Valuable free resource for families, students and schools

This column originally was published by ECM Publishers

Valuable free resource for families, students and schools

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Joe Nathan

Joe Nathan

Reach for the Stars catalog is a free, remarkable resource for Minnesota families, students and schools. It lists more than 100 local, statewide and national opportunities for young people ages 5-18 to learn, compete and share what they know.

The Synergy and Leadership Exchange will send free copies to families and schools. You also can find the catalog online at

Any brief list won’t do justice to the vast array of opportunities described. But for example, there are programs in cyber-defense, chess, art, writing, leadership, economics, math, agriculture, future problem solving, music, speech, stock markets, geography, history, debate, various languages, energy and agriculture. Some of these programs are free while others charge to participate.

These programs help young people see connections between what they’re studying and the world outside school. In many cases, they help young people learn to set and work toward goals. And equally important, they’re fun! I strongly encourage families to get a copy and share it with their children. Then you and your youngsters can pick one or more programs to consider.

Reach for the Star catalog, 2016-17Reach for the Stars includes many pictures of young people, representing various backgrounds, who have participated in the programs being discussed. It includes programs that many have heard about, such as the Minnesota History Day, Minnesota State High School League competitions in speech, debate, music and drama, and Destination ImagiNation. The publication also includes programs I had not known about, such as the CyberPatriot National School Cyber Defense Competition, the Crazy 8S Math Club, and Youth Energy Summit.

This catalogue divides the programs described into six areas:

–Challenges and competitions.

–Awards and recognitions.

–Conferences and institutes.

–Classroom enrichment.

–Leadership development.

–Out of school enrichment.

Synergy & Leadership Exchange, Minnesota Academic League Council and Lifetouch have produced the catalog together for more than 15 years.

In addition to the online edition, schools and families can obtain free copies by contacting Barb Bergseth. Her email is and her phone number is 612-419-3619. Thanks to the collaborating groups for producing a very valuable, free resource.

Joe Nathan, formerly a Minnesota public school teacher, administrator and PTA president, is a former director and now senior fellow at the Center for School Change. Reactions are welcome at

3 Responses to Joe Nathan column: Valuable free resource for families, students and schools

  1. Tom King says:

    Required late summer reading for all students and parents who care about the many excellent and useful resources in K12 learning.

    The price is right, too: Free!

  2. Nathan Strenge says:

    This truly is an incredible resource for teachers and school leaders looking to provide enriching opportunities for students. Every school should take a long look at leveraging these chances to get students invested and interested in learning.

    • Thank you! Synergy & Leadership Exchange is grateful for the partnerships with Lifetouch, the Academic League Council, Minnesota Service Cooperatives and many others that make the publication and distribution of this resource possible.