Niagara Fall-ing for EACE, the Gift That Keeps on Giving
By Ally Strang, M.Ed.
Just before my last semester of graduate school, I spoke with one of the co-chairs of the Diversity & Inclusion committee to discuss my interest in getting involved. Eventually, our conversation turned to the 2017 EACE Conference. Despite my desire to attend, I knew that it wasn’t realistic to expect to be able to do so this year. After graduating, I knew I would be leaving my two GA positions, thus losing a major source of income. I painfully admitted that I couldn’t afford it, and then she shared a magical idea: the Professional Development Grant. My outlook became cautiously optimistic, but I was also ready for a break after a hectic semester. I decided I would apply “later” and promptly forgot as I began to make holiday plans.
On Christmas Eve, I was sitting in front of the Christmas tree at my overnight job, where I work with youth in a residential setting. As I sat there, I was lost in thought until I suddenly remembered the grant. I wasn’t sure if it was too late, but I quickly pulled together my application and sent it in anyway. Perhaps it would be a Christmas miracle, I reasoned.
By the time my final semester was in full swing, the grant was far from my mind. I was so busy with my capstone e-portfolio that I could think of nothing else. However, one day when I was on my way home from my GA position, it was unseasonably warm. Despite the stress I was feeling about homework, the upcoming Career Fair, job searching, and graduation, this put me in good spirits. The traffic was terrible, so I decided to check my email before I left the parking lot. I was shocked to see an email with “Professional Development Grant” in the subject line. I held my breath as I opened it. When I learned that I had received the grant, I had to re-read the email a few more times. I was speechless. The impossible had just happened and I was going to Niagara Falls for the EACE Conference!
Before I knew it, it was June and my suitcase was packed for my 480-mile journey to Niagara Falls. The views were beautiful, there was no traffic, and my excitement made the trip fly by. When I arrived, my first order of business was a walk to the Falls. Everything until then had been surreal, but I was struck with awe as I looked over the railing. At that moment, I fully absorbed that I was actually going to begin my conference experience within 24 hours at the Newcomer’s Lunch.
The next three days were a blur. I was stunned by the generosity of the professionals I connected with and I couldn’t wait to start using the ideas I learned from the breakout sessions. The keynote with Jodi Glickman was a great fit for me and I learned specific ways to become indispensable in a new position. My favorite breakout session “So, You Want To Be A Director?” supplemented the ideas of the keynote perfectly, helping me envision my long-term path to a leadership role. In addition to clarifying strategies for my prof essional development, I learned about creating value for employer partners, best practices in assessment, and diversity initiatives. By participating in the conference’s planned networking activities, I was directly referred to several positions that weren’t even posted online yet. As a result, my job search was completely re-energized.
On top of all the great conference activities, I enjoyed fireworks over the Falls, ate delicious food, and explored the Niagara Falls area. The Professional Development Grant made it possible for me to launch my career on a high note, preparing me with connections, best practices, and positivity. My Christmas Eve application had turned into the ultimate holiday gift. I am truly grateful for the wonderful folks at EACE for helping me to have this career-changing experience. Thank you, EACE!
Ally Strang is one of the recipients of the Professional Development Grant for 2017. She used the grant to attend the 2017 EACE Conference in Niagara Falls, NY.