Tuesday evening, April 16, students, parents and community members of Lancaster, Calif., received first hand words of encouragement from Project Lead The Way President and CEO Vince Bertram. Coined a “Night of Inspiration with Vince Bertram” by Amargosa Creek Middle School leaders, the event drew over 300 individuals from the community, many coming from neighboring schools and districts to hear Bertram’s message.
Bertram’s message was one of overcoming obstacles and hard work, encouraging students to reach their full potential. He shared his personal story—a childhood of poverty and low expectations turned around by a few very special educators and mentors who made an impact on his high school days and encouraged him to dream bigger. “Poverty is not an excuse not to do something,” Bertram stated. “In fact, it’s the reason to do something.”
Bertram shared with them how, after graduating with his bachelor's and master’s degrees and working as a high school principal in northwest Indiana, he experienced the power of PLTW in turning around a school culture. He saw the way the PLTW courses drew students in, prepared them for the real world, and raised the expectations of students, teachers and the community. That experience made him a believer that PLTW opens doors and provides opportunities that can transform communities.
The message hit home for Lancaster students and parents, many waiting to speak one-on-one with Bertram after the evening ended. Lancaster is located in California’s Antelope Valley, 70 miles north of downtown Los Angeles. The Antelope Valley is home to four school districts – three K-8 districts and Antelope Valley Union High School District. Socio-economically, 70 percent of high school students qualify for free and reduced lunch, and only eight percent participate in Advanced Placement courses or credits. However, two K-8 districts and the high school offer PLTW programs.
As he concluded his speech, Bertram left behind three powerful statements for those in attendance.
“To students: it’s up to you. You have to work hard. Nothing is going to come easy. You have to take rigorous courses, you have to push yourself. You can do anything, anything you put your mind to, anything you think is urgent. Your education today is absolutely urgent.”
“As adults, sometimes we think we cannot do things, but I’m convinced we can do anything we put our minds to.”
“My hope for you is that you never forget how you can make a difference in the lives of others, how you are part of something bigger than yourself….You can spend your life however you want to, but just remember, you only get to spend it once.”