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Archive for January, 2017

Student Voice: Why Every Student Deserves a Quality Education (Video)

League of Education Voters intern MyKaila Young asks students at the University of Washington to share their education journey, what they learned along the way, and why it is important for every student to receive a quality education.

In McCleary v. State of Washington, the Washington Supreme Court ruled that because the state government is not providing sufficient education funding, it is violating the state’s constitution. Further, the Court found that inadequate funding from the state is leading to inequalities and disparities between wealthy and poor school districts, because some districts are only able to raise a fraction of the money through local levies as other districts, despite having a higher local levy tax rate.

The Court has ordered the state to address this issue by increasing education funding and reducing reliance on local levies to pay for teacher salaries and other basic education essentials. Estimates say that complying with the Court’s decision will require the state to spend an additional 1.5 – 2 billion dollars more per year on public education.

Posted in: Closing the Gaps

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Making a Splash to Improve Literacy in Kent

By Joyce Yee, LEV Community Organizer

Kent School District Summer Splash - League of Education VotersThe Kent School District’s Summer Splash Reading program is a pilot summer program to help students improve their reading literacy levels and skills, funded by the Race to the Top Initiative. The district is partnering with King County Housing Authority and Kent Youth and Family Services to provide support to families at the Birch Creek housing community.

Summer Splash began in the summer of 2015 and is scheduled to end in summer of 2017. The district provided three teachers to work with students grades Pre-K through 6th, Kent Youth and Family Services provided three classroom assistants, along with three older students who are in high school or alumni of the district, to help out. Students are divided into three classrooms, with 25 students in each.

While their main focus is on kindergarten readiness and improvement in reading literacy, Summer Splash uses a whole child approach. They use the American Reading Company curriculum, and students read factual material on topics such as science. The pre-kindergarten students sit together in a kindergarten academy that helps them with readiness for kindergarten, four hours a day for eight weeks. Older students in grades 1–6 work on improving literacy skills through reading texts and doing research reports, and meet 2 hours a day for 7 weeks.

The student demographic at Birch Creek is mostly Somali, Latino, Iraqi, Russian, Ukrainian, as well as Black/African American. The Kent Youth and Family support staff, and summer school coordinator intentionally recruited students from various ethnic backgrounds by knocking on families’ doors, going to Pine Tree and Millennial Elementary schools to hand out applications, and making phone calls to such families in order to get them to enroll their children in this program. Students in the program have already made measurable gains in reading test scores. Of the 75 students who participated, 66 completed pre and post assessments. All students who participated maintained and improved their grade reading level, average reading growth level was 0.19 years, 4th – 6th grade students had a higher average reading growth level of 0.28 years.

The Kent School District is also working on sustainability of the program after the Race to the Top funding goes away. In the first year, they recruited teachers who weren’t experienced at working with students from diverse demographics. In 2016, they recruited two district teachers from schools with demographics that reflect Birch Creek families, as well as one Kent Youth and Family Services (KYFS) teacher. This year, they will recruit only one district teacher, and two KYFS staff teachers. Professional development has been job-embedded for all staff members working with these students so that the program will be more sustainable.

During the year, Summer Splash provides afterschool homework help including reading and math. Older students are recruited to be reading buddies with younger students. This is in response to 2015 data showing that students were still 2–3 years behind grade level, and older students in grades 4 through 6 are embarrassed to ask for help. Older siblings and cousins read to younger kids. This approach helps the older students to avoid being embarrassed to read materials at lower grade levels with younger students and learn at the same time.

Shouldn’t programs like Summer Splash be part of basic education?

#BeyondBasic

 

Read LEV’s blog post on Student Supports, an Integral Component of Basic Education

Posted in: Closing the Gaps

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Korsmo’s Weekly Roundup: We’ve Made Progress on Education Funding

Chris Korsmo

Well, that didn’t take long.

If you like your politics the same way you like your food – not to touch under any circumstances – then this was your week. Even as we’re going to press, the Senate Democrats are pursuing a floor takeover through parliamentary procedures. The podium grab is possible because the Senate Republicans are down a few men – you may have heard that the Senator Dansel has moved on to the Department of Agriculture and Senator Erickson is advising the EPA (apparently, he won’t be publishing studies on the website, or blogging about the effects of global warming). Dansel has left office, leaving an open seat, while Erickson is holding down two jobs for the time being and racking up frequent flyer miles. Should they prevail and are actually able to take action on the floor, the Senate Dems are looking to pass the levy cliff extension bill – a measure that passed the House earlier this week. The bill was also put on the Senate Ways and Means calendar for this coming Monday – a show of good faith or a pre-emptive maneuver to blunt the necessity of the take over? Oh, cynics. Stop it. (Little known fact about how I think about the word pre-emptive: think Carrie Underwood)

Meanwhile, progress is being made. Earlier this afternoon, Senate Republicans unveiled their education plan. The proposal could be heard early next week and includes a change to the way we allocate funds – from a focus on salaries and staffing to a student-centered approach – and doubles the resources into Career and Technical Education, among other things. There’s much to appreciate in this plan, which includes a bump in pay for starting teachers. You can find a side-by-side of the Senate proposal with Governor Inslee’s on our website here.  Which, by the way is where you can find our bill tracker.

Theme of the week: there are quite a few bills that either change, eliminate or de-link our assessment requirements for high school graduation. Coupled with moves to reduce the high school graduation requirements, it raises concerns that we’re watering down our preparation and expectation of our kids at exactly the wrong time.

In other news:

Have a wonderful weekend. And happy Lunar New Year. Thanks for all you do for Washington’s kids.

Chris

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Education Funding Proposal Side-By-Side

Washington state Capitol - League of Education VotersHouse Democrats and the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus (MCC) have released bills to address the McCleary education funding lawsuit.

The House plan, HB 1843, would set a minimum salary of $45,500 for new teachers, and would slow the decrease of maximum local school tax levies from 28 percent of total state and federal funding, to 24 percent by 2021, instead of by next year as under current law. The basis for the calculations is changed, as well; and HB 1843 seeks to lower teacher-student ratios.

The Senate plan, SB 5607, sets a similar minimum starting teacher salary of $45,000, and the state would collect local property tax levies for schools, adding $1.4 billion per biennium to supplement education funding. Local districts could still raise additional money with voter approval, but the amount would be capped and could only pay for extras, not basic education.

See our side-by-side comparing fiscal elements of the House Democratic plan and the Senate MCC plan with the current funding system and Governor Inslee’s budget plan here.

Posted in: Legislative session

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Helping Children and Families Succeed Through the Most Difficult Times of Their Lives

By Joyce Yee, LEV Community Organizer

Seneca Family of Agencies - League of Education VotersSeneca Family of Agencies began thirty years ago as a small residential treatment program for some of the most vulnerable foster youth in California. Now, Seneca works with over seventy school districts and charter public schools throughout California and Washington. Their model follows a team-oriented approach that helps build everyone’s capacity for an inclusive school environment to better serve students with trauma histories, mental health needs, disabilities or other barriers to success.

The philosophy of Seneca’s work comes from their experiences within and across public systems of care and in working with communities. They believe that the answers to even our communities’ most profound challenges can be found within individuals, and that parents are the primary experts on what works well for their children. And, they believe that designing schools that work for students who have historically struggled the most will result in schools that work for all students.

Lihi Rosenthal, Executive Director of Education at Seneca Family of Agencies, spoke about why some of these common sense strategies have not been widely implemented. “Because of how their funding streams are allocated, both Medicaid-funded mental health services for young people in need and special education services for children with disabilities follow a ‘fail first’ approach,” says Lihi. In other words, students have to struggle mightily after experiencing some sort of trauma before they can receive treatment and services to help them do better.

Once students’ difficulties rise to the level of crisis, then and only then are they cleared to receive expert help from qualified mental health specialists, special educators, and other transdisciplinary professionals. Yet, here again, treatment or services are reserved only for those who have already qualified for help, and are not made available to the school as a whole, even though there may be many other students who could benefit from them. According to Lihi, “The system tends to focus on the few students in crisis, rather than more holistically looking at delivering programs that might benefit all students.” As a result, families of students who struggle the most are often sent to multiple agencies located miles away from the school, decreasing the likelihood that individual interventions will carry over from closed-door therapy rooms into other domains of a young person’s life, from the classroom to the family dining room to the soccer field and the cafeteria.

In contrast, Seneca partners with schools to design interventions that are delivered not through isolated services, but which are integrated with a school culture of safety, belonging and academic curiosity. Wendy Durst, Director of Strategic Partnerships at Seneca Family of Agencies, says, “Seneca works with schools to design preventative and early intervention strategies that bring transdisciplinary experts out of their siloes and into the places where students spend the most time in schools – the hallways, lunch rooms, and their general education classrooms.”

This approach – Seneca’s Unconditional Education model – is currently being studied by SRI International, an external evaluator assigned to the program as part of a federal Investing in Innovation (i3) grant Seneca was awarded in 2013. After its first full year of investigation, the model has shown promising early results at the seven California schools included in the study, including statistically significant gains in literacy and math for students with disabilities and English Language Learners.

Shouldn’t this be part of basic education?

#Beyond Basic

 

Read LEV’s blog post on Student Supports, an Integral Component of Basic Education

Posted in: Closing the Gaps

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Korsmo’s Weekly Roundup: Olympia is Back in Business

Chris Korsmo

Ready or not: They’re baaaaacccckkk! Olympia is back in business. A lot has happened since last we were in session. There was that presidential election that you might have missed.  I mean if you were in a cave. Or a coma. After a nearly two year campaign season, America has a new TOTUS! Our Tweeter of the United States has been busy building out his cabinet including Secretary of Ed pick, Betsy DeVos whose confirmation process is being delayed to allow for her to complete disclosures to the Senate.  Expect a DeVos administration to support expanding school choice – including vouchers – and to turn the other cheek on most measures of accountability.

Closer to home, we have changes of our own, including new Committee Chairs and Ranking Members of Education for the House and Senate Republicans. And the loss of Andy Hill will be felt all over the place.

In addition, a new Superintendent of Public Instruction, Chris Reykdal, was sworn in this week. What’s not new? Oh, there’s lots of old familiar to be warmed by. Resolving the McCleary decision looms like that worn old recliner: to re-cover or replace, that’s the question. There’s a new rub to the story, though, as school districts are worried the state won’t address education funding quickly enough and school budgets will go over a “levy cliff” – expanded levy caps that will expire.

You can learn more about what we think by reading our latest blog series. And you can give some of your own input by visiting the Campaign for Student Success. In fact, it would be great if you’d join in the growing coalition to support more targeted resources for our kids.

While education funding is going to take up a lot of the oxygen in the room, there are a lot of other education issues that will be introduced and considered – you can find them all here on our bill tracker.

Thankfully, one thing we can always count on is you. Thanks for all you do for Washington’s kids – and all you’re going to do this session to ensure that our funding system helps our kids get the education and experiences they need to succeed.

Chris

 

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Education Advocate January 2017

ED Advocate, League of Education Voters Newsletter, January

Greetings

Chris Korsmo
Chris Korsmo, CEO

The new year is upon us, and the 2017 Legislative Session is officially under way. We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to change the future for every Washington student. To that end, LEV is proud to join the newly-launched Campaign for Student Success. Together, we can stand up for students and ensure every kid in Washington state receives a great education.

Also, LEV interviewed Governor Inslee on his 2017-2018 budget plan, we have released our 2017 Legislative Agenda, and our partners at Washington STEM are hosting a free Lunchtme LEVinar January 24 on Career Connected Leaning and STEM.

Read below for more about our work.

Finally, I would like to extend a big thank-you to our donors in the fourth quarter of 2016. You make our work possible. Thanks for all you do for kids. We couldn’t do it without you.

Chris Korsmo signature

 

 

Chris Korsmo

2017 Washington state Regional Teachers of the Year Kendra Yamamoto and Elizabeth Loftus - League of Education Voters

League of Education Voters 2017 Annual Breakfast

Please join us for our seventh annual LEV Breakfast on Thursday, March 30, a celebration of Washington’s teachers and an engaging conversation on how we can advocate to put great teachers in front of the kids who need them most. Featured will be 2017 Regional Teacher of the Year recipients Kendra Yamamoto and Elizabeth Loftus on how great teachers are the key to student success. Read more

Governor Jay Inslee - League of Education Voters

Podcast Interview with Governor Jay Inslee

On the day he released his 2017-2018 budget, Governor Jay Inslee sat down with League of Education Voters Communications Director Arik Korman to discuss his 2017 education priorities, how to build bridges in today’s political climate, and how to close the opportunity and achievement gaps. Listen here

Washington state capitol - League of Education Voters

LEV’s 2017 Legislative Agenda

In the upcoming legislative session, the League of Education Voters will focus on educator compensation, student supports, accountability, early learning, higher education, and local governance. Also, our 2017 Legislative Bill Tracker is now live! And if you would like to receive Chris Korsmo’s Weekly Roundup during the legislative session, you can sign up here. Read our legislative agenda here
 

Career Connected Learning - League of Education Voters

Career Connected Learning and STEM

In our free January 24 webinar, Washington STEM Chief Policy and Strategy Officer Caroline King and Senior Program Officer Gilda Wheeler will teach us how career connected learning can benefit students, how CTE and career connected learning are connected, and how to support CTE and career connected learning through policy and program work. Register here

Student Supports - League of Education Voters

Student Supports, an Integral Component of Basic Education

Part of defining basic education is determining what each and every student should have access to in their school. Currently, our system does not guarantee access to student supports that are critical to many students’ academic success—including support staff like counselors or nurses, and programming like additional tutoring. There are a number of approaches we can take to making sure that students receive the supports and resources they need. Read more

Heather Wallace, January 2017 League of Education Voters Activist of the Month

LEV’s Activist of the Month

At the League of Education Voters, we recognize all of the hard work that you do toward improving public education across Washington state. We are pleased to announce our Activist of the Month for January: Heather Wallace.Learn about Heather’s work advocating for public education, especially when it comes to early learning. Read more

2017 League of Education Voters 7th Annual Parent & Community Training

Access, Equity & Excellence: LEV’s 7th Annual Parent and Community Training

LEV’s annual parent and community training happens February 11 at the Tukwila Community Center. Learn which programs are working on the state, school district, and community level to close the opportunity gap. Get the knowledge and the tools you need to speak up and start this important conversation in your own community, all among the company of likeminded education advocates. Breakfast, lunch and childcare provided. Register here

Get Involved

COMING UP

January 12, 2017 | South King County 2017 Legislative Preview, Kent Commons, Mill Creek Room, Kent
February 11, 2017 | Access, Equity, & Excellence: Annual Parent and Community Training, Tukwila Community Center, Tukwila

March 30, 2017 | LEV 2017 Annual Breakfast, Sheraton Hotel, Seattle


LUNCHTIME LEVINARS

January 24, 2017 | Career Connected Learning and STEM, Online webinar


HELP SUPPORT THE LEAGUE OF EDUCATION VOTERS
| Donate online


League of Education Voters

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Celebrating Our 2016 Donors: Fourth Quarter

October 1–December 31, 2016

Thank you!Donations are made to the League of Education Voters (LEV) and the League of Education Voters Foundation by individuals, groups, and businesses throughout the community. These generous donations from you who believe in high-quality public education allow us to ensure measurable progress toward LEV’s vision that every student in Washington state receives an excellent public education from cradle to career.

Below are our donors from the fourth quarter of 2016, October 1–December 31. We regret any omissions or errors to the donor list. Please contact our Development Associate, Jessica Nieves, by emailing jessica@educationvoters.org or by calling 206.728.6448 with any questions or to correct any information.

Thank you to all of our donors!

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Student Supports, an Integral Component of Basic Education

By the LEV Policy Team

Student Supports - League of Education VotersPart of defining basic education is determining what each and every student should have access to in their school. Currently, our system does not guarantee access to student supports that are critical to many students’ academic success—including support staff like counselors or nurses, and programming like additional tutoring. There are a number of approaches we can take to making sure that students receive the supports and resources they need.

The Learning Assistance Program

Currently, Washington provides additional supports to students that are struggling academically through the Learning Assistance Program (LAP). Districts receive funding for this program from the state based on their enrollment of low-income students. Districts must spend LAP funds on services from a list of state-approved, evidence-based practices, including one-on-one or group tutoring and extended learning time, as well as limited use of funds for staff professional development and parent engagement. Beginning in the 2015-16 school year, districts must prioritize spending on K-4 literacy interventions. This focus on elementary literacy combined with limited LAP funding has resulted in some districts being unable to provide services to students in middle and high school grades.

The current funding formula for LAP does not align additional student supports and actual student need. While funding is provided to districts based on low-income enrollment, services are provided to students based on academic need, as identified by the district, regardless of income. This results in two potential misalignments. First, all academically struggling students may not be funded if there are more students in the district that need support than there are low-income students. Second, the full range of academic and non-academic needs of low-income students may not be met if they are not eligible for LAP services.

The funding formula also takes into consideration the salaries of certificated teachers in the district, even though many program services are provided by paraeducators. This creates inequities between districts because funding is different based on the characteristics of the adults in the district, not the students, even if student need is the same between districts.

LAP can be used as a mechanism to target the McCleary investments towards student supports with some changes to increase effectiveness. These changes may include:

  • Changing the funding formula to be based on student need, not adult characteristics;
  • Changing the formula to align with student eligibility for services;
  • Altering and/or expanding the allowable uses for LAP funds and increasing funding levels to ensure the needs of all eligible students are met; and
  • Monitoring the effectiveness of LAP interventions to ensure the program is improving student outcomes and closing gaps.

While considering changes to LAP, we should also be examining the needs of low-income students that are non-academic and, therefore, not addressed by the Learning Assistance Program.

Access to Support Staff

Washington provides districts with minimal funding within the current funding formula for support staff, such as counselors, social workers, nurses, and family engagement coordinators. Many of the allocations for these positions are fractions of full-time employees, meaning the amount of money districts receive is inadequate to hire these staff for more than a couple of hours a week. Our current funding structure also does not require districts to spend money allocated for specific staff positions to hire those staff. This allows districts flexibility in staffing to meet the needs of their communities, but, particularly in our environment of inadequate funding, also means that students may not have access to these staff because districts are unable or choose not to hire them. Possible ways to ensure that every student has access to the services provided by support staff could include increasing funding for support staff; requiring minimum staffing levels for support staff, potentially triggered by high-need student enrollment levels; and facilitating and encouraging partnerships between community-based service providers and districts and schools.

Special Education and Transitional Bilingual Instructional Program

Washington provides districts with additional funding for students qualifying for special education services and for English Language Learners (ELL). These funds must be spent on qualifying students, however, the funds provided by the state may not be adequate to meet the needs of all students. Particularly with special education students, the state limits the amount of special education funding to 12.7% of district enrollment. As a result, districts with larger special education student populations than the state cap may not receive the necessary funding to serve all of their students.

While special education students and ELLs receive specialized services, they also interact regularly with all school staff. However, often only the specialized staff are trained in best practices for working with these student populations. This means that outside of the specialized programing students receive, they may not be adequately supported in the school setting as a whole. Students receiving special education or English language services also may have non-academic or additional academic needs outside of those programs, and require access to other school support staff and services.

As we explore ways to better support every student in Washington schools, this could include examining the adequacy of funding for special education and the Transitional Bilingual Instruction Program (ELL students), funding professional development for all school staff in working with special education and ELL students, and encouraging schools and districts to integrate the services and supports students need outside of the specialized programming, rather than providing services in a silo.

Integrated Student Supports and Non-Academic Considerations

Students’ academic success is determined by a number of factors, including social emotional skills, physical and mental health, academic self-concept, family situation, and expectations of school staff. It is important that students have access to both the academic and non-academic supports they need in order to be successful. Washington has been taking steps to improve access to non-academic supports in recent years, including the development of social emotional learning (SEL) standards and the passage of HB 1541, which creates the integrated student supports protocol. The Washington Integrated Student Supports Protocol (WISSP) will be a tool districts can use to assess student need, strategically partner with families and community based organizations, and leverage district and community resources. These are important steps in our state’s efforts to address all of the factors that impact student achievement, but more can and should be done as we invest in 2017. This could include funding professional development for school staff in cultural competency, trauma-informed practices, and social emotional learning; funding family engagement coordinators for schools; and investing in continued implementation of the WISSP and SEL benchmarks and standards.

Investing in student supports, both academic and non-academic, and providing student access to services through staff, state investment, and partnerships can ensure that our McCleary investments will improve student outcomes.

#Beyond Basic

 

Read Part 1 of our McCleary blog series, Rethinking Our Education System

Posted in: Closing the Gaps

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Activist of the Month: Heather Wallace

By MyKaila Young, LEV Intern

January League of Education Voters Activist of the Month Heather Wallace

January Activist of the Month Heather Wallace

At the League of Education Voters (LEV), we recognize all of the hard work that you do toward improving public education across Washington state. We are pleased to announce our Activist of the Month for January: Heather Wallace.

Every New Year brings the opportunity for infinite possibilities. As the year begins, I’m sure you wonder about all the people, events and experiences that will occur over the next 364 days. Being in the right place at the right time opens the right doors to many of the great experiences and people that will make the year worthwhile, and that was the case for Heather Wallace when she crossed paths with LEV Spokane Regional Field Director Sandra Jarrard.

Heather’s background is in sociology, and she is connected with the importance of what many may call “Overall Life Experience.” One thing that stood out to me about Heather was that she’s not concerned with numbers and statistics, but how things really are and ways to address issues that may be viewed as broken or problematic.

For 15 years, she worked mainly with adolescents and then went on to the administrative level of medical management. When she wasn’t making an impact in the way she had envisioned, she did something about it and went back to school and eventually attained a Masters in Communication and Leadership Studies with a focus in dialogue and community development. She currently works at Spokane Regional Health District in a program that she very much enjoys called Neighborhoods Matter. This is a program that focuses on the social determinants of health and how to improve neighborhoods to in turn improve the overall health of the community at large.

Neighborhoods Matter works directly with residents to identify their neighborhood’s health and safety concerns, and then they work to address these concerns in the best way possible. They leverage community resources and focus on how to connect and advocate for safer neighborhoods. Heather says, “Safe neighborhoods mean people are out more and active, which contributes to long-term success.”

With the help of LEV, the Inland Northwest Early Learning Alliance, and the Spokane Regional Health District, Heather put together a conference that focused on realistic accountability. Sometimes quality is better than quantity, and that was surely the case for last month’s Spokids 2020, where the overall experience and discussion contributed to great strides for changes and hopes in 2017. Being lower in numbers but higher in perspectives allowed people to come together in a way that allowed many thoughts and ideas to come together and move forward. Collectively, everyone came up with action plans to help envision how that will look.

With so many organizations working to improve education and support families in need, and all the many changes that occur within various positions at numerous organizations, Heather sees great work being done at many different levels, which is something that is encouraging to us all.

The Spokids 2020 conference was a great way to figure out how similar organizations and families could come together, develop common goals, and leverage partner organizations to work together with the idea of a common community goal. Heather’s common community goal is that all children in Spokane County will achieve social-emotional readiness by kindergarten.

Next month, Heather hopes that word will spread about Spokids 2020’s useful discussions in order to home in on specific projects and areas of focus that will be able to identify success and how conference participants plan to measure progress as a group.

From a public health perspective, social-emotional health serves as the foundation for academic indicators and how likely a child is to succeed. Addressing these issues are imperative because if students are living in unhealthy environments and don’t have access to primary medical care and their basic needs aren’t being met, especially on an emotional and social level, they can’t learn. Heather is advocating for student supports and ways to measure a child’s social-emotional health early in the education continuum, which will help with discipline and a wide range of other issues that teachers have in the classrooms.

A student’s behavior reflects their social-emotional health and not their intelligence. I think we can all agree that we shouldn’t blame the child for the shortcomings of a system that isn’t tailored to the needs of every student, but instead we should blame the lack of resources that prevents the child from moving forward. A start in the right direction until we can get adequate resources for all students is to figure out ways to positively impact a child’s social-emotional health, which is why Heather’s work is vital for communities throughout Washington state.

Heather has three daughters, and she hopes her daughters will find work that they are passionate about. She hopes that they travel and learn about other cultures, and go on to be lifelong learners. Heather says, “A paycheck will only take you so far, and if you can’t find meaning in the work that you are doing, then money will never make you happy.”

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