Jeff Ackerman: Wipe out school gloom with hope – and $$ |

Jeff Ackerman: Wipe out school gloom with hope – and $$

I’m asking for help again. I know … “This Ackerman guy only puts his column on Page 1 when he wants money.”

That’s right, but I wouldn’t ask if I didn’t think it was needed, or that your investment wouldn’t bring a return.

As you ought to be painfully aware, every single government agency (except perhaps the IRS and Department of Homeland Security) finds itself a little light in the wallet these days. Our pages have been filled with news of furloughs, cutbacks, closures and more crunches than you’ll find at the local gym.

And if you have children in our local schools today, you might want to brace yourself for a string of newsletters detailing program cuts.

Fortunately, our schools have always enjoyed wonderful community support, even as they scramble to meet their own financial challenges.

A few weeks ago, I got a call from Dan Castles, a great guy and CEO of an innovative company called Telestream. Dan said he and his wife Joanne, who volunteers at Nevada Union High School, finally got fed up with all the gloom and doom facing that school that is struggling with declining enrollment and a significant budget shortfall.

So they decided to do something about it.

That something happens this Saturday night at Twin Cities Church (they selected that venue for its size and beautiful auditorium) up on Ridge Road, just west of Grass Valley.

Marysville resident Brian Shul will share his amazing story of courage and perseverance against unbelievable odds. He was a perfect choice to deliver a “never-give-up” message to our community and to our children. His message will serve us well as we try to keep our own trials and tribulations into perspective.

Brian Shul was an Air Force pilot who was shot down in Vietnam. His plane exploded into the jungle, and he sustained burns to most of his body. He wasn’t expected to live, let alone fly again.

But fly he did, and not just in any jet. Following at least 15 major surgeries, Shul eventually piloted the SR-71 spy jet, known to be one of, if not the, fastest jets in the world.

Castles is hoping to fill the auditorium, a task that seemed kind of daunting when I spoke with him Tuesday. He’s never put on a fundraiser like this before, but the CEO in him told him to shoot high.

“I’m looking for 900 people to come,” he told me. “I’d love to raise $20,000 for our classrooms.”

That’s the point of the fundraiser. Castles knows one event won’t solve the high school district’s $2 million budget shortfall, but he’s hoping it will at least help keep the Nevada Union High School teachers with the supplies they so desperately need in the classrooms. I know many teachers who dip into their own pocketbooks just to have

paper and pencils and other basic study supplies.

“We want them (teachers) to know that the community is behind them,” he said.

Shul decided to help because he knows how important hope is.

“They’re (schools) looking at a lot of big hurdles and trying to figure out a way to make it work,” he said. “I talk of overcoming great odds, following your dream and not taking no for an answer.”

That’s why I can’t take no for an answer.

I’m asking you to go out and buy a couple of tickets to this Saturday evening’s event.

They are $20 each, and every dime of it will go to our high school. It starts at 6 p.m. Saturday, and you will be home by 9:30. If I’m right, you’ll sleep that night feeling pretty good about your own lot in life and how far a little faith and determination can take us.

Tickets are available at the Book Seller in downtown Grass Valley, or at the BriarPatch Market on Sierra College Boulevard. If you have a credit card, you can call (530) 742-1000, or – as a last resort – you can contact Dan Castles at (530) 470-1304 (you may also e-mail him at

I thank you in advance for your support … once again.

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