Afternoon Student Program – Including the Next Generation

Every year 1,000 students from around the Central Coast north to Vallejo have the opportunity to participate in lively discussions with speakers in the Leon Panetta Lecture Series by attending the Institute’s afternoon student program held prior to each season’s evening lecture.

In keeping with our mission of attracting young people to lives of public service, The Panetta Institute for Public Policy ensures that featured speakers are heard not only by ticket holders in the lecture hall but also by students from our surrounding communities. Students are able to interact with the national leaders by listening and by asking them questions on the selected topics. Students who participated attend Central Coast and Northern California high schools, colleges and military installations, addressing issues that relate to the selected topics and answering students’ questions.

“The Lecture Series Student Program has become a highly anticipated tradition and one that delivers enduring memories for all involved. The events always. serve as a catalyst for deep conversation and in turn generate new perspectives.”

Sheryl de Bree, Dean
Oakwood School

One student, a United States Army student at the Monterey Defense Language Institute, attended a recent program and said, “I found the entire day to be enlightening, thought-provoking and affording me the opportunity to interact with people outside of my normal circle. I am grateful to the Institute for providing military students and others the opportunity to hear civil discussions concerning our country.”

Students are prepared for these sessions by attending lectures by Sonia Banks and Richard Kezirian, Panetta Institute professors. Ms. Banks and Dr. Kezirian offer background and context on issues related to what the students will be hearing from the speakers.

Extra Preparation

In addition to the Afternoon Program, for the eighth consecutive year the Institute in 2019 conducted a preliminary mid-week session before each of the lectures for a special group of interested students from local area high schools. Students meet with the Panetta Institute’s professors, along with local community leaders and Institute Co-Chair and CEO Sylvia Panetta to discuss the upcoming topic. As a result, these students are better prepared for the question-and-answer period with the featured speakers. These mid-week sessions are an important addition to the Institute’s programming. Special efforts are made to recruit students from underserved areas.

north monterey county h.S. lpls copyYou are all a part of a marvelous program that I hope to be able to attend for years to come. What an inspiration to young adults in our communities.”

— Jenae Jordan, North Monterey County High School

Area educators are enthusiastic about the programs. Jenae Jordan, a social studies teacher at North Monterey County High School said her students, shown at right, “were riveted by the speakers” at a recent Lecture Series event. “It was a teacher’s dream to have my students so personally engaged both during the lecture and in class. Many took home with them valuable insights and lessons.”

David Sullivan, principal of Palma School in Salinas, said, “The investments made by the Panetta Institute in our youth who are invited to attend … give me pause for great hope in our future.” He took note of the Institute staff’s exhaustive preparation and follow-up for for each event, saying in a letter to Mrs. Panetta, “I am grateful to your staff for their kind and patient persistence and to your guidance for their good training.” Elias S. Kary, chair of the anthropology department at Monterey Peninsula College, wrote: “The students you have helped to attend this unique event are exposed to the perspectives of experts and elected officials, of which they may otherwise be unaware. They have the chance to ask questions and contribute to discussions of contemporary controversies. We so appreciate the support of the Panetta Institute, and your contribution to our students’ education.”

Lillian Griffiths, former social science chair at Pacific Grove High School said: “As a government teacher I cannot tell you how valuable this experience has been over the years. Students make connections with government that they cannot make in a classroom setting and many have gone on to pursue internships at the local, state and national level. The openness of the speakers and the questions coming from the students are a joy to behold. We are so incredibly fortunate to have this resource in our area.”

Students agree. In a group-signed letter, Watsonville High School attendees added: “It is often easy for Americans, especially young people like us, to feel apathy towards the government. Having opportunities like these are invaluable, as they help us increase our knowledge of current events. This will help ensure our future participation in our democracy, as we will become more informed citizens.”

Please contact us for more information on how to participate.