DREAM 2016 AttendeesThe DREAM 2016 Conference was held in Atlanta, Georgia from February 23 to February 26.  This year SparkPoint at Skyline College sent three representatives, including interim Director of SparkPoint and Career Service Center at Skyline College, Chad Thompson, Program Services Coordinator, Heather Smith, and Staff Assistant, Julie Lamson.

DREAM 2016 is an annual convening of the Achieving the Dream National Reform Network – the nation’s most comprehensive non-governmental reform network for student success in higher education. This event brought together about 2,000 influential policy-makers, investors, leaders, and practitioners from over 200 colleges throughout 34 states and the District of Columbia, who are dedicated to addressing one of our nation’s most urgent challenges: helping more community college students succeed. This year’s emphasis was on “Equity and Excellence,” focusing on student success and closing the achievement gaps for historically underserved student populations.

We reflected on and shared lessons about ways to increase student success by improving data analysis, program evaluation, and student-centered decision making.  Day 1 was spent with SparkPoint’s Working Student Success Network (WSSN), which included about 100 people from 23 colleges in 4 states. Julie Lamson presented about SparkPoint’s data collection and evaluation, and we shared best practices and strategies. Day 2 was filled with various breakout session, one in particular titled, “Beyond Financial Aid: How colleges are supporting students’ financial stability and improving outcomes” where SparkPoint at Skyline College was used as an example model program.  Heather Smith was asked by the presenters to speak about SparkPoint at Skyline College during the session.  Day 3, Chad Thompson presented in a spotlight session on “Centering Financial Wellness in Student Success” in which SparkPoint was highlighted as a resource for student success and retention.  The convening was directly tied to SparkPoint’s mission of mitigating economic disparities, and increasing student success and financial well-being.

Article by Julie Lamson | Photos by Chad Thompson and Julie Lamson