Eastern delegation attends 2017 NCCEP/GEAR UP Annual Conference in San Francisco


WILBURTON, OK (Aug. 1, 2017) – Twenty-eight students, chaperones, Eastern staff and GEAR UP team members recently attended the 2017 NCCEP/GEAR UP Annual Conference in San Francisco, CA. The group spent three days touring the University of California, Santa Cruz; Stanford; the University of California, Berkeley; and the University of San Francisco, as well as area historical sites.

As the conference activities began, the eight students attended the first session of the Youth Leadership Summit (YLS), chaperones attended a “Chaperone Orientation” and members of the GEAR UP team attended “Connecting to the Big Picture: An Orientation to GEAR UP” presented by National Council for Community and Education Partnerships (NCCEP) Vice President for Government Relations Alex Cough.

The opening session of the conference began with NCCEP President and CEO Ranjit Sidhu welcoming more than 1,700 GEAR UP professionals from around the nation. Keynote speaker for the morning plenary session was Hill Harper, an award-winning actor, best-selling author, and philanthropist. Harper starred on the hit CBS drama CSI: NY, HLN’s How It Really Happened with Hill Harper, and Showtime’s award-winning series Homeland. Harper campaigned “The Future Demands Champions.”

Following the opening session, the eight student members returned to the YLS, a program providing a high–quality, national–level interactive training experience and peer–to–peer learning opportunity for 9th–12th grade high school students who are currently participating in GEAR UP programs.

Chaperones for the YLS students attended the Parent Leadership Institute (PLI). The PLI was designed to cultivate a group of parents and family leaders with a greater capacity to promote positive change in their children, school and community, and to move forward an agenda that centers on making college possible for all students.

Over the next three days, members of the GEAR UP team chose from 134 workshop sessions designed to help practitioners to excel, prove, and mobilize. Plenary session speakers included Senior Human Rights Advisor at the United Nations Chris Mburu who shared “The Future Demands Action.” Mburu, a graduate of Harvard Law School, is an international human rights lawyer from Kenya. “The Future Demands Career Readiness” was the topic for a panel of gentlemen—Art Bilger, CEO and Founder, Working Nation; Alonzo Cantu, Community Developer; Robert King, President, Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education; and Michael Matsuda, Superintendent of Schools, Anaheim Union High School District. Sara Goldrick-Rab, Professor of Higher Education Policy & Sociology at Temple University, and Founder of the Wisconsin HOPE Lab was the final plenary speaker addressing “The Future Demands Change.” Goldrick-Rab is the author of Paying the Price: College Costs, Financial Aid, and the Betrayal of the American Dream.
GEAR UP Education Coordinators Rachel Ranallo, Dara Self and Natalie Kennedy presented “Creative Curriculum for Student Engagement.” Educators learned different techniques and activities to engage students during monthly meetings. Participants left with tools for helping students achieve comprehension with various learning styles.

The highlight of the conference was the presentation by the NCCEP Youth Leadership Summit participants. Tears and laughter filled the room as students talked about how GEAR UP has affected their lives.

Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) is a federal initiative to increase the number of low–income students who enter and successfully transition into postsecondary education. Eastern will receive $12,625,000 over seven years to serve current tenth and eleventh grade students throughout high school graduation and college admission.

Front Row: Jaden Parsons, Noah Turner, Kaitlyn Jones, Christina Martin, Brayden McKelvey, Jayton Gideon, Hailey Mendoza and Miguel Medrano. Second Row: Linda Morgan, Helen Scott, Natalie Kennedy, Rachael Ranallo, Sherry Suratt, Shawna Smith, Tasia Brand, Kelly Crabtree and Elizabeth Suarez. Back Row: Sherri Parsons, Dr. Steve Smith, Dara Self, LaDonna Howell, Michelle Birchfield, Preston Rowland, John Spiegel, Brianna Brassfield, Tara Stevens, LaDonna Baldwin and Leigh Ann McKelvey.

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