Educational Programs


Great ideas can change the world, so we make sure our future leaders hear them. Each year, the Student Ideas Festival welcomes more than 1,000 local students from Monterey County’s middle and high schools to learn, grow and envision a brighter future. Students from two dozen schools descend upon Santa Catalina School to take part in the Festival and interact with today’s most dynamic speakers and thinkers, ensuring the best ideas today will be realized tomorrow.

For many, the Monterey Peninsula will mark their first look at the ocean, an ideal setting to expand their own horizons. The shoreline that inspired Steinbeck, Kerouac and Henry Miller holds wonder for today’s students, stoking their imaginations, engaging them on an elevated level and alleviating the stresses of today’s adolescence. Our future looks brighter during the Student Ideas Festival, as students depart with the wisdom of mentors and carry that into a brighter tomorrow.

It was determined early on that the 2020 Student Ideas Festival, in its customary in-person format, would not be possible. With every challenge comes the opportunity to reinvent. So, with the encouragement of the Monterey County Office of Education, which represents more than 80,000 Monterey County students, the Student Ideas Festival has figured out a way to expand its reach tenfold. This year we have partnered with The Great Courses and Master Class to reach more than 20,000 middle and high school students virtually.


For those students who can’t attend the Student Ideas Festival, we take the Festival to them. Now in its 10th year, Festival 2 Schools sends our distinguished authors and speakers out to Monterey County schools in under-served districts, where just 1 in 3 students in grades 6 through 11 are advanced in the English language. We’d like to change that. Our student programs continue to grow and expand. Last year, Festival 2 Schools also visited the Boys & Girls Clubs of Seaside and Salinas, because not every student can be reached in the classroom. Our speakers’ inspiring messages of focus, self-reliance and resilience in the face of daunting odds resonate with teens at risk of getting lost in the system. Reading stimulates a student’s imagination, expands their understanding of the world and prepares them for success. Our speakers’ stories of hope help students connect with the world beyond their own community.


Our greatest hopes lie with teachers. The Educator Scholarship Program has been celebrating area educators for the past 13 years, awarding thousands of scholarship passes to the Festival. Nobody knows the challenges our students face better than their teachers, who hold the power to inspire our future leaders and impart them with a lifetime of self-worth, values and goal-setting. Our teachers are true local heroes and the Educator Scholarship Program treats them as our honored guests. All weekend, we celebrate and appreciate our youth’s mentors, those instructors who devote their lives to building a better tomorrow. They open students’ eyes to new and bold ideas. They make our children believe anything is possible and instill in them a curiosity about the world, a willingness to learn and (yes!) a love of reading. Having our brightest educators present throughout the weekend helps Festival speakers reach the next generation and make a lasting impact on society.


For 13 years, the Authors and Ideas Festival has provided Monterey County students with the most remarkable mentorships. Once again, we’re pairing students with our world-class authors and speakers to bond, learn and ultimately, introduce them on stage — experiences that could inspire them for a lifetime. Sharing the stage with an astronaut, an Olympic champion or a Supreme Court Justice can facilitate a student’s own success and expose them to worlds of opportunity they may never thought possible for themselves. This year’s Festival welcomes students from public schools across Monterey County who participated in Migrant Education Region XVI’s annual Speech and Debate tournament. Our speakers, authors and leaders agree that working alongside the students is one of their favorite, and most fulfilling, parts of the weekend. Our student participants ensure that the best ideas shared over the weekend can affect change long after the lights are turned off on Sunday.