As thousands of students and teachers begin a new school year, the New Albany Community Foundation remains committed to promoting a love of lifelong learning with those of all ages.

There is no shortage of articles that espouse the benefits of "meaningful learning" over rote memorization.

Rote learning relies on memory based largely on repetition.

Meaningful learning, on the other hand, is based on engagement with the content, perhaps applied to different scenarios. It encourages thought, questions, interest and ideas.

The inspiration for the community foundation's Jefferson Series and its student lectures came from David McCullough's visit to New Albany in 2002.

McCullough helped the foundation raise more than $1 million for the new branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library and its book collections.

But perhaps equally impactful was the opportunity students had to hear McCullough discuss his new book, "John Adams." The book would earn McCullough his second Pulitzer Prize.

McCullough so mesmerized students with insightful accounts of the American Revolution and the people who participated in it that the students were inspired to learn more.

They were not simply memorizing facts to pass a history test. They were inspired to learn because McCullough made the history compelling and relevant, much in the same manner that the "Hamilton" musical has inspired a new generation.

Curiosity is the foundation of real, authentic learning.

Foundation leaders wanted to make these kinds of opportunities available to the entire New Albany community and everyone who lives here. They wanted students, their parents, grandparents and everyone engaged in learning, together.

Participating in a discussion with the likes of McCullough, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Jon Meacham, Condoleezza Rice or Walter Isaacson brings people together through "shared experiences" in a way that binds the community.

Since McCullough's first visit in 2002, the foundation has brought scores of compelling speakers, including historians, heads of state, authors, playwrights and artists, to New Albany.

Financial support from donors allows the foundation to make these compelling "thought leaders" accessible to students, teachers and everyone through the Jefferson Series.

Our hope is that the series inspires a community of well-informed, lifelong learners -- leaders who will shape a brighter future for the next generation.

Lynne Smith is a member of the New Albany Community Foundation board of trustees. She and her husband, Steve Smith, established an endowment fund at the foundation to support the Jefferson Series.