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NACAC 2016 Reflections

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.

Picture this: In one corner David Quinn, IB coordinator from Edmonds-Woodway High School in Washington State and in the other corner, me. Then in true #OneIB fashion both of us going head to head in a push up challenge (to raise awareness for combat veterans suffering from PTSD) in the middle of the exhibit hall at the 2016 National Association of College Admissions Counseling Conference a few weeks ago. Can you imagine that sight? If you can’t check out the video to see for yourself!

I bring this up to set the scene for my experience this year’s NACAC conference. Different people, with different experiences coming together to bring awareness about topics of importance. David and I were certainly not the exception, this was a prevalent theme that I saw over the four days I was in Ohio. From conversations around debunking mythologies about higher education to hearing member voices being used as a platform to convey how The Black Lives Matter Movement is seen through the lens of the counseling profession, it was beyond empowering. I even engaged with members of the ACCEPT: Admissions Community Cultivating Equity and Peace Today to learn how issues of access and equity are being discussed in the counseling community. Organizers of the group made these bracelets to giveaway at the conference. I had to grab one!


As a black millennial? The latter particularly peaked my interest. I constantly find myself navigating the line of asserting my voice and maintaining my identity in a world so resistant to difference. I can confidently say that one thing I took away from the ambiance of community at NACAC was that eagles fly with eagles and one of my favorite lines from the IB mission statement stands true: “other people, with their differences, can also be right.” So in order to amplify my voice and what I believe in, I must surround myself with others who are as passionate about causes as I am, even if we differ on the process of getting there sometimes. That is exactly what I saw in session after session, panel after panel.

For example, in a session about writing a strong college application essay, different institution types, ethnicities and positions, all came together to share strategies on ways for students to create a standout essay. Ironically, the key to a strong essay was a paralleled in how diverse the panel was. This in itself challenged the meaning of what exactly the words “strong” or “standout” really meant. There is no formula, no trick, just OWN your identity and let it be clearly communicated.

Marie and I also led two sessions with diverse panelist perspectives. The first- From Albania to Zimbabwe- Searching for Best Fit International Students and the second- Beyond Credit to Success: Translating the Value of the IB Low-Income and Underrepresented Students. In both sessions, we relied on the stories and experiences of the panelists to help communicate the messages to the audience. Again and again, through these sessions and NACAC in general, I learned that we all (students and educators) have a story to tell and we must be intentional about how it is, birthed, nurtured and delivered.

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Before I end, I cannot leave without highlighting a few achievements that I thought were pretty amazing at the conference. One of our College and University Relations Committee (CURC) Members Jonathan Burdick received the “Inclusion, Access and Success Award” for being instrumental in making post-secondary education opportunities available to historically underrepresented students.


In addition, Joan Liu one of Marie’s colleagues from International Association for College Admissions Counseling received the Rising Star Program Award for the International ACAC Scholar Mentor Program.


Such greatness in this counseling community. NACAC truly is one of a kind, see you in Boston!



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