OGDEN -- As three Weber School District ninth-graders presented their project about a waste water turbine at Ogden High School Wednesday morning, community business leader and chair of Prosperity 2020 Alan Hall got up and told the students he was interested in their project as an investor.
One of the excited students said he was shocked and that Hall had just made his day.
The students' presentation was one of several by students in the Ogden and Weber School districts at the first area Education Summit. The summit involved leaders, parents and educators from both districts as well as business leaders in the community.
Hall wanted the chance to talk to educators and community leaders about Prosperity 2020, which is a statewide organization of business leaders that see the link between education and business. The group wants to improve education across the state and set some high goals to be achieved by the state by 2020, said Hall.
The group has been around for about four years, but Hall said they are ready to take the group to the next level, with action across the state.
Hall said he plans to visit every school district, university and trade school across the state to spread his message of the importance of education and how Utah can and should be rising to the top.
"In the 1960s we were third in the nation. Now we are somewhere in the middle. I think we can get back in the top 10," Hall said of Utah's education scores.
Hall has been impressed with how on-board both Weber and Ogden school districts have been with Prosperity 2020. Another key element to success is volunteerism. Both Hall and Ogden/Weber Chamber President Dave Hardman talked about an increase in volunteerism has impacted and helped the schools in the area, but they want to see more.
Hardman said their goal is to see 20,000 more volunteers in Utah schools by 2020.
"We have engaged the chambers and are working with Partners in Education and each year it is growing," Hardman said.
Partners in Education is a statewide program that partners businesses with schools and provides volunteers to do a wide range of service from simple activities like donating supplies to having employees go in and read with students. Hardman said sometimes it's the small things that make a difference, but if those small things turn into bigger things great things can happen.
Ogden School District Superintendent Brad Smith was pleased with the summit.
"It's great to see our business leaders pull together," Smith said of the help leaders are providing in the classroom.
He was also impressed to see the progress students in both districts are making academically. He was impressed with the presentation by the students from Ogden's International Baccalaureate program and to see the deep thinking that is coming from all areas of the district.
Many at the forum talked about a video presentation from Dee Elementary where Principal Sondra Jolovich-Motes talked about how the data-driven teaching methods being used are affecting students.
"Every student has a name and every student has goals," Motes said referring to getting her students to grade level. "We are honest here, but we are honest with kindness."
Weber District Spokesman Nate Taggart could also see success. He likes the idea of bringing everyone together and sharing what is working. He also liked seeing the kids perform their successes.
"The kids are really getting it," he said.