Dispatches from NCAN’s 22nd Annual National Conference

October 18, 2017

By Kim Szarmach, Communications Intern

This September, 1,031 college access professionals from 49 states and Canada gathered in San Diego, CA for NCAN's 22nd annual conference. Starting with pre-conference workshops on Sunday, Sept. 10, the week was filled with insight, discussion, and inspiration stemming from a record-breaking number of proposals.

The first day of the conference, Monday, Sept. 11, kicked off with an annual Membership Meeting where NCAN staffers reported on the previous year’s work and accomplishments by the network and our members. The event was live-streamed and posted on NCAN's Facebook page (along with photos from the conference).

The Membership Meeting was followed by an opening plenary where NCAN Executive Director Kim Cook, Board of Directors member Marlene Ibsen, and Michele Siqueiros from the Campaign for College Opportunity spoke. During the plenary, Maria Carvahlo of the College Crusade of Rhode Island was awarded the 2017 College Access Practitioner Award of Excellence.

Campaign for College Opportunity President Michele Siqueiros

Later in the afternoon, Wes Moore, best-selling author and CEO of the Robin Hood Foundation, addressed and inspired a packed ballroom of NCAN conference-goers. At the same afternoon plenary, Tim Herron, President of Degrees of Change, won the Executive Leadership Award of Excellence.

Wes Moore onstage with NCAN Board Secretary Nathaniel Easley 

The evening ended with this year’s Success Gallery focused on Connecting College and Career Success, where conference attendees learned from NCAN members and partners about how they help students not only get to college, but attain a degree and find a fulfilling career.

The second day of the conference opened with the announcement of the 2017 Khanfidence Builder Award-winner, CollegeSpring. Then, Strada Education Network Vice President of Data Analytics Carlo Salerno led a panel discussion on career readiness for high school and college students.

The lunchtime plenary session featured a panel discussion on California's path to postsecondary opportunity. Speakers included Eloy Ortiz Oakley, chancellor of California Community Colleges; Jackie Khor, vice president for programs at College Futures Foundation; Lupita Cortez Alcala, executive director of California Student Aid Commission; and Fulfillment Fund CEO Maria Espinosa Booth.

On Tuesday, Augsburg University won the "To & Through" Award of Excellence, and Chicago Scholars won the College Access Organization Award of Excellence.

Dominique Jordan Turner, President and CEO of Chicago Scholars, accepted the College Access Organization Award of Excellence from Linda Thompson, Senior Vice President - Program Administration & Organizational Learning at the Helios Education Foundation

To end the night, conference-goers gathered for an outdoor screening of the documentary film Show Me Democracy, which follows the stories of seven student activists fighting for justice amidst the Ferguson uprisings in 2014. Both the filmmaker and the students are affiliated with The Scholarship Foundation of St. Louis.

The morning of Wednesday, Sept. 13, the last day of the conference, featured an awards plenary to announce the 2017 Champion of College Access, Fidel Vargas, and the winners of the Kresge Foundation FAFSA Completion Challenge. Greensboro, NC won the challenge with the highest completion rate (66%) and the biggest increase (13.76 percentage points).

The Kresge FAFSA Challenge winners accept their awards at the 2017 NCAN National Conference. From left to right: Kierstan Knaus of Get2College in Jackson, MS; Katina Fullen of I Know I Can in Columbus, OH; Jon Duffy of West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission in Charleston, WV; Rich Nickel of College Success Arizona in Phoenix, AZ; Warché Downing of Say Yes to Education Guilford in Greensboro, NC; Christine Marquandt of Laramie County Community College in Cheyenne, WY; and Paola Santana of UNITE-LA in Los Angeles, CA. 

After two final sessions, the NCAN 2017 National Conference ended, and attendees went off to their respective hometowns to continue advocating for college access and success. NCAN received lots of positive feedback on social media about the conference and is excited for next year in Pittsburgh!

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