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Here We Grow Again

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All I ever wanted to do as a kid was grow up! Adult freedom to go where I wanted, do what I wanted, and have no one to answer to was a huge desire of mine. I sought this independence a little too early, and like most young adults,  I fell flat on my face one too many times as I journeyed through early adulthood.

This year will mark my 20th high school reunion. It’s hard to believe it was that long ago,  but as I look back and reflect over each moment in the past 20 years I can’t help but think of all the steps that it took to make me who I am today. Personal growth can sometimes be a difficult journey to measure, and often we don’t see our growth until well into the distant future (like 20 years later!). After high school, I set out to be an elementary school teacher, and today, despite not attaining a teaching credential, I realized my passion for nurturing a growth mindset through education is not far off from what I set out to achieve 20 years ago.

GEAR UP, a federal grant program is focused on growth! Growth of communities, growth of educators, growth of students and their families, and growth within the educational system which in turn fosters this growth among all the aforementioned stakeholders. My role in GEAR UP started nearly six years ago. I was a current stay at home mom, looking to reenter the workforce. I thought I was just taking on a part time job doing data work from home. What I wasn’t expecting was a community of mentors who would push me to grow, support through personal and professional challenges, and a stepping stone back to the passion of education that I had once upon a time desired as a young adult. I am so excited to share that my role with Xcalibur is shifting! As of January, I have accepted a position of Evaluation Specialist. This shift will continue to foster my passion for encouraging the growth of GEAR UP professionals through evaluative practices.

In addition to my growth within Xcalibur, Xcalibur itself is growing! We are pleased to announce that with my shift into evaluation work, we have brought on board a new Data Specialist to support clients with our data management system SCRIBE. Michelle Johnson, no novice to GEAR UP, worked with the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission and GEAR UP grant. Michelle comes with 20 years of experience in education, advocacy, data, and research. We are very excited to have Michelle join our team as we celebrate the growth of our Xcalibur Evaluation Team!

Xcalibur Team Retreat ~ 2024