By Mike Medeiros
Welcome to the Spirit of Trek, a weekly column where we identify and celebrate Gene Roddenberry’s vision by discovering how its messages have started to permeate throughout humanity’s collective consciousness by looking for it on the Internet and within popular culture. Last week, we returned to the source of all things trek through an examination of Roddenberry.com, the official website for the Roddenberry brand, by taking a look at their entertainment offerings. This week, we are going to check out the Roddenberry Foundation and how they embody the Spirit of Trek through their efforts to expand humanity’s frontiers today.
The Roddenberry Foundation seeks to inspire, create, expand, and support innovative solutions to critical global issues through science, technology, the environment, and humanitarian advances. Their scientific and technological endeavors are geared towards innovation, discovery, and advancement in cutting edge fields like space exploration, and medicine among others. Their environmental mandate seeks to protect and preserve the diverse natural resources found across our planet. The Roddenberry Foundation supports and funds education programs that encourage children to work hard and strive to reach their full potential. Finally, their fourth precept is dedicated to the development of opportunities for communities to thrive by overcoming adversity.
If you’ve been following this column for the past several weeks, you should be familiar with the Gene Roddenberry vision for humanity’s future. The Roddenberry Foundation was created in 2010 by Rod Roddenberry, Mort Kessler, and Andy Garb with the intention of building on the values that Gene established. Together they established the Foundation’s strategy for philanthropic endeavors that take us beyond the Star Trek universe by improving the community of humanity by turning science fiction into science fact.
According to their website, this relatively young foundation has been quite busy. They have thrown their support behind several organizations that are pushing the boundaries of human understanding based on their four pillars of science and technology, humanitarian advancements, education, and the environment.
For science and technology, the Roddenberry Foundation has shown their support for the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America which is dedicated to finding cures for these gastro-intestinal disorders by funding research, educating, and helping those individuals with the condition live better lives. The Foundation has also deemed the work that the UCLA Division of Life Sciences is doing with their La Kretz Center for California Conservation Science, the Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden / Herbarium, Molecular Biology Institute, the Staglin Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, and the Stunt Ranch Ecological Reserve Research Units. Then, there’s the X Prize Foundation that set up Grand Challenges in Education, Energy and Environment, Exploration, Global Development, and Life Sciences that will address humanity’s greatest needs by encouraging radical breakthroughs. The Roddenberry Foundation is a supporter of the X Prize and Qualcomm’s Medical Tricorder competition. Finally, for the science and technology pillar, The Roddenberry Foundation has donated $5 million to the Gladstone Institute for Stem Cell Research for their work in regenerative medicine by converting skin cells into pluripotent stem cells.
For the Roddenberry Foundation’s Humanitarian Advances initiative, they have shown their support of Heifer International, Water for People, and Homeboy Industries. Heifer International is an organization that seeks to help communities end hunger and poverty, while caring for our most precious resource, the Earth. This organization indirectly follows the tenants of the old adage, “Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day, but teach him to fish and he’ll eat for a lifetime,” by not simply giving underdeveloped communities food aid, but instead, granting them livestock in which to support themselves. The Water For People organization is seeking to help developing communities improve the quality of life through sustainable drinking water resources, sanitation facilities, and hygiene education programs. Finally, the Roddenberry Foundation donated $50,000 to Homeboy Industries, which helps at-risk and gang members with a variety of services, including tattoo removal; case management; education; and employment, legal, mental health, substance abuse, and domestic violence services.
The Roddenberry Foundation also promotes educational programs that promote accessibility and academic excellence while encouraging children to realize their potential. As a result, the Roddenberry Foundation has recognized Success Through the Arts Foundation as a deserving organization. The Success Through the Arts Foundation is geared towards K-12 students in South Los Angeles through performance arts as a way to foster social responsibility, self-discipline, academic achievement, and self-esteem.
Finally, Rod Roddenberry is a supporter and a founding member of the Roddenberry Dive Team that supports discovery, exploration, adventure, and education. As such, the Environment has become another focal point for the Roddenberry Foundation. Their goal is to support organizations that seek to preserve and protect the diverse environments found on Earth. They are supporting the Aquarium of the Pacific, NAUI Green Diver Initiative, the WildAid Shark Conservation Program, and the Zoological Society of San Diego. The Aquarium of the Pacific offers exhibits that seek to education visitors about ocean conservation issues. The National Association of Underwater instructors (NAUI) Green Diver Initiative was created to help individuals discover how they can make a difference through activities and education for the preservation and conservation of the alien worlds beneath our oceans. Wild Aid seeks to end the illegal wildlife trade that has brought many populations to the edge of extinction. They not only want to protect endangered species, but also seek to reduce the demand for the products created from the senseless slaughter of some of these creatures. Finally, there’s the San Diego Zoological Society. This organization puts conservation, education, and recreation at the forefront of their endeavors to aid with the reproduction, protection, and exhibition of habitats, plants, and animals.
The Roddenberry Foundation is a relatively new organization, but its roots go back almost fifty years when Gene Roddenberry first conceived of his vision for humanity’s future in Star Trek. His son, Rod Roddenberry has dedicated the Foundation’s endeavors to help make that vision a reality. The Roddenberry Foundation is one organization that is actively furthering the Spirit of Trek today, so that humanity can become a better people tomorrow.
The time has come to wrap up this week’s column. Thank you for joining me on this journey to discover how the Spirit of Trek has started to permeate throughout our culture with the hope that one day, Gene Roddenberry’s vision for humanity’s future will become a reality. If you come across something that you believe embodies the Spirit of Trek on the Internet or within popular culture, please do not hesitate to share it with me. I may discuss it in a future article. Live long and prosper.
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