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Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon talks up higher education 


Bloomington-Normal Pantagraph
August 22, 2011
By Phyllis Coulter

BLOOMINGTON -- With a banjo on her knee, Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon encouraged Oakland Elementary third graders to picture themselves as college graduates in 2025.

"With college, you can be smarter, healthier, happier, and get more pay," she said, and that will help make Illinois a better place for the rest of us.

Simon, a former teacher, visited the Bloomington school as part of a statewide tour to inspire kids to plan ahead for higher education and encourage them to be successful in primary and secondary school, too.

She played a game to help students understand how many people have college educations, and how many could in the future. She included "interesting jobs," like welding, as examples of what can be done with an education or certification.

But, the youngsters asked, "Are you allowed to skateboard at college? "How many degrees are there?" And, "is science hard at college?"

George Reid, executive director of the Illinois Board of Higher Education, said people with college educations can "earn much more money - almost twice as much in your lifetime" than someone without a college education.

The kids clapped and sang along to Simon's rendition of "This Land is Your Land." Braydon Dever-Zoeller, 8, won the opportunity to play the banjo with Simon for being the fastest to raise his hand to indicate he wanted to go to college.

Simon wants at least 60 percent of all working-age adults in Illinois hold a college degree or certificate by 2025, up from 41 percent today.

Simon said Oakland does a good job educating its students and she especially liked their oath, in which students proclaim they are Oakland Owls who "give a hoot" and are "respectful and responsible."

In addition to Reid, others attending included state Rep. Dan Brady, R-Bloomington, and District 87 Superintendent Barry Reilly.