The Iowa ACAC Inclusion, Access, and Success committee chaired by Juana Hollingsworth and Jesus Lizarraga-Estrada recently hosted another successful L.E.A.P Conference (Leading, Excelling, Academically and Professionally). The leadership conference is for underrepresented high school students in the state of Iowa. The conference this year was hosted at the Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC) Ankeny Campus on Wednesday, April 24, 2019. Last year's conference was hosted in Cedar Rapids at Mount Mercy University.

The 2019 LEAP Conference had about 45 students and chaperones in attendance, with a number of volunteers that helped ensure a smooth day! The students and chaperones primarily came from Des Moines, Fort Dodge, Ottumwa, Tama, and Hampton. The conference started with a college fair featuring 15 colleges that allowed the high school students to interact and ask questions about postsecondary education. The day then transitioned into a phenomenal keynote address from Natilie Williams. Williams is a professional speaker, a current Ph.D. student at Mizzou, college instructor, and a proud Southside Chicagoan. At 20 years old, she received her bachelor’s from Central Michigan University. At 22 years old, she received her master’s in communication from Illinois State University. Natilie graduated with both degrees without a dime of student loan debt! She currently travels the nation to inspire students to push through their circumstances to achieve their wildest dreams. Natilie’s keynote address focused on the transition between high school and college or career and how to prepare for the next level of leadership. She even assigned them homework due on Monday at 9:00am to look for scholarships!

Following the keynote address the students transitioned into breakout sessions over topics ranging from preparing for college as a first generation students, the tools needed for success, key tips for college, and how you can feel belongingness in college. We wrapped up the day with the students having the opportunity to take a walking campus tour around DMACC.

Overall, the feedback we received from the students was gratifying that they were able to provide them with tips and tools to lead to a pathway of success. They were engaged, asking questions, and acting as true leaders! We couldn’t have done it without the students and we are looking forward to next year, bigger and better!