“Reach for the Stars:” a terrific free family resource

“Reach for the Stars 2011-12” is one of the finest free resources I’ve ever seen for families, educators or young people. The 28-page booklet is an amazing array of what its compilers describe as almost 100 “academic programs, challenges, competitions, events and enrichment opportunities for k-12 students in Minnesota.” See the Reach for the Stars, 2011-12 PDF.

Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles: it’s hard to imagine a better use of 15-20 minutes in the next month that looking up the catalogue on line with your youngsters. Depending on age and interest, you and they can pick a few of these opportunities to “check out.”

Because the range is so vast, I’m almost reluctant to start giving examples. But whether a young person’s passion is chess, current events, debate, designing a duck stamp, farming, Future Problem Solving, food, German, geography, Legos™, language arts, music (performing or listening), math, mock trial, philosophy, poetry, politics, Spanish, speech, the stock market, or about eighty other areas, there is a program to enrich and enhance what a young person knows.

Some of the programs are free. Some have a modest to medium fee to participate. Some are open to any youngster who wants to participate; others operate through schools.

The booklet is available now, on the website cited above, for free. It is in the process of being printed, courtesy of Lifetouch. Free copies will be available this fall, distributed through schools and “strategic partners.” Parent organizations such as the Minnesota PTA and Minnesota Council for Gifted and Talented helped produce the booklet.

The partners also include the Minnesota Department of Education, public and private educator organizations, such as Education Minnesota, Minnesota Independent School Forum, Elementary and Secondary School Principals, School Administrators, School Boards, Association of Metropolitan School Districts, Rural Education Association, TIES, and the YMCA’s of Minnesota.

Each program has been reviewed by Minnesota Academic League Council, which includes members of many organizations cited above. The booklet is produced by what formerly was known as the “Center for Academic Excellence” in North Mankato, Minnesota. They now call themselves the “Synergy & Leadership Exchange.” This organization also honors educators through its “WEM Outstanding Educator Awards,” and schools through a “Schools of Character” program. More information about each of these is on the website.

The booklet opens with appropriate thanks “…to the hundreds of volunteers, organizations and program providers whose combined efforts result in tens of thousands of Minnesota students enjoying challenging, stimulating and entertaining academic enrichment opportunities!” That letter is signed by Les Martisko, Executive Director of Synergy and Leadership Exchange and Rob Cavanna, chair, Minnesota Academic League. Both of them deserve thanks, and praise, for leading this effort, as does Lifetouch.

So, from “A-Y”, from the Academic Decathlon and Academic Awards in Writing to World Savvy Challenge and the Youth Energy Summit, “Reach for the Stars” is a remarkable description of opportunities. It’s free, and very much worth reviewing.