapidly become a laughing stock.

Jobs had bet everything on this first personal publishing system for non-technical consumers. It fulfilled his vision of an inspiring user experience by connecting a Mac with a laser printer to print a rastered image including fonts. But computers then didn’t have the processing speed for what was called desktop publishing. Today, even the cheapest computing devices can perform such tasks, because they have greater computational speed than the Cray supercomputers of that era; but Macintosh Office was beyond them then. It took the Mac a minute and a half to rasterise an image on its display and print its beautiful postscript fonts.

The Macintosh division was hemorrhaging cash. The Apple II division, which Sculley ran, was doing well and was the only source of the cash flow vital for keeping Apple financially alive.

Battle with Steve Jobs

Sculley says that Jobs, blaming him for the sales failure of Macintosh Office, demanded both a $500 reduction in the price of the Macintosh and a transfer of limited marketing funds from the Apple II to Macintosh Office. Sculley refused. They asked the board to decide, and, after hearing their arguments and consulting Apple’s most respected engineers, the board removed Jobs as head of the Macintosh group. (The board had previously removed him from the Lisa computer group for the same reason, before Sculley joined Apple, because they found Jobs too difficult to work with.)

Jobs wasn’t fired, though; in fact, he remained as chairman and was invited to head up any other projects he would like to. Less than four months later, Jobs resigned from Apple and founded NeXT computer — which Apple purchased 11 years later when it hired Jobs back as CEO.

What Jobs wanted became possible many years later because technology advances on an exponential curve, an industry standard of progress known as Moore’s Law. For more than 100 years, the processing power of computers had doubled every year or two, enabling faster computers to design faster computers.

World-changing inventions

And computers — and the information technology that they enable — are absorbing other fields. We are seeing exponential advances in fields such as sensors, artificial intelligence, robotics, medicine and synthetic biology, and these advances are making it possible to solve the problems of hunger, disease, poverty, clean energy and education — as well as rapid printing.

The best part is that it isn’t just governments and big research labs that can do this. With the declining costs of technologies, students can create world-changing inventions for less than the cost of a master’s degree. And it isn’t just the young students who can do it.

Sculley noted that, as we grow older, we don’t get smarter — but can get wiser. He himself is applying lessons he learned from those early days with Jobs to pursue his own “noble cause”: of mentoring a new generation of brilliant entrepreneurs to revolutionize health care. A startup he cofounded with Ravi Ika, RxAdvance, has built a platform-based prescription-drug system to simplify the many thousands of rules and regulations that greatly inflate the cost of medications. Their ambition is to reduce the uncontrolled cost of prescription drugs for the chronically ill by some $840 billion annually by making the prescription system fully transparent.

Sculley’s concluding message was this: If, at age 80, he can have such grand ambitions, imagine what the most brilliant of engineering students at one of the top engineering colleges in the world can do.

Skip the MBA and Work at a Startup

A question that students and parents put to me most frequently is whether it is worthwhile to pursue an MBA as a ticket to success in the business world.

I tell them that a master of business administration from Harvard, Stanford or the University of California at Berkeley may be worth the high cost because of the brand, location and network value — but not those from most other business schools over the world. The time and money could be better spent in starting a company that solves real-world problems. Students will gain better practical experiences and have a greater purpose than the investment bankers and consultants that business schools strive to graduate.

With the falling cost of a broad range of technologies, from computing to genomic sequencing to sensors and synthetic biology, entrepreneurs can now do what only big companies and governments have been able to do: Solve the problems of humanity. They can design and build smartphone apps that act as medical assistants, digital tutors to teach almost any subject, and artificial-intelligence-based apps that improve public services and infrastructure. They can even build electric vehicles, spaceships and revolutionary energy-storage technologies.

I encourage graduates to start or join world-changing companies and to be the masters of their own destiny. They will surely be earning a lot less than if they worked for the investment banks; and they will take huge risks, and their startups are likely to fail — as is the norm. And they will have to work extremely hard and endure endless runs of sleepless nights. But they will develop real-life skills that no MBA could train them in; they will gain a far broader and more realistic understanding of the world; and they will have a far greater sense of accomplishment and position themselves for long-term success. If they start the right company, they may well make the world a better place. And you never know: The startup could get really lucky and be worth a fortune.

MBA heyday

It wasn’t always this way. When I completed my MBA from New York University’s Stern School of Business in the 1980s, I considered it to be the best investment I had ever made. It helped me climb the corporate ladder and become an entrepreneur. As a tech CEO, I also readily paid a premium to hire business-school graduates. I also used to advise tech startups to strengthen their management teams by recruiting professional managers from MBA programs.

That was, however, at a time when there were few other options. The cost of starting a technology company is now less than that of a business degree, and the rewards are much greater.

The world has surely changed since then, but business-school curricula have largely stayed the same. As they say, academia moves at the speed of molasses. That is how it is supposed to be. And, to be fair, I need to acknowledge that the topics that business schools teach do have real value.

Subjects such as management, marketing, law and accounting are still as important as they ever were. The MBA that I completed as a programmer allowed me to become a project leader and then a vice president. I found that I could communicate effectively with user departments and my bosses; I could deliver projects on time; I knew how to manage and motivate employees; and I had the confidence to present business proposals to managing directors and board members. When I became an entrepreneur, I had the knowledge to develop and manage budgets, market products and review legal contracts.

But that was decades ago, in an era in which large companies held the keys to economic growth and competitiveness; when major research labs produced almost all of the cutting-edge innovation. Since then, the cost of developing world-changing technologies has fallen dramatically, and startups can out-innovate the big players.

Engineering degrees

Higher education certainly makes sense for some students. For students with technical backgrounds who want to pursue higher education and prepare themselves to solve complex engineering problems, I recommend master of engineering programs such as the one I teach at Carnegie Mellon’s School of Engineering. These teach specialized skills in fields such as biomedical engineering and materials science. For students in less technical fields, there are also year-long master of engineering management programs such as those at Duke, Northwestern and the University of Southern California. These teach management, marketing, law and accounting skills and skim over the intricacies of finance and investment banking. And they are half the price of an MBA. After all, the skills that matter aren’t how to conceive new types of financial products, but how to create technologies that actually do good for the world.

Students now have opportunities that their parents could never imagine. My message to them is always the same: Rather than wasting your lives working for a Morgan Stanley  or Goldman Sachs  use your intellect and energy to make the world a better place — you surely can.

 

This article was published with permission from the Author.

Las Positas College: Spring Session Begins January 14th Sign Up Today!

Las Positas College currently enrolls nearly 8,500 day and evening students. The College offers curriculum for students seeking career preparation, transfer to a four-year college or university, or personal enrichment. The College provides university transfer classes, retraining classes for those in need of employment or career advancement, a first-time educational opportunity for many adults, enrichment classes for those seeking a broader perspective, and career and technical training for those entering the technical and paraprofessional work force. Las Positas College excels in helping students transfer to the University of California system, the California State University system, and other four-year institutions.

Students who come to the College can choose any of 24 Occupational Associate Degrees, 17 Transfer Associate Degrees, and 44 Certificate Programs. In addition, the College offers community education courses geared toward personal development and cultural enrichment.

Academic rigor is maintained in a friendly, personal atmosphere. Las Positas College faculty and staff are distinguished by their energy, creativity, and commitment to making a difference in the lives of the students they serve.

Las Positas College is a learning-centered institution focused on excellence and student success, and is fully committed to supporting all Tri-Valley residents in their quest for education and advancement.

The campus is accessible from BART and Interstate 580. Students can take buses from the Pleasanton-Dublin BART station and from many locations in Livermore and Pleasanton. The College is proud of its exceptional safety record, which has made it one of the safest colleges in the Bay Area, and its commitment to sustainability, including LEED facilities, recycling and paper reduction practices, and photovoltaic (solar) parking structures generating one megawatt of energy.

http://www.laspositascollege.edu

 

Las Positas College: Sign Up for Fall Classes

Las Positas College currently enrolls 8,000 students and offers curriculum for students seeking transfer to a four-year college or university, career preparation, or basic skills education. The College provides university transfer classes, retraining classes for those in need of employment or career advancement, a first-time educational opportunity for many adults, enrichment classes for those seeking a broader perspective, and career and technical training for those entering the technical and paraprofessional workforce.

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Chabot College: Sign Up for Fall Classes

Chabot College in Hayward is a comprehensive community college in the heart of a thriving, diverse community where students of all ages and backgrounds can get a high quality education at an affordable price. The college awards associate degrees and certificates, and specializes in university transfer, workforce training, and lifelong learning opportunities. http://www.chabotcollege.edu/

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Silicon Valley Forum’s 2018 Visionary Awards

On May 17th, 2018, Silicon Valley Forum’s annual Visionary Awards returns for its illustrious 21st year—four of Silicon Valley’s brightest stars and leading founders will take the stage in celebration of their achievements, work, and contributions to Silicon Valley’s renowned business and technology ecosystem. The Visionary Awards invite the Valley’s thriving community—from up-and-coming entrepreneurs to lifelong company leaders, from seasoned investors to service providers—to come together for this singularly inspiring evening. The 2018 Visionary Awards will be held at Domenico Winery in San Carlos, California.

The 2018 Visionary Award recipients are:

  • Kimberly Bryant– Founder and CEO, Black Girls Code; visionary entrepreneur and speaker
  • Caterina Fake– Cofounder, Flickr and Hunch; author, entrepreneur, and angel investor
  • Astro Teller– Entrepreneur, scientist, and author; Captain of Moonshots, X
  • Vivek Wadhwa– Author, entrepreneur, and Carnegie Mellon Fellow

“Every year at our annual Visionary Awards, we look forward to the opportunity to celebrate the absolute best of the best of Silicon Valley—the leaders whose work is synonymous with what makes this region so magnetic,” said Denyse Cardozo, Silicon Valley Forum CEO. “We’re proud to invite the Valley to join us this year as we celebrate the achievements of this extraordinary group.”

Tickets are available at the event page both individually and in tables of 8 for attendees who want to enjoy a shared client or team experience. The evening begins at 6 pm with a wine reception, followed by a seated dinner and speeches from each of the Visionary honorees. Cocktail attire is encouraged.

At Silicon Valley Forum, we believe in the transformative power of entrepreneurship. We’ve dedicated the last 35 years to helping people learn how to build a business the Silicon Valley way, with a focus on creativity and innovation, using technology to bring society towards a better future. Whether you’re trying to create a company here or build your own Silicon Valley at home, our events and our online portal light the way for you to learn and grow as a 21st century entrepreneur.

Throughout our 35-year history, we’ve created thousands of successful events, programs, and conferences that educate, train, inspire and connect technologists, entrepreneurs, corporates, investors, innovation and startup hubs, and students—in Silicon Valley, throughout the U.S., and globally. We organize over 70 different activities per year, have over 20,000 subscribers/users, and work with over 40 countries worldwide.

Our partners include global leaders like Accenture, IBM, Microsoft, Mercer, and SAP, just to name a few, as well as leading venture capital firms and service providers. Silicon Valley Forum is a fully independent 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization.

For more information, visit our website at http://www.siliconvalleyforum.com.