EAST COUNTY — On a trip to the 50th annual Paris Air Show with Florida Gov. Rick Scott, Manatee County School Board Vice Chairwoman Julie Aranibar saw a pair of Boeing 787 Dreamliners.
She stood on the runway of the Le Bourget Airport, the site of Charles Lindbergh’s landing in 1927, after the first non-stop transatlantic flight between New York and Paris.
She spoke with military women who strive to serve their country in combat — an opportunity they have after then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta ended a 20-year prohibition in January.
The weeklong air show featured the best in defense and commercial aviation, representing 2,200 companies from 144 countries.
But the trip abroad set Aranibar’s sights back on Manatee County’s classrooms, where children get the knowledge — and the curiosity — to pursue dreams.
Gov. Scott brought with him a nearly 100-person delegation of aviation, aero space, defense, educational and economic leaders, with the goal to create business-development plans in science and technology for Florida.
“Technology and science is where the future is,” said Aranibar, who paid for the trip, which ran from June 16 to June 21, out of pocket.
“Our superintendent (Rick Mills) has raised the expectations for the people who are employed here and he is raising expectations for students,” she said. “I met lots of people under 25 — kids who are very well-trained and qualified to work in these industries — and they do. That’s what our kids should strive for.”
Aranibar believes many children in Manatee County don’t reach for those dreams, because they don’t know where to look.
Aranibar, who was born into poverty, can relate. A high school biology teacher helped shape her own dreams — to become a scientist. She was the first person in her family to graduate high school and go on to college.
“How many kids know what they want to be at 13 years old?” Aranibar asked. “Do we even have that discussion? Do our students know that world is out there?”
She believes Manatee County needs a school similar to Sarasota’s Suncoast Polytechnical High School, a technology magnet high school.
She appreciates the Manatee Technical Institute, the county’s award-winning, post-secondary adult, career and technical education school, but wonders if children know it exists.
She thinks middle schools should hold more field trips there and to area community colleges.
“After we address our finances and establish a proper budget, we need to get to that discussion in our five-year and 10-year plan,” Aranibar said.
Aranibar said she also learned opportunities in high-skilled industries are not limited to jobs requiring degrees of great expertise.
Companies also seek to hire students who are strong in English and writing and individuals with people skills who can fill entry-level jobs.
“There are lots of other doors that open because of these high-tech jobs,” Aranibar said.
On the flight home to the East County, Aranibar met a 23-year-old woman in marketing, who lived with her parents after graduating college, but now is traveling the world.
“What an opportunity Manatee has,” Aranibar said.
OTHER TRIP HIGHLIGHTS
- Julie Aranibar got to see Gov. Rick Scott in action. She said he starts his days, which never end, at 7 a.m. She did not get to personally speak with him, but she did get to see him speak to a group that included the CEO of Euro Disney.
- Aranibar lit a candle in honor of her family at the Notre Dame de Paris, or the Notre Dame Cathedral.
- Aranibar brought home euros for her children.
Contact Josh Siegel at firstname.lastname@example.org.