By Donna Epton
After recently attending my 30th IACAC Annual Conference, I reflected on some of the changes to our association. We have always provided exceptional professional development opportunities for those in the profession, which has improved our ability to serve students in the transition from high school to post secondary education. In the last few years, IACAC and its members have begun to give back directly to students.
In 2008, IACAC launched Project Reach, a project designed to financially assist a school with financial need. Project Reach was originally conceived as a fundraiser whereby IACAC members and non-members could contribute school supplies to the school in need. A local restaurant has partnered with IACAC to contribute 10% of their revenue from the Wednesday night of the conference. In 2013, a 5K Run/Walk was added to this fund raiser and in 2014, the IACAC Executive Board decided to offset some of the expenses for the 5K so more money could go directly to the school. In 2014, due to the large number of nominated schools, two were chosen to be recipients of Project Reach. Washington High School was also a financial benefactor of the generosity of our membership when they experienced a devastating tornado in the fall of 2013.
In 2010, the inaugural Camp College was held at Bradley University. Camp College’s mission is to reach and serve nontraditional, underserved and underrepresented students, and equip them with the knowledge needed to successfully navigate the college selection and admission process. A large majority of students are first-generation college students without any immediate family member’s experience to use as a model. This program is provided at no cost to the students due to the generous support approved by the IACAC Executive Board and other sponsors.
2012 brought along the inception of the IACAC Scholarship. Originally designed to provide one student with a $1,000 scholarship, it quickly grew to five $1,000 scholarships, thanks to the decision by the IACAC Executive Board to provide funding to this level. Again, IACAC is giving back directly to deserving students.
In 2013, the first Young Men’s Academy, now called Motivate Me, was initiated. Motivate Me is a one-day conference for Chicago area high school males. The conference focuses on empowering students to achieve academic success and pursue higher education. The day features workshops and a keynote speaker, all led by adult men who have used their education to achieve personally and professionally. This too, is free to students, thanks to the approval of the IACAC Executive Board to provide funding for this program, along with other sponsors.
All of these programs have been created since 2008 and are directly helping high schools and their students. When members inquire about the use of their membership dues, IACAC can proudly point to these initiatives.
An additional way IACAC gives back was brought to my attention this year at the IACAC Annual Conference. As the Event Coordinator for the association, I have had the privilege of working for many years with the staff at the Westin Hotel. Some of the banquet servers and housekeeping staff have worked at the Westin for more than 30 years. This year a bartender and cashier thanked me for continuing to have our conference at the hotel. They were so grateful that our conference is held annually at the Westin as it provides them with three long days of work, which helps put food on their table and a roof over their heads. We all know the hotel is a business and makes money from our conference, but I was so grateful to be reminded of the people we help by coming together for professional development.
I am so proud to be part of IACAC and all that we do, not only for our membership but directly for students we serve.