|PHOTO: Tim Hynds, Sioux City Journal|
Like many Nebraskans you’re likely to meet, Sally Ganem is fiercely devoted to her state. In fact, she calls living in Nebraska, “…an opportunity to live the good life – and make the good life great.”
And as the state’s First Lady, she’s doing all she can to make the good life great for all of Nebraska’s citizens, especially the children.
Children have always been a priority for Ganem, a mother of one son and a former elementary school principal. From her many years in education, she understands the value of high-quality early learning and care.
"In my experience as an elementary school principal, it was so easy to see the difference between those children who had been part of quality early childhood programs or parenting, and those who had not. The ones who did have those experiences came to school prepared and hungry to learn. They had a much broader vocabulary, were better able to share with classmates, and were more excited to explore new ideas. The learning gap between those children is larger in kindergarten, and the gap only gets larger over time, expanding throughout their educational experience."
"Educational achievement is clearly tied to later success in life. Both my husband and I understand that business development and quality early childhood learning and care experiences are one and the same. In a competitive global economy, we need workers who have been encouraged to learn, explore and achieve from their earliest days of life. These are the children who will grow up flexible, adaptable, curious, and able to think through challenges. These are the kinds of citizens and workers who make Nebraska great."
“I believe that parents and grandparents are the most significant teachers of young children and the most significant persons in their lives – and I hope this legacy continues,” Ganem says. “I wish every child could have a caring, loving environment in which to grow. But that’s not always the case, and we need to make sure that all of Nebraska’s youngest children have the opportunities to learn, grow and realize their full potential, especially those who face the greatest challenges in their earliest years.”
Ganem believes one way to address the needs of children and youth is through volunteerism. “Children and youth are the future of this country. We need to invest in them by giving of our time and talents,” she notes. Calling volunteerism the backbone of efforts to improve children’s lives, Ganem proudly points to the fact that Nebraskans provide more than one billion dollars annually in volunteer service.
|Omaha World Herald|
“When I was principal of Howard Elementary School in Fremont, I saw the tremendous positive effect our older volunteers had on students,” Ganem explains. “I can’t imagine what my school would have been like without those volunteers; they made a world of difference to the children and to our school. They were a special and completely unique source of warmth, support and encouragement for our children, and a valued resource for our parents and staff.”
“As a state and as a country, we will be in trouble if we don’t help our young people. Children need to have a voice in our communities. Grandparents and other older adults can give them that voice by advocating on their behalf. It’s reassuring for children to see older adults standing up for them.
“For older adults who want to join in the effort, I recommend they visit www.serve.nebraska.gov and www.seniors4kids.org, and get involved. It will make a world of difference to our children and to those who volunteer.”