2022 Rural College Access and Success Summit Highlights

Since 2018, the Rural College Access and Success Summit has brought together teachers, principals, superintendents, higher education leaders, legislators, and non-profit leaders to share ideas and strategies for ensuring that rural youth have the opportunity to successfully transition from high school to college and career. 2022 marked our return to an in-person gathering after a two-year hiatus and the energy in the room was phenomenal thanks to inspiring keynote speeches from country recording artist and foster care advocate Jimmy Wayne, coach Raul Mendoza, social justice storyteller Sara Eagle Heart, and Geoffrey Canada, founder of the Harlem Children’s Zone

Attendees also heard from a panel of young people (Carly Fitz, Oliver Borchers-Williams and Hosea Born) who have returned to rural communities after graduating from college to serve as American Connection Corps Fellows. Through the fellowship, they lead efforts to promote broadband accessibility. During the panel discussion, each shared their learnings from the pandemic year and offered their thoughts and hopes for the places where they live.  A clear theme of that conversation was the importance of creating space for young people to have a voice and impact. In Hosea Born’s words, “if we’re reaching and working towards the goal of sustaining rural communities and keeping young people there, we may have to start making sacrifices ourselves. We may have to start giving up some power and some control ourselves and start sharing that and creating opportunities for youth and young people to lead in rural communities.”

In breakout sessions, keynotes and conversations throughout the day, the impact of COVID-19 and the opportunity to embrace and drive systems change was a consistent touchstone from discussion of how schools learned new ways to connect with students during pandemic closures to presentations explaining how existing programs — such as AmeriCorps and Full-Service Community Schools — can be leveraged to meet the needs of students in rural communities as they return to school. 

The following provides a selection of the content shared at the Summit. 

We hope you will be able to join us in person at the 2023 Rural Summit, which will be held in Charlotte, North Carolina. Details will be available in the fall of 2022.

Full-Service Community Schools

A team from Partners for Rural Impact argued that we must fundamentally reimagine schools to address the challenges of persistent poverty.  Core to that reimagining is the rural Full-Service Community Schools model they have developed.

They addressed how to leverage funds that will be available thanks to a $410 million increase in federal funding. 

State and Federal Policy

MorraLee Keller, Senior Director of Strategic Programming, and Raymond AlQaisi, Senior Manager of Policy and Advocacy, from the National College Attainment Network (NCAN) addressed Policy & Practice Priorities for College Access in their session. They provided information about doubling the Pell grant, FAFSA completion, data, tracking and plans to simplify enrollment.


Dr. Melissa Sadorf, John White and Sean Rickert presented The Future of Rural Schools & Communities: Policy, Innovation, and Growth exploring how current federal funding is creating new opportunities for rural schools including the possibility of expanding access to mental health providers and counselors. They also explored how rural communities are reaching out to workers to demonstrate the benefits of living and working in a rural community.


MorraLee Keller, Senior Director of Strategic Programming, and Raymond AlQaisi, Senior Manager of Policy and Advocacy, from the National College Attainment Network (NCAN) addressed Policy & Practice Priorities for College Access in their session. They provided information about doubling the Pell grant, FAFSA completion, data, tracking and plans to simplify enrollment.

Blending Programs

Aarron Dupuis, community relation coordinator, and, chief strategy officer, from Campus Compact for New Hampshire presented AmeriCorps and GEAR UP: A match made in Heaven

They shared the three models for incorporating AmeriCorps to support the work of GEAR UP in schools.

Family Engagement

Rochelle Garrett, director of integrated strategies, and Grace McKenzie, associate director of family partnerships, from Partners for Rural Impact shared best practices for establishing trust between families and school systems. Based on more than 20 years of experience, they offered guidance on six key topics: integrity: competence, respect, personal regard, consistency, and openness.

Past RCASS Highlights

Summit Highlights

Authors Silas House and Neela Vaswani will discuss their widely acclaimed young adult novel, which follows the pen pal friendship of two 11-year-olds: one living in rural Kentucky and the other in New York City after emigrating from India. In a series of letters, they tell each other about their family‚Äôs struggles with environmental devastation, discrimination and education. In the process, they illuminate differences in race, region, religion, gender and much more.

Social change advocate and author Paul Shoemaker will lead a conversation about building local leaders, leaders who are positioned to address hard problems because they activate five vital traits. Shoemaker will be joined by Cecilia Gutierrez and Dreama Gentry, two of the leaders, who he calls Rebuilders, featured in his most recent book. The conversation will explore how everyone who acts as a positive force in their community can be a Rebuilder.

Change agent Aminata Cairo will lead the audience on a journey of exploration by taking an honest look at what it takes to create equitable and inclusive communities. She will explore why embracing diversity and inclusion can seem like matter-of-fact endeavors to some and like insurmountable challenges to others. The exploration will move towards a better understanding of what is truly required of us to create environments where all stories are valid and all people can thrive.