Ah, GradNation, where do I start? It was awesome! The event was dedicated to discussing how Tampa plans to reach a high school graduation rate of 90% by 2020. Seeing those kids take charge of their educational destinies, and for them to be as passionate as they are to make that possible for as many other students as possible was a wonderful thing. I attended the Mentoring Matters group and the Hillsborough Excite! group, where couple mentors and mentees talked about their experiences and the impact that mentoring has had and can have on students, as well as the different things that can be done to help students be all they can be. There was a collaboration between students and administration and a general sense of “we’re all in this together” throughout the program that was great to see. I could see these students being leaders in their fields of expertise and schools. It is important for students to be involved in the formation of educational reform, and that was what was most powerful to me. I thought it was just administration talking about their plan to raise the graduation rates. But leaving it to the students and standing behind them in support is a great strategy. I was also was given the opportunity to shadow Ms. Willis-Barnett, an AVID teacher at Blake High School. It was amazing seeing her work with the students and be so invested in their success. She equipped them with all the tools they needed to succeed and helped them break down the barriers to success, even when they were their barrier. She cares for them as though they are her children, and it was great shadowing her.