Naviance Summer Institute (NSI) is the annual gathering of Naviance Network members. This year, NSI will be held on July 6-9 at the JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort & Spa in Tucson, Arizona. Registration is now open. For more information, and to register, visit www.naviancesummerinstitute.com.

Interesting. After hours of thinking how I would sum up the first day of the 2014 Naviance Summer Institute, “interesting” is the only word I can use to describe it. NSI 2014 was my third NSI conference, and I can't remember a time when discussion and debate around social, political, and educational issues impacting students, educators, and communities was as prevalent as it was that first day of the conference. Oh yeah, and we talked about how to use Naviance, too!

When I arrived at NSI, I spent time in the registration area going over my notes in preparation for the Urban Advisory Council panel discussion that was to occur later in the day. The registration area was packed with individuals participating in the Gallup StrengthsFinder session. From afar, it looked like a Psychic Friends Network conference. Then again, the great people from Gallup may be even better than psychics after the way they were breaking down every educators’ strengths, including mine!

I had the privilege of being a panelist for the Urban Advisory Council during one of the conference sessions. The focus was on issues facing urban districts. The common themes that came up during the discussion included finding technological resources to support schools with few resources, parent engagement, and motivating students to utilize Naviance. The discussion was honest and frank. We spoke of the need for schools to do outreach to corporations and parents for support. We realized that while we want our kids to be self-motivated, there will be times when we will have to physically guide them through the system to accomplish their tasks in planning for college, whether they liked it or not. (Don’t worry, they’ll thank you later.)

During lunch, the Urban Advisory Council had an opportunity to sit with Freedom Writer Darrius Garrett. We engaged in a deep conversation about the impact of social media on our youth, the challenges regarding mental health, and the support children need. He spoke in-depth the whole lunch until he realized he had told us everything he was going to say in his keynote! Still, his speech really hit on the theme of support that a young person needs; that sense of feeling valued and invested in and that sense of wanting love from a parent. You could hear the emotion as he spoke of his teacher, his mother, and his lovely daughters. He did an amazing job in humanizing our most challenging students who often put up the resistance front but truly yearn for support on the inside.

After lunch I sat in on the Higher Education Roundtable. There was a lot of discussion around the challenges admissions officers face on accepting students, the criteria, and the challenging forces within their own institutions. There was concern regarding the current narrative on college education and cost. On the other hand, secondary educators expressed their feelings about the challenges working with students, including what happens when they get in and don't get the right package, or get rejected even though they may have had the grades. Admissions officers have a more challenging job than most people think.

I also attended the Gallup Workshop. Wow. That is all I can say. Brandon Busteed of Gallup did one of the best jobs in utilizing data effectively and translating it for the audience to show how it impacts our students. In addition, he made a strong case for why Naviance is so important: hope. He nailed it. He presented data confirming that, when people care (when teachers care about students and administrators care about their teachers), everyone excels. And when students have hope they are engaged. Hope is a powerful thing, and when it is backed up with real tangible support and resources (i.e. Naviance), our children achieve.

Yes, that first day at NSI 2014 was interesting. I think we are hitting an evolution of the NSI conference to where the product, as important as it is, serves as a framework for the greater discussions around how we as educators, administrators, and communities invest in our children to give them support – and that thing called hope.

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