When the New Albany-Plain Local School District's environmental-science program became one of the best in the country, it served as a magnet program, serving students from 17 other districts around central Ohio.

As a result, the 60-acre nature preserve and wetlands, Rose Run Creek and the curriculum developed by New Albany instructors helped more students.

Now, the Jefferson Series and its accompanying lectures for students, which are sponsored by the New Albany Community Foundation, are attended by students and teachers from more than 20 central Ohio school districts -- and the list of participating schools continues to grow.

I like to think that this "sharing of resources and good fortune" reflects New Albany's core values.

We believe that lifelong learning is important for everyone. But equally important is making those opportunities accessible to as many students as possible.

The donors and sponsors who support the Jefferson Series are doing just that.

So why is this important?

Perhaps it was summed up for me best by a teacher who said, "You never know which student sitting in the audience who might be inspired or impacted in a life-changing way."

The teacher went on to describe the visit with former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice when she visited New Albany in 2011 for the foundation's "A Remarkable Evening."

Rice shared her life experience, growing up in the Jim Crow South in Birmingham, Alabama, where she wasn't allowed to try on a dress in a department-store dressing room.

And yet because her parents instilled in her the importance of a good education, she eventually became secretary of state, she said.

She challenged the students to "get out of their comfort zone" and try classes that perhaps aren't what they like best or with which they were not totally familiar.

Rice said she attended the University of Denver intent on becoming a concert pianist.

"At some point I realized that no matter how hard I worked, I wasn't as talented as some other students in the music program," she said.

Rice recounted that a trusted adviser recommended that she take a class on Russia and that led to a career in diplomacy.

For 16 years now, the foundation and its donors have been facilitating enriching interactions among central Ohio students and accomplished speakers.

This latest Jefferson Series will begin Sept. 13 when Dr. Sanjay Gupta, an Emmy award-winning chief medical correspondent for CNN and a neurosurgeon, visits the New Albany-Plain Local School District. Gupta's visit will be followed in the coming months by student interactions with actress and mental-health advocate Glenn Close, Harvard law professor and Bloomberg columnist Noah Feldman and CNN legal analyst and best-selling author Jeffrey Toobin.

My wife and I are proud to support the Jefferson Series and even more proud that the foundation makes these rare experiences accessible to students from across central Ohio.

Jeff Rodek is a member of the New Albany Community Foundation board of trustees.