BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – Current Iowa governor, and newly nominated Ambassador to China, Terry Branstad paid a visit to the Elliott Test Kitchen this morning and saw first-hand how the program is helping improve ACT performance for local students.
Kumar Wickramasingha, the facilities creator and owner, was able to seal the invitation as part of the Governor’s 99-county sweep, with visits in Lee County today.
“Well I was informed that this Elliott Test Kitchen was a great program that was helping kids and helping students in FM and I wanted to see it personally,” Branstad said this morning.
Wickramasingha welcomed the Governor and, after introductions to those in attendance, showed a video presentation of how the test kitchen came to be and how important education is in Wickramasingha’s home country of Sri Lanka. A slide showed an auditorium full of students doing ACT prep and then a following slide of a full testing session at the Test Kitchen.
“I think it’s great. I thought it was pretty interesting that (he) showed the picture of Sri Lanka,” Branstad said. “And they’re doing it in other countries, and in China, education is very important there.”
“I think we’ve been too complacent sometimes here in the U.S. and in Iowa because we’ve historically had a very good education system. But we’re competing in a world economy and it’s important our students get the best education they can. And we have this Future Ready Iowa goal of having 70% of Iowa students and workers have education and training beyond high school by 2025.”
“Here we have a great opportunity to see something interesting and unique.”
Wickramasingha said it was a wonderful lunch and opportunity.
“I think it was a great honor, not only for the test kitchen, but for the students to able to spend time with Iowa’s longest governor. But also for his support. I hope people see this and see what we’re doing and come and support us,” Wickramasingha said after the event.
Branstad pointed to the obstacles Wickramasingha had to overcome in coming to America and starting a program like this.
“It wasn’t easy and people didn’t initially accept it, but y0u’ve gained support and you’ve been able to get the word out. When the governor comes that kind of helps, too,” Branstad said.
He indicated since his nomination as Ambassador of China, he hasn’t had the opportunity to speak with Chinese President Xi Jinping, but is hearing some good feedback.
“That is what president-elect (Donald) Trump saw, that I have a unique relationship in China. Now it’s not going to be an easy job by any means because we have some significant differences in policy. So I hope I can be an effective communicator,” Branstad said.
An updated version of this story will appear in Friday’s pdf version of the Pen City Current.