a speaker at the Worcester GradNation Community Summit

Community Gathers for the 100th and Final GradNation Summit

March 21, 2017
By: Guest Contributor

Students, educators, community officials, business leaders, educators, parents, and youth convened at the Alden Memorial auditorium on the Worcester Polytechnic Institute campus on Friday, March 17 for the 100th and final GradNation Community Summit, held fittingly in Worcester, a gateway city and thriving microcosm of American diversity.

Kicking off with a cultural performance by area high school students, opening remarks, and a video from America’s Promise Alliance, the keynote was then co-presented by Margaret Burns a researcher in bilingual and multicultural education, and Leigh Patel, a writer, educator, and sociologist. Both presenters shared their passion and concern for the current approach to bilingual students, their challenges, and overarching cultural attitudes about the intersection of race, education, and language.

As Worcester Public Schools develops its strategic plan for the future, the community conversation panel moderated by Jennifer Davis Carey, executive director of the Worcester Education Collaborative and Timothy McGourthy, executive director of the Worcester Regional Research Bureau, led the distinguished panelists, including Eric Batista, chief of operations and project management for the city Of Worcester; Maureen Binienda, superintendent of the Worcester Public Schools; Guillermo Ivegui, senior business analyst for MAPFRE Insurance; and Francy Magee, dean of students at Clark University, through a robust discussion of the issues and challenges facing all who contribute to the preparation and success of our region’s students, and especially those for whom English is a second language.

Breakout sessions focused on defining pathways to excellence through panel discussions and activities. Students from North High School in Worcester capped off the breakout sessions with a bilingual musical performance.

Worcester State University President Barry Maloney offered remarks that widened the conversation to the statewide level and provided a transition to youth presentations from Sociedad Latina, Youth Civics Union, and African Community Education. A panel discussion featured Nyal Fuentes of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education; Mary Jo Marion, assistant vice president of urban affairs and executive director of the Latino Education Institute at Worcester State University; Bertha Elena Rojas, M.Ed., manager of English language learners at Worcester Public Schools; and Anna O’Connor, senior program manager of Pathways to Prosperity, Jobs for the Future. The panelists shared thoughts on how best to support youth in developing skills that can lead to success in higher education, careers, and civic engagement with their communities.

The well-attended event concluded with a youth presentation by the Southeast Asian Coalition and a closing by Carlos Odria, noted musicologist and guitarist.

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