MEOA 2014-2015: A year in review
MEOA had an exciting year! We made great strides in our advocacy efforts and offered meaningful professional development opportunities. We led an amazing team of TRIO professionals and alumni on Capitol Hill at the 2015 COE Conference and held a very successful annual conference.
2015 was an important year for MEOA’s advocacy efforts! In addition to hosting a successful professional development event about government relations, MEOA followed up with a successful day of advocacy at the Massachusetts State House on May 11th. At this annual event, MEOA and members connected with State Senators and Representatives to talk about our work and the students we serve. Students and alumni from various college access and success programs, including Salem State Upward Bound, Northfield Mount Hermon Upward Bound, and Bruce Wells Scholars Upward Bound, also joined us to share their stories and experiences. Before visiting our state legislative offices, we celebrated the achievements of college access and success programs throughout the Commonwealth with members, students, alumni and distinguished guests including Senator Michael Moore, South High Community School Principal, Maureen Binienda, Associate Vice President of Academic Affairs at Worcester State University, Dr. Patricia Marshall and several outstanding TRIO Alumni speakers including, Boston College Student and UB Alumna, Jenny Cao, UMASS Boston Academic Advisor and UB Alumna, Naomi Brown Jones, and UMASS Amherst Student and ETS Alumnus, Andre Licht.
MEOA hosted two events this year. In December 2014, members attended a training at Clark University focused on suicide prevention led by Dr. Barry Feldman, University of Massachusetts Medical School. Dr. Feldman provided useful information and resources to help MEOA professionals work with students. In addition to Dr. Feldman’s presentation, MEFA representative Stephanie Wells provided detailed financial aid updates and answered tough financial aid questions.
In April of 2015, MEOA hosted a government relations event at Suffolk University. There, COE’s Kimberly Jones, Vice President Public Policy, talked with members about approaching and building relationships with our representatives. Attendees also got the opportunity to meet with Representative Russell Holmes, 6th Suffolk and Representative Paul Mark, 2nd Berkshire. Russell Holmes agreed to sponsor an amendment asking for $300,000 in state funding for MEOA programs. While the amendment did not pass, it has energized MEOA and we will continue our work at the state level.
COE Policy Seminar
Once again, Massachusetts had excellent representation at the annual Policy Seminar in Washington D.C. in March 2015. Led by MEOA State Liason, Lecia Sligh and MEOA President, Gisele Litalien, Massachusetts made new connections and built upon old ones in our efforts to secure TRIO programs and funding in the future. In addition, two staff, Elizabethe Plante, MassEdco, and Elsie Zamary Palmieri, ASA, and two TRIO Upward Bound Alumni, Lucia Alfaro and Heather Hume were awarded MEOA Scholarships to attend Policy Seminar. TRIO staff and alumni interested in applying for 2016 Policy Seminar please visit our scholarship page. Applications are due on January 8, 2016
31st Annual Conference
MEOA members gathered at the Devens Conference Center for MEOA’s 31st Annual Conference, GET INFORMED! GET EXCITED! GET CONNECTED!, on October 9th. Events kicked off with Plenary Speaker, Joan Becker, Vice Provost for Academic Support and Undergraduate Studies at UMASS Boston, who discussed ways in which our programs can build and leverage institutional and organizational support to benefit our students . In addition to workshops ranging from working with undocumented students to learning more about TRIO advocacy, participants received financial aid updates from MEFA and federal TRIO updates from COE. MEOA Board also reported out a summary of the board’s work throughout this past year. Several students were honored at our scholarship luncheon including, Northern Essex Community College students and PACE participants, Kevin DeCarvalho and Raymond Florent, Holyoke Community College student and STRIVE participant, Phurbu Gurung, Harvard student and ETS participant, Chidimma Nwodoh, and Boston University Upward Bound participant, Jiaying Zhu. Outstanding alumni, Keyona Jones and Damian Ramsey were also recognized.
2015 Outstanding Alumni
Congratulations to our Outstanding Alumni Keyona Jones and Damian Ramsey.
Keyona is an alumna of Northfield Mount Hermon Upward Bound. As a student Keyona had to overcome much hardship including familial struggles and homelessness. Nevertheless, Keyona finished high school and graduated from UMASS Amherst in 2014 with a BA in African American Studies. She is currently in her second year of a Master’s Program in African American Studies at UMASS Amherst, her thesis focused on the politics of Black Hair and the Black is Beautiful movement. She is also planning on pursuing her PhD.
Damian is an alumnus of Bruce Wells Scholars Upward Bound. Damian grew up in a loving, but unstable home. He lived in a low-income neighborhood where gang activity was not uncommon. These hardships did not prevent him from finishing high school and graduating from Brown University in 2007 with a BA in Sociology. Damian received his Master’s in Social Work from the University of Pennsylvania in 2009 and he currently serves as the Upper Dean of Students/Culture at Achievement First Bridgeport Academy.