Eastern Delegation attends GEAR UP Conference in San Francisco


WILBURTON (Aug. 5, 2015) - A delegation of 10 GEAR UP team members and the president of Eastern Oklahoma State College recently attended the Annual National Council for Community and Education Partnerships and GEAR UP Conference in San Francisco, Calif. The conference theme “Together We Rise: Excel, Prove, Mobilize” reflected the shared mission of the GEAR UP community.

At the conference a national convening of professionals, parents, students, policymakers, community and business partners, supporting GEAR UP programs and the students they serve nationwide had the opportunity to reflect on how their work is contributing to the realization of students’ dreams of college access and completion.

Five members of the Eastern delegation attended a pre-conference text messaging campaign workshop. The remainder of the team joined for a special screening of the documentary film, “Underwater Dreams,” and heard from the film’s award winning director, Mary Mazzio, and one of the original underwater robotics team members featured in the film, Lorenzo Santillan. The pre–conference activities concluded with NCCEP Vice President for Government Relations Alex Chough providing “Connecting to the Big Picture: An Orientation to GEAR UP.”

Several members of the Eastern delegation were selected to present workshops at the 2015 conference. Debbie Walters and Stacy Burmeier presented “Professional Development is NOT a Four Letter Word!” Melissa Juarez, Dara Self and LaDonna Baldwin presented “Engaging Students with Financial Literacy.” Linda Morgan teamed with Martha Trevino, the program manager from Texas A&M International University to present “Effective Strategies to Meet Your Match Requirement.” Team members attended more than 35 workshops during the conference, including post conference workshops (“Documenting the Match” and “Annual Performance Report”) presented by the U.S. Department of Education. Additional Eastern representatives were Dr. Stephen Smith, Helen Scott, Rachael Ranallo, Lori Douglas and Ron Sullivan.

Plenary speakers included Ranjit Sidhu, President and CEO of the NCCEP; The Honorable Chaka Fattah, the author of GEAR UP; James Davis, Director of GEAR UP, TRIO Talent Search, and College Access Challenge Grants Division at the Office of Postsecondary Education at the US Department of Education; Mary Mazzio, award–winning documentary film writer and director of “Underwater Dreams, and Lorenzo Santillan, a member of the 2004 Carl Hayden underwater robotics team that won the Marine Advanced Technology Education ROV Competition; Nicholas C. Donohue, President and CEO, Nellie Mae Education Foundation; and Salman Khan, Founder and Executive Director, Khan Academy.

The highlight of the conference was the presentation by the NCCEP Youth Leadership Congress participants. Students performed skits and talked about how GEAR UP has affected their lives.

Morgan was recognized by NCCEP for her three years’ of service on the GEAR UP Advisory Commission.

“The conference was very beneficial,” said first–time attendee Eastern President Dr. Stephen Smith. “The enthusiasm of the people there was incredible. Over 2000 people who make a difference in the lives of young people. This was one of the first times I have ever been where people were so attentive and involved. It was great!”

The 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.

Representing Eastern Oklahoma State College at the 2015 NCCEP/GEAR UP Annual Conference in San Francisco, CA were:

Front Row: GEAR UP Education Rachael Ranallo; GEAR UP Project Director Linda Morgan; GEAR UP Assistant Professional Development Coordinator Stacy Burmeier; GEAR UP Office Manager Helen Scott; and GEAR UP Education Coordinator Lori Douglas.

Back Row: Eastern Oklahoma State College President Dr. Stephen Smith; GEAR UP Education Coordinator Melissa Juarez; GEAR UP Professional Development Coordinator Debbie Walters; GEAR UP Education Coordinator Dara Self; GEAR UP Education Coordinator LaDonna Baldwin; and GEAR UP Education Coordinator Ron Sullivan.

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