The Third Annual Florida College Access and Success Summit, held October 15 – 16 in Tampa, inspired and galvanized Florida leaders and educators from around the state to boost postsecondary attainment for all Florida students.  A record of 160 attendees from 20 Florida counties registered for the event, a 58 percent increase from the previous year.

“The energy in the room was electric as professionals representing K-12, higher education, business and workforce development, local and state government, nonprofit organizations and philanthropy networked and learned from each other about how to dramatically increase success for students in their communities,” said Laurie Meggesin, executive director of the Florida College Access Network.

The summit’s theme, “Partnering for College Success—The New Normal” explored how Florida’s rapidly-changing economic and demographic landscape makes improving college access and success for all students—especially students from traditionally underrepresented groups—an imperative in the 21st century.  Plenary speakers Alberto Carvalho, Superintendent of Miami-Dade Public Schools; Dr. Jim Dewey, Director of Economic Analysis at Florida Polytechnic University; Dr. Jan Ignash, Vice Chancellor of Academic and Student Affairs of the State University System of Florida Board of Governors; and Paul J. Luna, President and CEO of the Helios Education Foundation, magnetized the audience with an enlightened discussion on how Florida communities can break through siloes to remove barriers to postsecondary access and success.  Mary Chance, President of the Consortium of Florida Education Foundations, moderated the session.

The plenary panel was followed by a dynamic presentation by Ray Larsen, Vice President of Collective Impact at the Heart of Florida United Way; Niurka Ferrer, Director of Transitions Planning at Valencia College; and Wilhemina Ford, Executive Director of the YMCA of Central Florida Teen Achievers, about how leaders in the greater Orlando area formed the Central Florida College Access Network and are working together to boost college access and success the three-county region.

During the luncheon sponsored by Wells Fargo, keynotes Florida Senator John Legg, Chair of the Senate Education Committee, and Greg Darnieder, Senior Advisor to the U.S. Secretary of Education on College Access, described state and federal policies, initiatives and priorities that are poised to impact college access and success.  Kasongo Butler, Vice Chancellor of Public Policy and External Affairs at the Florida College System moderated the luncheon conversation.

Afternoon sessions focused on some terrific new resources for students and professionals alike. “Higher Education in Florida Pays: Linking Postsecondary Pathways with Economic Opportunities” introduced interactive websites that help students and families make informed decisions around career pathways: (presented by Denise Lawson, Senior Associate, College Measures); (presented by Dr. Scott Parke, Vice Chancellor for Research, Florida Department of Education Division of Florida Colleges); and the Florida Supply/Demand System portal at (presented by Duane Whitfield, Government Analyst, Florida Department of Economic Opportunity). Nicole Washington, State Policy Consultant for Lumina Foundation, moderated the discussion.  Attendees next learned about MoveED for Goal 2025, a new “LinkedIn”-style online portal through which college access and success organizations can network and connect online.  The presentation was by MoveED’s Rosa Zamora, Director of Partner Engagement, and Alayna Herr, Community Manager.

The summit concluded with an inspirational panel of five first generation college students who described their own personal struggles and how they and other students strive every day to overcome barriers to completing their educations.   Jean, Nanci, Melissa, Sasha, and Andrea held the audience spellbound and galvanized attendees to work to ensure that every student has the opportunity to succeed.

PowerPoint presentations by Summit speakers are available here.

The Third Annual Florida College Access and Success Summit was made possible thanks to the generosity of Presenting Sponsor Helios Education Foundation; Platinum Sponsors Wells Fargo, The Kresge Foundation, and University of South Florida; Premiere Sponsors The Lumina Foundation and WUSF Public Media; and Supporting Sponsors The Boeing Company and Publix Supermarkets.


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