Author Archives: jaynecoster

TR Loon Brings Fun & Games to Rotary

submitted by Ben Hebebrand; photo by Mike Engelberger

HO7A6660The Rotary Club of Madison treated its membership at its August 15 Club meeting to fun and games – highly appropriate in that the day represented the Club’s annual Bring-Your-Child or Grandchild to Rotary Day.

Sitting up front and center, about 50 Rotary children were treated to the wacky magic of TR Loon – The Truly Remarkable Loon, also known as the “Juggler from Madison.”

In a highly engaging performance, TR Loon held kids captive and adults entertained by completing the incredible feat of spinning ten plates or as TR Loon reminded the audience “simultaneously at the same time.”

In inviting the kids to help him count the number of plates spinning, he reminded the audience that “there are three kinds of jugglers – those who can count and those who cannot.”

Humor aside, TR Loon indeed had ten plates spinning simultaneously, all the while receiving help from the kids, who alerted him when any one of the plates appeared to be at the brink of no longer spinning and thus crashing. The absolute highlight, however, was when TR Loon invited the kids in the audience and a few fun-loving adults to launch flying monkeys to bring the ten spinning plates down. The image of spinning plates being brought down by flying monkeys represented to this fun-loving news reporter our Club’s finest moment, and elicited a comment from a Club member that the scene was not much unlike what happens at the State Capitol.

At the end of TR Loon’s presentation, Stephanie Richards, CEO of the Madison Circus Space, informed members that her organization is in the midst of a capital campaign to build a new center in Madison. Circus Space promotes the circus arts as an important art form by teaching interested children and adults on various circus arts such as juggling or aerial stunts.

Closing the Achievement Gap in Madison Schools

submitted by Valerie Renk; photo by Karl Wellensiek

Kaleem Caire 8 8 2018Rotarians heard that over nine months of deliberations, surveys and thought, one project was chosen to receive a major grant of $100,000 from our Madison Rotary Foundation, One City Schools.  The school is led by Kaleem Caire, School Founder and CEO, and a member of our club.  He shared the school’s formula for success at the August 8 club meeting.

Caire shared a video illustrating the goals of the school: equalizing advantages.  The school is designed to be a place where young students can feel school was a home, and where other families can experience diversity.

“Our goal is to decrease the achievement gap while meeting the needs of our community,” Caire says.

Ages one through five, with a total of 97 children, are served at the school.  The school has been open three years and offers breakfast, lunch and afternoon snack with their own in-house chef.  They offer learning, not just education.

They address the health of the family, their financial situation, and are a resource center for the families.  “If we can decrease stress, we can increase opportunities and the student is happier,” Caire says.

They have many partners, the first of which was the Madison Children’s Museum. They are supported by 1,216 individuals and 63 institutional donors. This fall, the school splits into two schools with a 4k and 5k charter school addition.  This will also provide new funding through charter school funding.

Why is it called One City?  “People kept telling me they don’t know what to do to help,” Caire says.  “Yes, you do. Invest in early childhood with deep, student driven-learning for success.  “You are going to hire young people one day, and we need them to be innovators in life and in work.”  Caire says.

Our thanks to WisEye for videotaping our meeting this week.  You can watch the video here.

National Parks – The Joy Trip Project; “Closing the Gap” & Ensuring Access to Our Parks by Diverse Populations

–submitted by Andrea Kaminski

James Edward MillsAugust 1 guest speaker James Edward Mills grew up in a family steeped in the civil rights movement in Los Angeles. His father, who served on the city council and was called the “de facto Mayor of LA” for a time, was an advisor to Martin Luther King, Jr. His parents strove to make it possible for children of color in their community to achieve, excel and become anything they wanted. They supported James in what he wanted, which was to excel in outdoors adventure.

Right out of college Mills took a backpacking trip from the rim to the floor of the Grand Canyon. He explored Yosemite National Park and climbed the tallest mountain in California, Mount Whitney. He couldn’t help but notice that there were not many adventurers in these places who looked like him.

It’s true. African Americans make up only two percent of the visitors to the National Parks and an even smaller percentage of those who participate in more strenuous adventures. Mills wanted to change that. In 2012 he was part of an expedition of six men and three women who were the first all African American team to climb Denali. In 2016 he won the lottery – that is, the lottery to have a permit to raft through the Grand Canyon. On that adventure the guide told Mills that he was the first African American to join one of his rafting trips in his 40 years on the Colorado River.

As a freelance journalist who has worked in several roles in the outdoor industry since 1989, Mills wants to change the narrative. He learned from documentarian Ken Burns, who produced the series “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea,” that African Americans have long been engaged in the preservation of natural areas. For example, the “Buffalo Soldiers” were members of peacetime all-black regiments of the U.S. Army in the early 20th century. Burns said they were, in effect, the first national park rangers, and they were instrumental in preserving the giant redwoods in California.

Mills figured that if he had not heard that story before, most other people had not heard it either. He launched a blog called The Joy Trip Project (joytripproject.org) to document stories of African Americans engaged in outdoors adventure. Mills also is the author of a new book, “The Adventure Gap: Changing the Face of the Outdoors.”

Mills believes that if equality means you can do anything, that includes climbing mountain peaks. He takes literally the words in Martin Luther King’s iconic “I Have a Dream” speech: “Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York… from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania… from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado… from the curvaceous slopes of California!”

But you don’t have to go to one of these spectacular places to change the narrative, Mills said. He lauded places in Madison, such as Troy Gardens, the Ice Age Trail and the Aldo Leopold Nature Center, which are making intentional efforts to show a broad diversity of people who enjoy natural areas and work to preserve their beauty. He said children need to be introduced to nature from a science perspective, not just for recreation.

“Nature isn’t just the national parks,” Mills said. “Every time you enjoy a sip of water, a fresh salad or a breath of clean air, you benefit from the preservation of natural areas and resources.”

Saving and Improving Lives: One Drop at a Time

submitted by Linda Baldwin; photo by Pete Christianson

Ben Merens 7 25 2018

From left: Program Committee Chair Sara DeTienne; Ben Merens & Marcia Whittington

This week’s Rotary presentation by Ben Merens, a “storyteller” for the Blood Center of WI Blood Research Center, was one where I left having learned amazing information about a subject of which I knew nothing.

Merens did indeed tell stories…

The young man at Verizon who had had a double lung transplant, survived, married his nurse and had a family.  Ricky owes his life to doctors like those at the BRI because blood research found a way to get the body to accept transplants.

Chaos, Merens describes, is what the blood system looks like and scientists determine what patterns do exist, how they are supposed to work and then find out how to fix things when they don’t.

BRI scientists patented a test to determine whether the regularly used blood thinners would work for a specific patient and if not, doctors could substitute a more effective blood thinner.

We watched with Merens as he described a heart being harvested and then rushed down the hall to transplant into a waiting patient.  The heart was successfully inserted…then the action stopped, and they waited. The heart, still in the open chest, began to beat.

Merens described a WI Donor event when a mother spoke about the joy and sadness when she realized her son is living because another person’s child has died.  Then she said, he’s an active two year old being held by the mother of the donor who heard her child’s heart beat in the chest of my son.

We think about research being a scientific activity with words and practices that most of us don’t understand.  Merens brought the results of research into our hearts and minds at Rotary today.  And we do understand.

If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video here.

“Bring Back Civics Education!”

submitted by Rich Leffler; photo by Pete Christianson

Luke Fuszard 7 18 2018

From left: Paul Ranola, Luke Fuszard and Rick Kiley

Luke Fuszard spoke to us this week on the decline of civics education, which he says places democracy at risk. Luke is a software engineer and has an MBA.  No civics background. But he does have two children, and he is concerned about the decline in civics education.

In 1954 Kentucky required three years of history and civics, and students had to pass a very tough statewide exam. Only nine states today require any such education, and Wisconsin is not one of them. The result is a predictable widespread ignorance. Ninety-seven percent of immigrants taking the [relatively easy] citizenship exam pass it. Thirty-three percent of native citizens who take the same test fail it. For most of American history, it was generally believed that solid civics and history knowledge was needed for people to be good citizens. That seems no longer to be the case.

Two occasions seem to have sped this decline in interest: (1) Sputnik in 1957; (2) the 1983 report, “A Nation at Risk.” Both incentivized the teaching of math and science, and as these expanded, history and civics courses were reduced. Middleton and Wausau still have robust civics programs. Wisconsin has recently adopted a statewide civics exam, but it is online and can be taken multiple times. And in 2012, all federal funds were shifted away from civics or history to math and science.

Why are civics and history important? Many math majors will never be mathematicians. Many science majors will never be scientists. But everyone will eventually be a member of the body politic. Since 1776, hundreds of thousands of people have given their lives in defense of our freedom and our democracy. The least we can do is to lobby our legislators to support civics education. Much civic behavior is learned in childhood: We should pass on to our children our belief in the importance of being an educated citizen, able to make informed political decisions.

Our thanks to Wisconsin Eye for videotaping our meeting this week.  You can watch the video here.

Battle for Economic Growth in Wisconsin

submitted by Carol Toussaint; photo by Pete Christianson

Kevin Conroy 7 11 2018AWhat will it take for Wisconsin to win the battle for economic growth fueled by entrepreneurship?  Rotarians and their many guests left the Wednesday lunch with some specific ideas presented by Kevin Conroy, Chairman and CEO of Exact Science.

According to Conroy, Wisconsin is not inspiring start-ups. Our demographics are currently against inspiring start-ups and our demographics are holding us back.  Our workforce is rapidly aging and shrinking.  Median family income is flat.  We are near the bottom in terms of net migration of college workers and we’re not building a promising young workforce.  We need exciting companies to keep and draw exciting companies.

According to studies conducted by the Kaufman Foundation, Wisconsin is ranked last in the U.S. for start-up activity and Conroy stressed that start-ups create most new net jobs and are the key to success in the battle for economic growth.  Venture Capital needs to be more readily available in Wisconsin if there is to be a change in status among the states.  Currently three states–California, New York and Massachusetts–manage 83% of the nation’s venture.

What Conroy termed a “silver lining” is that experience from the last 3 years has been better for investment in new companies.  Angel investors are providing significant help but there is a “funding gap” after angels.  Without growth in next stage funding Wisconsin will continue to lag behind other states.  Models to look at include a private sponsored venture capital model in Michigan and a Public-Private Partnership.

In speaking of the Company he heads, Conroy shared that Exact Science relentlessly pursued a solution to the big problem of colon cancer, partnered with the Mayo Clinic, focused on great science, raised nearly $2 billion, and had a direct lineage to the UW-Madison via Third Wave Technologies.

The company is expanding to a new campus which includes lab, manufacturing, and customer care services in the former Rayovac building and is expanding into new headquarters in University Research Park.  To make the point that “start-ups matter”, Conroy summarized that the impact on Wisconsin from the start-up he heads provides $2 billion in capital and $29 million in taxes.

Rotary Scholars and Their Mentors Get to Know Each Other –Picnic Style

submitted by Sharyn Alden; photos by Dean Nelson & Karl Wellensiek

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The sun shined brightly July 1st, after a tornado watch lifted, on one of Rotary’s most festive traditions –the annual Rotary Scholar Mentor Picnic held lakeside at the home of Ed and Nancy Young.

There were multiple tables of picnic food choices –segmented further by categories. There were appetizers and salads, a lively grilling station with brats and burgers fresh off the grill, and a dessert table laden with cakes, cookies and luscious chocolate delights.

 

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Beyond the good eats and boat rides, and overall festive atmosphere, what most of us came for was this exceptional opportunity to get to know each other better.

Melanie Ramey, former President of Rotary (1998-1999), a five-time mentor to Rotary scholars, is currently a mentor to Matida Bojang.  Ramey said, “The annual picnic provides a great opportunity for scholars to become better acquainted with their mentors and also meet other scholars with similar academic or cultural backgrounds.”

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This was the second Rotary Scholar Mentor Picnic for Eddie Larson, whose mentor is Majid Sarmadi. Larson, who will be a junior this fall majoring in actuarial science at UW-Madison, said, “Rotary as an organization offers many excellent networking opportunities. But the annual picnic brings together people of so many diverse backgrounds, it’s a terrific venue for meeting and making new friends.”

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Seated at a picnic table, gazing out at Lake Monona, first-time picnic attendee, and scholar, Cassie Ferguson plans to major in early childhood education because she said teachers, from elementary grades through high school had a strong impact on her life. “I want to give back,” she said simply while enjoying the view of the Capitol in the distance.

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Conversations like this, at a casual picnic with no specific agenda other than to enjoy yourself, can be stepping stones to planting seeds for life-long friendships between scholars and mentors.

Our thanks to Ed and Nancy Young for hosting this year’s 2018 Scholar Mentor Picnic; to “Picnic Planner” Dean Nelson; Scholar Mentor Committee Co-Chairs Rob Van den Berg & Cheryl Wittke & Chair Emeritus Ellie Schatz and to members of our Kitchen Committee for working their magic at the grill.  The event was a great success!