Thanks to a recent multi-million-dollar donation from a Goleta couple, Santa Barbara will be home to a new school dedicated to training local college students in the conservative politics of former President Ronald Reagan by summer 2006.
Robert and Jean Svoboda presented the $2.5 million donation on Monday, Oct. 18 to the Young America’s Foundation, a program encouraging youth involvement in the conservative political movement. The money will be used to develop the Reagan Ranch Leadership Academy, a summer program dedicated to teaching leadership skills based on Reagan’s ideology to college students, said Andrew Coffin, communications director for the Young America’s Foundation.
“The academy is designed to be a boot camp for rising leaders,” Coffin said.
The Leadership Academy is currently under construction at the Reagan Ranch headquarters at 217 State St. near the Santa Barbara train station downtown, Coffin said, and is set to open next summer. Reagan Ranch is an organization dedicated to preserving and promoting Reagan’s political ideals in the Santa Barbara area.
The school will offer 28-day sessions featuring classes on subjects including philosophy, the core values of Western civilization, law and government, United States history and economic history and theory. Coffin said enrollment fees for the school are heavily subsidized by scholarships, but there will still be some costs for students who want to attend.
“The goal of the school is to create leaders in the mold of Ronald Reagan,” Coffin said.
Robert Svoboda said he donated the money because he wants to help students think and communicate like leaders.
“The academy is meant [for] helping grow young leaders in whatever profession they choose, whether it be lawyer or doctor,” Svoboda said.
UCSB Campus Democrats President Ben Sheldon-Tarzynski said he thinks the conservative political movement already has enough institutions like the Reagan Ranch Academy.
“There’s a thousand conservative think tanks and they have all the funding,” Sheldon-Tarzynski said.
Sheldon-Tarzynski said UCSB is already home to a chapter of the Roosevelt Institute, a national think tank. He said he thinks students should check out the Roosevelt Institute, which is run entirely by students, because he is worried the Reagan Ranch Academy will just be a vehicle to pass on Reagan’s political views to future generations.
“It’s bad because in the Reagan Revolution, members of cabinet said they wanted the government so small they could drown it in a bathtub,” Sheldon-Tarzynski said.
UCSB College Republicans President Sally Marois, a third-year law & society and political science major, said the academy will be beneficial to students because it will force students to think critically about their conservative beliefs.
“The Academy is a really challenging organization that will challenge not only the beliefs of the conservative party, but also the values of future leaders of the United States,” Marois said.