Norma LaBat is a lifelong Richmond resident—and a proud mother and grandmother. She’s also a woman who looks to the future, particularly that of our city’s youth, and advocates a wealth of ideas on how they can prepare for the years ahead.
An El Cerrito High graduate and former Contra Costa College student, LaBat’s diverse career has included working for Kaiser Permanente and UC Berkeley. Now retired, she’s also learned plenty from her experiences with a Marin Options Group that shares investment wisdom and her monthly chats at Meeting of the Minds—a nonprofit group focused on person-to-person learning in areas like technology and sustainability.
Recently, LaBat graciously took the time to share some of her thoughtful philosophies on the changing face of education and the workforce, and how Richmond’s younger generation can optimize their future chances for success. Here are three main takeaways to consider as we work as a community to prepare Richmond’s younger set for the years ahead:
Self-investment: LaBat feels strongly that the younger generation needs to explore the inner workings of capitalism and learn how to engage better with rising companies. As an example she cites companies like Nike, Google and Uber—whose success has been driven greatly by young customers and employees. But LaBat feels today’s young adults “sell their talents too cheaply,” and rather than just serve as cheap labor for youth-focused companies should find ways to reap greater rewards.
“Kids need to learn to work the system,” she advises. “They need to see everything as an investment.”
As an example she points to the skyrocketing of Google stock several years back from $17 to $600 a share. And with online companies (such as TD Ameritrade) allowing low-end investors to cut out the ‘middle man’ stockbrokers, even someone with just a small amount of money to invest can partake.
LaBat concedes it took her about five years to truly grasp stock investment, but expressed confidence the “younger generation can learn faster.”
Cultural openness. The savvy senior citizen also believes that while Richmond is certainly a diverse community, sometimes the various groups within its cultural fabric tend to separate rather than blend. LaBat thinks this can be a huge missed opportunity in terms of fostering a more global worldview in our children.
“Kids today need to become more worldly, need to stand on more than one continent from a cultural perspective,” she says. She mentions that attending an international school and playing on a local soccer team of mainly Latino children made a huge impact on her grandson Wesley growing up with a broadened perspective on various cultures and heritages other than his own.
To that end, LaBat praised For Richmond’s programs geared at expanding young minds—such as the L.A. for a Day field trips done in concert with JetSuiteX—that transport local teens to SoCal for new experiences.
Innovation inspiration. With technology and a ‘gig’ economy changing the financial landscape and workforce dynamic, LaBat says it’s crucial that young people learn to innovate and not put all their eggs in one basket in terms of relying on one job or career.
“I absolutely think they should go to school,” she emphasizes. “But they also need to think beyond just what the school is telling them. They need to be programmed to think outside the box.”
And she believes that creative skill can be greatly bolstered by young people learning technology, familiarizing themselves with the basics of capitalism and investment, and embracing other cultures.
While the Berkeley Global Campus project that would potentially boost Richmond’s diverse worldview to even greater heights is on hold, LaBat expects the return of mainstream ferry service next year to significantly invigorate the city’s tech industry. And that local students need to be ready to embrace those opportunities as well.
“We need to prepare our kids for these new opportunities,” she adds. “I just don’t want to see Richmond children falling through the cracks.”