By Robin Harkey

The year was 1982 as I sat in my living room on my rust-brown and off-white flowered velour couch hunched over the latest Victoria Advocate devouring, along with my chocolate Jell-O Pudding Pop, a new “Hocus Focus” syndicated puzzle by Henry Boltinoff.

His tricky illustrations included two similar drawings that had you looking up and down and around and around to find the differences – six, to be exact. The first two or three answers were usually of the simple variety, pointed out rather quickly, but the latter ones represented the true nature of the word “challenge” for this 7-year-old enthusiast. My mom, a former educator, is the one who first introduced me to these puzzles. As the fantastic teacher she was, and one that was ever seeking ways to captivate her students, she used these graphics in her classroom to provide opportunities to develop patience while also improving her students’ ability to concentrate on a task at hand.

My mom had an academic strategy, purpose, and intent – I, however, did not. To me, it was just fun. Fun that was wrapped up in the simplicity – and clarity – of a black-and-white drawing.

Over the years, the nostalgia of “Hocus Focus” remains an American icon, and in many ways, this syndication holds a permanent fixture in my mind, relating fun to education. Yes, having fun is not the end-all-be-all in learning strategy, but it is a vital component! Students in VISD are no different. They need a hook to draw them in. And they need focus to persevere through the challenges that come with learning at each stage of development from the time they learn to read and write until the time they choose a life for themselves as contributing members of society through meaningful careers and the building up of healthy families that give back in service to the community.

So how can you get involved in all this “Hocus Focus”? Well, it is rather simple and entertaining, at that – as the VISD Education Foundation hosts magician Michael Carbonaro, from the hit television series “The Carbonaro Effect,” on Feb. 15, starting at 7:30 p.m. in the Victoria Fine Arts Center. This family-friendly show, with its fantastical wonderment, bridges a gap in our community as we provide quality entertainment for all ages.

But there are no tricks here. When you support the VISD Education Foundation, you are choosing to help “make magic” in the lives of students and educators as we help light the way to a brighter future. Such inspiration and innovation are found in the classroom as we award Grants for Great Ideas to educators in VISD to projects such as “Seed to Feed,” a garden-to- restaurant service program for special needs students, or “What? Composers are Still Alive?” a cross-campus musical performance, along with “Voracious Viper Readers,” a book club to connect all students to reading, to name a few.

The Foundation also provides dual credit scholarships to Victoria College for up to 400 Victoria East and Victoria West students per year (an over-$40,000 investment) and disseminates other scholarships to graduating seniors. Total funding for our programs to date exceeds $560,000, benefiting over 77,173 students.

So come be a part of the “wand”erment as we put a positively fun focus on education in VISD! Purchase your tickets today! They are disappearing fast! You can easily find them online (unlike some of Henry Boltinoff’s “Hocus Focus” differences) at or in person at the Victoria Fine Arts Center box office, Monday through Friday, from 8 to 5 p.m. Tickets start at $20, plus applicable fees.

And as a bonus, we are giving away two tickets to the event to the winner of the Victoria Advocate’s “The Element of Surprise” essay contest. Rules and restrictions apply.