Around the Regions, Overview of the Regional Forums
With the Western Region still awaiting its annual gathering as of this writing, five of six regional forums have completed successfully. Each forum offers its own character and flavor of hospitality, as unique as the people within the particular region.
The Southwestern Region kicked things off Jan. 30 in Frisco, Texas. Gretchen M. Bataille, president of the University of North Texas, offered the keynote address, discussing ways to help students learn, stay in school and pursue higher education in order to build strong futures as active citizens. She also expressed how important the work of the College Board is to her, as members contribute to building a better educational future for all students. A generous selection of informative afternoon sessions gave way to an evening social, where attendees enjoyed a healthy sprinkling of networking, socializing, live music and libations. In Frisco, as at the other forums, College Board President Gaston Caperton headlined a town hall meeting, explaining that history is a race between education and catastrophe and allowing attendees to ask questions after his remarks. The luncheon on day two combined awards presentations with annual meetings of the Academic, College Scholarship Service and Guidance and Admission assemblies. Following the afternoon sessions, attendees enjoyed a light reception and business card swap. The last day featured a presentation by Linda Darling-Hammond, Charles E. Ducommun Professor of Education at Stanford University, who discussed at this and other forums the challenges the United States faces in determining how to provide an excellent education to kids at a young age.
Gail Berson, dean of admission and financial aid at Wheaton College, kicked things off at the 2008 New England Regional Forum’s opening session, which was followed by a social hour and a Super Sunday Tailgate Buffet. Despite New England’s loss, attendees were enthusiastic at the Feb. 4 breakfast, where College Board President Gaston Caperton gave an address that focused on the state of education in the United States. He stressed the need to have a long-term view of education and understand that “25 years of good planning equals good education.” Morning sessions included meetings of the assemblies. At the Academic Assembly meeting it was announced that ExxonMobil would be providing funding in various states over the next six years to provide professional development to counselors. Linda Darling-Hammond gave an inspiring address, and award recipients were recognized. Walter Clark from Roxbury Community College led a session that focused on the numerous challenges undocumented students, their parents and educators face during the college application and acceptance process. Finally, David Adams spoke of establishing a pathway to ensure that students are receiving a rigorous education. This should start as early as possible to ensure that students have all of the tools they need to prepare for college.
The 2008 Southern Regional Forum was next, convening at the Westin Resort on Hilton Head Island, S.C. Guest speaker Belle Wheelan, president of the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, drew on her experiences as a faculty member, college president and Virginia’s secretary of education, as well as a mother, to remind educators that all students need attention and encouragement if we are to significantly reduce the estimated 30 percent school dropout rate. The Feb. 7 recognition luncheon celebrated the region’s educators. Following the awards, Arlene Ackerman, Christian A. Johnson Professor of Outstanding Educational Practice at Teachers College, Columbia University, promised to speak the truth as she knew it, asking what it will take for policymakers and politicians to stop experimenting and do what we know must be done. After Caperton discussed the educational challenges facing the United States, Martin Lancaster, president of the North Carolina Community College System, spoke. He affirmed that community colleges are about second chances and backed up his statement with one success story after another.
The Renaissance Chicago Hotel, nestled in the heart of downtown Chicago, was the setting for the Midwestern Regional Forum Feb. 10-12. Kati Haycock, president of The Education Trust, kicked off the welcome and opening session, offering insight into the challenges facing today’s students — from the widening achievement gap between white students and African-American and Hispanic/Latino students to the decline in American students’ performance in core subject areas as compared with their international peers. Caperton took the stage at the luncheon and town hall Q&A to relay a message of hope and optimism, citing the novel “Cry, the Beloved Country” as a prime example of how hope can help us overcome our fears, reveal the goodness in humankind and take the first steps toward improving our nation’s well-being. And again, Linda Darling-Hammond led a discussion at the closing brunch, urging attendees to unite with their K-12 and higher education counterparts — along with those who work within politics, the legal system and health care — to close the opportunity gap. “We need to join hands, because this is probably our last opportunity as a society to take the steps that are needed to reclaim our democracy,” she implored. “I think we can make that difference together.”
The 2008 Middle States Regional Forum was held Feb. 13-15 at the Sheraton Atlantic City Convention Center Hotel in Atlantic City, N.J. At the awards luncheon Feb. 14, Bob Costas 2008 award recipients Richard Lorenzo and Elizabeth Breau of St. Benedict’s Preparatory School detailed how their Newark Studies program uses current events and Newark history to connect 10th-grade students with the disciplines of English and social studies. The annual business breakfast meeting set the stage for the 2007-08 Greenhouse Grant presentations to Donald Davis, director of the Rising Stars program in Trenton, N.J., and Milagros Barrera and Daniel Rosa of the Albert Einstein International School of San Pedro Sula in Honduras. The counselor’s college fair and reception and an evening performance by the Philadelphia High School for Creative and Performing Arts String Orchestra provided much-needed time to mingle and relax.
For more detailed coverage of the five regional forums summarized above, please see the regional pages. Please look for a report on the Western Regional Forum in the March issue of Connection.