Luke Kloberdanz, Director and CEO of the Ice Age Trail Alliance addressed our May 17th meeting and described the purposes and workings of his organization which includes building and maintaining the trail, conservation of properties on the trail, and providing educational opportunities for school children and teens.
The organization has 22 full time employees and 1,800 volunteers whose efforts served 10,000 4th graders this year and, in 2019, 2.3 million hikers. The U S Congress designated the Ice Age Trail to preserve the story of glaciation and The Alliance, with the help of the National Park Foundation, is certainly fulfilling that goal here in Wisconsin.
Betsy Parker and Virginia Wiggen talked to Rotarians on April 19th about how incredibly important it is to establish a connection between kids and nature. Kids between 3 and 14 years old today spend an average of 7.5 hours in front of a phone or computer screen, and less than 1 hour a day outside. They stressed that access to the natural environment is as important to physical and emotional wellbeing as health care and economics.
The Aldo Leopold Nature Center is an important part of the answer. The Center provides Nature Preschool for 3 to 5-year-olds, an outdoor afterschool program for K-5 kids, and summer camp for kids aged 4 to 10. They also have a Junior Naturalist Program for teens. Not only is this important for kids of all ages, their programs have shown to provide rapid improvement for kids on the autism spectrum. The Center, which is right off the Beltline in Monona, is open to the public every day from dawn to dusk. They encouraged Rotarians to check out their hiking trails!
UW System Regent Ed Manydeeds spoke to Rotarians on April 12th about the importance of education for Native Americans. He attended one of Wisconsin’s notorious boarding schools for Native Americans, which he said involved more fighting and bullying than learning. The experience soured him on education, and he vowed never to attend school again. But, after graduating from Ashland High School despite being a “terrible student,” educators at UW-Green Bay and UW-Superior taught him how to study and ask for help. He went on to get a law degree from UW-Madison and has practiced law for 45 years.
Manydeeds was shocked to learn there were only 576 Native students in the UW System in 2002 – only 0.4% of the statewide student population. But an agreement UW System signed with Wisconsin tribes in 2020 gives him hope that recruitment and retention of Native students will improve. He encouraged Rotarians to mentor Native students just as he was mentored in college.
The Candidate Forum for the Wisconsin Supreme Court featured only former Justice Dan Kelly as his opponent, Judge Janet Protasiewicz, declined our offer to participate. After his opening remarks, Dan Kelly addressed questions about the role precedence should play in court decisions as well as its role in redistricting and gun control. How Supreme Court justices should be elected and determining what is “original” when interpreting the Constitution were also addressed.
Most of former Justice Kelly’s remarks emphasized the differences between what was in the purview of the Legislature vs. that of the Supreme Court and the importance of these responsibilities being separate from each other.
Kelly Lecker, Executive Editor of the Wisconsin State Journal and, 38 years ago the Badger State Spelling Bee champion, was the perfect speaker on March 8th. In addition to Rotarians, she addressed 11 current Madison winners of the All City Spelling Bee, sponsored by the Wisconsin State Journal since 1949.
Kelly answered the question “What’s It Like to be the Badger State Spelling Bee Champion?”. Her short answer offered her personal track from spelling bee à study habits à writing à journalism à current position. Benefits include confidence through success, celebration of academics, pride, and a heightened sense of community.
Before speaking to members and guests, Ja’ Malik, the Artistic Director for the Madison Ballet, treated us to a small snippet of The Nutcracker featuring three ballerinas from the Madison ballet. He then shared with us his vision of diversity, inclusion, opportunity and exposure to the arts that he encouraged members to help facilitate as they consider their consumption and support for the arts.
This can be a life-changing experience, just as it was for him as an 8-year-old child of color. He was enthralled after seeing a performance of The Nutcracker with his mother and ballet ended up being his career. It has taken him around the nation and world. The performing arts changes lives, and his vision of accessibility to all seeks to make that a reality.