I’ve written 20-plus editor’s letters and haven’t mentioned my love of Star Wars or Lord of the Rings once, so indulge me while I talk about education and Wonder Woman. I promise, this is going somewhere.

It was a dream come true to sit down in a theater recently and see a (really good) movie about a female superhero who has a personality and saves the guy and is, in general, a badass. There haven’t been many movies in my life that have impacted me the way “Wonder Woman” did this summer. Besides being a genuinely good action movie, with plot and character development and cool superhero moves, it was pure joy to watch a woman save the world. I’ve loved superhero movies and sci-fi movies since I was a kid, and this was the first time I left the theater feeling like I had saved the world myself. You go, Diana.

We all want to see ourselves reflected in the heroes, both super and regular, around us. And as exciting and rewarding as it was for a grown woman to watch a superhero movie starring a woman, imagine how much more important — vital, really — it is for a young girl or boy to see teachers with the same color skin in the classroom.

Columbia Public Schools understands the necessity of those mentors and educators. That’s why they’ve reinstated the Grow Your Own program, in which CPS students with a desire to become teachers intern in CPS classrooms. Some are receiving scholarships for college and committing to coming back and teaching in Columbia.

You’ll get a chance to meet two of the interns on page 40. One, Nautica Varnum, has been an EdX intern for two years, and she had this to say about her interactions with the kindergarten and first-grade classes she’s worked with:

“Being in the program for four weeks made me realize how having a grown up in the classroom that looks similar to you can have such a big impact. I bonded with all the kids but felt a close bond with some of the African Americans because they always wanted to be around me and would always ask me for help.” 

For those students, having teachers and even older students in the classroom to emulate will remind them they’re capable of the same success, of being someone’s hero themselves. It will be exciting to see the ripple effect of this program in a few years.

This is our education issue, so check out stories on the impact of state student activities on the local economy (page 66), the myths about Mizzou athletics’ finances (page 52), and local professionals who’ve made the commitment to go back to school (page 50).

In other news, nominations open August 1 for CBT’s 20 Under 40 awards, presented by Joe Machens Dealerships. Head over to ColumbiaBusinessTimes.com and take less than five minutes to nominate an outstanding young professional in the community. The class will be revealed in December!

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