Hundreds attend college go-on conference in Boise

Nearly 500 educators from across the West are gathering in Boise this week to help students go on to college.

GEAR UP conference
Educators listen to Monday’s keynote speaker during the GEAR Up West conference in Boise.

Teachers, counselors, higher education professionals and administrators from Idaho, Oregon, Nevada, Arizona, Montana, Utah, California, Wyoming and Washington are participating in the ninth-annual GEAR UP West conference hosted by the Idaho State Department of Education.

During the event, educators get a chance to network with colleagues from other states, listen to national speakers and participate in small-group breakout sessions delving into a variety of topics from STEM initiatives in North Idaho, to the college application and financial aid processes and innovative programs launched in rural districts.

Carol Roberts, the GEAR Up site coordinator at Kellogg High and middle school, said she enjoys working with counselors and educators from other areas who often share tips and programs they have successfully used to encourage students to continue their education.

“I just come away with so many great ideas,” Roberts said. “People are so willing to upload curriculum and we can pull from their ideas so we don’t have to reinvent things all the time. It’s learning the best practices among everything that is going on.”

During the three-day conference, Roberts and Stephanie Hoffman led a presentation detailing how they launched a regional STEM expo in North Idaho that connected students with local adults working within the science, technology, math and engineering fields.

Their conference presentation was geared toward helping educators in other areas tap into existing community resources to organize similar events for students.

State officials at this week’s event said the value of the conference was getting people together to share ideas for making positive changes in students’ lives.

“The challenge in having a goal like the 60 percent (college go-on) goal is that in complex systems there is not one lever you can pull to help you reach your goals,” said Matt McCarter, the State Department of Education’s director of student engagement / career and technical readiness. “It takes representatives from all aspects of the system to be on the same page.

“(Collaboration) can broaden your network and is a good place to expand the lifelines you have,” McCarter continued. “If you’ve got a problem or an issue… you can call people who have been there and done it. When you serve kids and families, you need all the lifelines you can get.”

The conference runs through Tuesday at the Boise Centre on the Grove. Tuesday’s luncheon is scheduled to include a keynote address from Borah High counselor Josh Richie.