The Ukiah High School campus is a busy place, especially in the center of the campus between the main buildings and the quad.
As you walk through this area, you’ll see kids walking from class to class, visiting with each other, and hanging out in small groups. Student art projects, murals, and busy bulletin boards decorate the walls. You’ll hear shouts of welcome as friends call out to each other, and many different conversations take place all at once as students and teachers rush about.
Each time I visit the campus, I am amazed at how alive and energized this place is. And, right at the center of this incredibly busy place, is the high school library.
When you walk through the library doors and leave the busiest part of the campus behind, you immediately notice how quiet and peaceful the library is. Without all the distractions and noise from outside, your mind begins to clear. In front of you, all the elements of a well-functioning place to learn are ready to assist you.
First, you’ll see a typical central station for the school’s librarian – a place where students can ask questions and seek help. Next, you might notice small groups of students. Some are working, laughing, and visiting in hushed voices. The serious students move through the stacks with purpose, researching their topics. A few students simply seek refuge in the library, relaxing, reading, and working in solitude, escaping the hectic high school campus for a little while.
As you make your way through the library, it might take you awhile to notice a group of plaques on the library’s south walls. These plaques are special – they were put there with pride by the Ukiah High Alumni Association. These plaques, high enough on the wall to be seen by almost anyone in the library, celebrate some of Ukiah High School’s most successful and distinguished alumni from the last 100 years.
These plaques include the Past Chairperson and President of the Ukiah Valley Christmas Effort; President Ronald Regan’s Chief of Staff and Spokesperson; a Mendocino County Supervisor and President Regan Appointee; a three-time U.S. Olympic Coach (coach to a silver medalist); a past President of the Sun House Guild and Chairperson to Ukiah’s Cultural Arts Commission; a Broadway Actor (one who performed for Presidents Clinton and Obama); a City of Ukiah Mayor and Ukiah Unified School District Superintendent; a past District Attorney, Mendocino County Administrator and Superior Court Judge; the founder of the first internet provider north of the Golden Gate Bridge; the Special Agent-In-Charge of the Secret Service Headquarters; a past District Attorney, Superior Court Judge and President Eisenhower Appointee; and the 2007 Miss California winner and top-8 Miss America contestant – just to name a few.
If you look closely, the thing you’ll notice about each and every plaque is that the person being celebrated on the plaque didn’t achieve only one thing, they achieved many great things as a result of their hard work, determination, and support from some dedicated and devoted Ukiah teachers.
These teachers took the time to mentor, help, encourage, and cheer on each of these celebrated students, as teachers continue to do with all their students each and every day.
And, I’ll bet, along with these great teachers, each successful person had mentors at home who encouraged them and stressed how important hard work – and homework – are to a person’s success.
Oftentimes, this success all starts with learning to read.
Last week, Ukiah schools celebrated the gift of reading by participating in the national event Read Across America. The National Education Association and the California Teachers’ Association sponsor this event to celebrate the joy of reading with children.
Leslie Barkley is a first grade teacher at Grace Hudson Elementary, and author of the Teacher’s Voice column in the Ukiah Daily Journal. In a recent column Leslie said, “Reading is essential to a child’s academic success, and developing a love of reading starts at a very early age. As children learn to read, providing opportunities to read interesting books sets them firmly on the path of a lifelong love of reading.”
Leslie points out, although March 3 is a National Day of Reading, a love for reading only really occurs by reading each and every day. “Basically,” Leslie says, “the more children read, the easier it becomes and the more they want to read.”
Most educators agree that until the third grade, a child is learning to read. After the third grade, children should begin reading to learn. A study completed in 2012 suggests that children who aren’t reading at grade level by the end of third grade are four times as likely to drop out of high school.
Another study indicates that illiteracy is closely related with crime. The Department of Justice states, "The link between academic failure and delinquency, violence, and crime is welded to reading failure." More than 70 percent of inmates in America's prisons cannot read above a fourth grade level.
It just makes sense that kids who have learned to read–kids who enjoy reading and learning–are kids who become successful in school (and life). Kids who experience academic success aren’t usually drawn to crime, drugs, or gangs.
Most importantly, we know that success breeds success, and reading is a foundation that allows kids to achieve not just one thing; reading is the foundation that allows kids to become adults who can achieve many great things.
We are fortunate here in Ukiah that, from kindergarten to junior college, our community hosts a wide array of educational opportunities taught by incredible, dedicated teachers who devote their entire careers to helping our children develop the skills that allow them to achieve so many great things.
As always, our mission at UPD is simple: to make Ukiah as safe as possible. If you have any suggestions or comments about how we can improve, please feel free to call me, complete our online survey, or leave a crime tip on our website: www.ukiahpolice.com.