EmpowerED & TransformED Series: Navigating College and Career Readiness

Welcome to the EmpowerED & TransformED Series: Navigating College and Career Readiness! This two-part series is designed to provide a comprehensive exploration of best practices and innovative approaches in preparing students for success in K-12 education and beyond.

Featured Presenters


Jason Callahan
Assistant Secretary of Student Pathways and Opportunities,
Indiana Department of Education

Michelle Ashcraft
Chief Program Officer,
Indiana Commission for Higher Education

Who should attend?

To maximize the benefits of this series we recommend team attendance. Teams could include a building principal, school counselors, and teacher leaders. 



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What to Expect

Part 1: December 8, 2023

Join us for a dynamic day of learning at the EmpowerED and TransformED Conference on College and Career Readiness! College and career readiness (CCR) is an Indiana educational focus.  Part 1 of this series will include:

  • The latest CCR updates from both the Indiana Department of Education and the Indiana Commission for Higher Education.  
  • Presentations from school districts implementing comprehensive CCR concepts.
  • The latest Indiana talent demand data.
  • A presentation on an innovative approach using RIASEC that helps students better understand their aspirations, activities, skills, and interests and how that approach positively impacts school culture and increases academic and career relevancy for students.
  • An update on Counselor Connect Career Counseling Supports.
  • An opportunity to network with colleagues and experts. 

Together, we’ll explore innovative strategies, share needs and wonders, and generate actionable insights to enhance College and Career Readiness initiatives in our schools and districts. Ideas and information from this first day of the series will lead into Part 2 in the spring of 2024.

Daily Agenda for December 8, 2023

8:30 – 9:00 AM –  Registration

  • Registration and distribution of conference materials

9:00 – 10:00 AM – Welcome and The State Perspective

  • Mr. Jason Callahan – Assistant Secretary of Education – IDOE
  • Dr. Michelle Ashcraft – Associate Commissioner – Commission for Higher Education

10:00 – 11:00 AM – Comprehensive CCR School District Best Practices

  • Ms. Shenita Bolton – Executive Director of College and Career Readiness – Fort Wayne Community Schools
    FWCS has embarked on a comprehensive PK-12 college and career readiness journey working in partnership with Ford Next Generation Learning (NGL) and over 200 community stakeholders.  A portrait of a learner/graduate and a master plan has been developed and, as a result, FWCS has been designated as a Ford NGL community.  All district students will benefit from the work with portrait skills to be embedded in the curriculum and culture of the district, and students experiencing strategic career exploration, engagement, and experiences in specific career pathways determined by regional talent demand.   
  • Ms. Lori Heuer – Talent Development Director – Whitley County Consolidated Schools
    Creating intentional College & Career exploration experiences throughout K-8 can help students make informed decisions about high school CTE academies, NLPS Programs of Study, exploration experiences and beyond. Our district has created a team of Employability Skills Coaches to help create essential experiences for all students K-12, incorporating Employability Standards and work ethic qualities. These experiences help students become aware of career opportunities and learn about possible next steps. Students also gain transferable employability skills to apply to whichever path they choose. We have involved our community in determining key work ethic skills to focus our experiences, and have integrated these skills and attributes into our Portrait of a Graduate. This Portrait of a Graduate now guides all of our college and career exploration, including our Essential Experiences for each grade level K-12. Exploration experiences as early as Pre-K are made possible through partnerships with our community. Our College & Career Experience Continuum guarantees intentional experiences for our students to help them make educated choices about their education and their future.  

11:00 – 11:30 AM – Conference Announcements and Icebreaker activity: “Speed Networking” to meet fellow participants

11:30 – 12:15 PM – Networking & Lunch Break (Sponsored by Beable)

  • Lunch and networking opportunity for participants to connect and share insights
  • Opportunity for participants to reflect on the morning sessions

12:15 – 1:45 PM – CCR Best Practices

  • Dr. George Philhower – Superintendent – Eastern Hancock
    In this 30-minute session, we will explore the student-centered, career-focused work happening at Eastern Hancock. Topics will include: -A Work-Based Learning Program, which currently engages 25% of juniors and seniors in real-world work experiences -Career exploration in grades K-8 -Early work to bring a “Profile of a Graduate” to life.
  • Mr. Aaron Black – Superintendent – Randolph Eastern
    “Workforce Wednesday” at Randolph Eastern is aimed at empowering students through project-based experiences. In this session, we will explain the hands-on activities that hone essential employability skills for our students. Whether it’s collaborating on innovative projects, solving real-world problems, or engaging with industry experts, students gain invaluable insights into the dynamics of the workforce. Designed for students passionate about turning their curiosity into expertise, and to create opportunities to explore a variety of career paths and develop competencies crucial for future success.
  • Ms. Emily Tracy – Superintendent – Brown County Schools
    The State of Indiana has identified communication and collaboration as one of the top 5 characteristics that all students should leave K-12 with and arguably the most impactful way to share who you are and what you care about. It can teach you how to communicate with others effectively, articulate your ideas clearly, and speak with confidence. Brown County Schools, inspired by one of the most innovative public school districts in the nation, Cajon Valley Union School district, is making TEDucation come alive in southern Indiana. As the first public K-12 school district in Indiana, Brown County Schools is providing a platform for students to share their ideas worth spreading across a global audience. This session will highlight how we brought TED talks to our K-12 students and how they are getting the opportunity to articulate their strengths, interests and values and how it is helping them discover not only who they are, but what they aspire to be the Monday morning after graduation. Learn the three tiers of presentation literacy and how to bring a TEDucation to your classroom, school or district.

1:45 – 2:00 PM – Afternoon Break

2:00 – 2:30 PM – Counselor Connect Career Counseling Support

  • Amanda Culhan – Counselor Connect Coordinator
  • Sam Vidal – CIESC School Counseling Professional Learning Specialist
    Counselor Connect is a thriving network that supports student service professionals across the state and provides quality learning opportunities. The Counselor Connect Coordinator and School Counseling Specialist will share how they are using a grant to impact student outcomes and specifically how they are furthering a systemic, comprehensive approach to college and career readiness.

2:30 – 3:15 PM – Networking

3:15 – 3:30 PM – Closing Remarks and Feedback

  • Summary of key takeaways 
  • Distribution of resources and materials
  • Participant feedback and evaluation forms

Part 2: Spring 2024 (Registration coming soon)

Building on the insights gathered in Part 1, Part 2 of the EmpowerED and TransformED Conference series will feature a diverse range of workshops, panel discussions, and keynote presentations. Dive deeper into the topics that matter most to you, and gain practical strategies for implementation in your educational setting. This conference is designed to empower educators, administrators, counselors, and stakeholders with the tools and knowledge needed to guide students towards a brighter future.

Register to attend!


3500 Depauw Blvd
Pyramid 2, Floor 2
Indianapolis, IN 46268

Multiple Hotels and Lodging venues located nearby.

Multiple food and entertainment venues located nearby.


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