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Recap: NACAC Conference 2015

Rachelle Bernadel is the IB’s University Relations Administrator at the IB Global Centre in Bethesda, MD, USA. She is also an IB graduate of Parkdale High School in Riverdale, Maryland.

“NACAC Members Help Students Reach Higher.” This was a resounding theme taken from this year’s 2015 National Association for College Admissions Counseling Conference in San Diego, CA. Adapted from First Lady Michelle Obama’s Reach Higher Initiative which encourages every student in the U.S. to complete education past a high school diploma, this year’s conference aimed to challenge members to make a commit to one additional activity to help improve college access for underrepresented students. Through the over 15 educational sessions dedicated to college access, the experiences of various recipients of Excellence in Education Awards and just the sheer passion I felt in many of my conversations with educators, it was clear that members are dedicated to this work. Access in education is not just an association agenda but one that transcends many organizations across the world, including the IB. Stay tuned for Marie’s post next week that addresses how the IB has taken on this call for action.

Reach Higher

This year, NACAC topped historic attendance with over 7,000 attendees joining the 3-day conference. What was especially poignant for me was that for the first time, over 1000 public school counselors were able to attend this year’s conference and receive the great professional development, networking and reignited vigor that many of them greatly needed. In an effort to help with this, Marie and I organized two sessions geared towards helping attendees gain a better understanding of the IB. Historically, at every NACAC conference, almost half of all attendees are “first-timers.” This provides an ideal platform for us to help new counselors, administrators and university professionals become better acquainted with who we are as an organization and sometimes just put a name to that face they have always been emailing!

Our first session on Friday morning was a traditional IB 101: The IB Diploma and the College Admission Process. Panelists included: Eliana El Hage from IE University, Victoria Imsirovic from University of California- Irvine, Jack Schull from Taipei European School, Nirit Cohen Vardi from San Diego High School and Marie representing IB. During this session, panelists discussed the IB curriculum at the school level, its recognition among colleges and in what ways they value this credential. However, what was most unique to me about this presentation was the inclusion of how the IB program is helping more ‘non-traditional’ student’s access high quality education. What I value most about the program is its ability to allow students to be at the center of their learning. They are a collaborative partner in the education process and thus can help develop creative ways to gain and show mastery of knowledge. All of the panelists acknowledged this power and how it was reflected in high school classrooms and then translated into a successful college experience.

NACAC IB Session

Panelists during the IB 101 Session

Towards the end of the conference, we held the IB Special Interest Group session. With our small group of IB educators, we discussed topics like the IB Student Registry, digital and in-house resources for counselors, getting involved with a local IB Association of World Schools (or starting your own) and in some ways touched on ways to deal with complex program structures; particularly to increase access for students.

NACAC 2015 was definitely one to remember, see you in Ohio next year!


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