Your Character Matters: Jim Vidak

Central Valley Today

As the Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak gets ready to retire, he is still accomplishing big things.

He recently launched a field station with UC Merced in the foothills of Tulare County. The field station is in partnership with Tulare County Office of Education’s SCICON.

“SCICON is the outdoor, education school of science and conservation. We have over 9,000 sixth graders a year for a week, and about 8,000 fifth graders that come for a day,” said SCICON Administrator, Dianne Shew.

For each and every one of those student, it’s time in nature at SCICON and their Circle J Ranch that create lasting memories — with hands on science projects that open their eyes to a world beyond their own backyards.

“Outdoor education is important to our students to learn about their environment, their surroundings, the care of wild life, and the care of vegetation,” Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak said.

Mr. Vidak once worked as Director of SCICON which is now one of the best outdoor schools in the country. Thanks to his vision and love of outdoors education, a new UC Merced field station is currently under construction in the foothills of Tulare County.

Dianne Shew adds, “This UC Merced field station could change the lives of kids, could show them through the foundation they set things they could do to make their whole family better. If they do scientific research, they could make it better for all of us. Just because of him.”

Even though the field station is still under construction, the concept is already inspiring students to pursue college and careers in environmental science. Students like Bryan Vargas — a recent graduate of Monache High School in Porterville.

Bryan was an Environmental Science Academy pathways student who recently completed his senior year project at SCICON.

“My job was to plant 40 trees to regenerate that area and have those trees for a long time,” Monache High School graduate Bryan Vargas said.

After college, Bryan says he plans to work for the National Forest Service and has his time studying at SCICON to thank.

“The fact that we have this resource outside the classroom, in the field, is an invaluable opportunity for our students to take their learning outside and make it mean something and have some longevity,” said Amanda Driver, Bryan’s former science teacher at Monache High School. 

Longevity is just the thing Mr. Vidak hopes the UC Merced/SCICON field station will bring to the area and the beautiful backdrop we call home. Even with the success of the field station, Mr. Vidak’s mission continues:

“I’d like to see every child in Tulare County get to our National Parks. I’d like to have all the children have the opportunity to become a UC Merced Bobcat.”

For Mr. Vidak, it’s always about the kids and their future. Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak shows us why Your Character Matters.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Stefanie Bainum