By Julie Greene, Herald Mail Media
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan talked to about 90 Hagerstown fourth-graders Thursday about working hard and persevering — and how he did that to both become governor and beat cancer.
Hogan told the children at Bester Elementary School that they will encounter hard times in life and unplanned things will happen, but if they work and study hard, they can make just about anything happen.
“I know you’re all going to grow up to succeed and do great things,” he said.
San Mar chose that community, in part, because of overlapping social needs and neighborhood momentum when the school opened in August 2014.
Hogan and state Schools Superintendent Karen Salmon visited Jennifer Babb’s second-grade class.
But the focus of his visit was the OnTrack program, a group effort with 33 active community partners committed to improving educational attainment for residents.
The program is about “learning today and succeeding tomorrow,” Hogan told children and adults in the school’s cafeteria.
AT&T Maryland President Denis Dunn presented a ceremonial check for $25,000 to the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce Foundation for the program.
Dunn said AT&T was eager to get involved early on with OnTrack, whose goal is to promote education and skills development so people can compete for good jobs.
Economic development and community strength are tied directly to educational attainment, he said.
Chamber President Paul Frey told students he had fifth-grade classmates who grew up to become a heart doctor, a dentist, a comic-book artist, a member of the military, owner of a computer company, a woodworker and a math teacher.
The Greater Hagerstown Committee began the local OnTrack initiative with Executive Director James Kercheval running things initially, but the chamber has agreed to be OnTrack’s host agency for three years, Kercheval said.
The money AT&T donated will help pay for a director for OnTrack, he said.
OnTrack partners spent the past year starting to compile data to track and identify challenges partnering organizations can help address, Kercheval said.
One possible goal is to better educate the public about the importance of early childhood education, and what skills children should develop by a certain age, he said.
Photograph by Ric Dugan