Bringing the Network Together: 2014 Peer Learning Conference

Thursday, May 07, 2015

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PLC keynote speaker, Bertice Berry (right), was told by a high school teacher that she was “not college material.” Fortunately, there was another teacher who believed that she was destined for more, and Bertice proved her doubters wrong.

Gateway to College National Network has taken an increasingly prominent role in bringing organizations and systems together to discuss how we can collectively better serve disengaged youth.

When we meet together, Gateway to College and our partner organizations learn from each other’s work while creating pathways that give more options for students to complete high school degrees and begin their post-secondary education. As our external work has focused on bringing stakeholders together to improve our collective impact, we have also focused on bringing together Gateway to College programs to build a community of practice and share best practices among 42 campuses across the country.

In August 2014, Gateway to College held our 10th Peer Learning Conference in Boston. The conference, with the theme of Strength in Numbers, brought together 245 Gateway to College programs and national staff, representing 36 programs from around the country. Program staff excel in helping Gateway to College students succeed, but don’t often have the opportunity to step back and discuss their work. The Peer Learning Conference provided the perfect venue to share local successes and learn from Gateway to College peers and National Network partners. Guests included partners from the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the National League of Cities. While our staff focuses on their local programs, our national partners assist in funding, strategy, and in ensuring that our work complements the vision and work of other organizations serving disengaged youth.

annual-report-quote-PLCA highlight from the conference was our keynote speaker, Bertice Berry. Like many of our students experience before coming to a Gateway to College program, Bertice was told by a high school teacher
that she was “not college material.” Fortunately, there was another teacher who believed that she was destined for more, and Bertice proved her doubters wrong. She not only graduated magna cum laude from Jacksonville University, she earned a Ph.D. in Sociology from Kent State University at the age of 26. Dr. Berry became an award-winning lecturer and entertainer, and served as host and co-executive producer of her own nationally syndicated talk show, “The Bertice Berry Show.”

As she shared with PLC attendees, Bertice believes that “when you walk with a purpose, you collide with destiny.” We believe that all of our students can walk with a purpose, and educational achievement is their destiny. For Dr. Berry, one teacher made the difference in her life. Many Gateway to College students consistently tell about how, before coming to Gateway to College, they lacked an advocate for their educational success. For most, all they need is for one person to believe in them. In Boston, 245 student advocates came together to show that our network, and our mission, is stronger than ever.

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