Education Center’s ‘Silver Star’ Celebration luncheon to feature speaker Finessa Ferrell


By Rosalind Marshall

Special to The PREVIEW

Finessa Ferrell Finessa Ferrell

The Archuleta County Education Center’s original annual fund-raiser was a fine art auction. After many other local non-profits began to hold auctions for their fund-raisers, a decision was made to host a luncheon instead.

2013 will be the Center’s 11th annual luncheon, and 25th anniversary of inception.

On Wednesday, March 20, the education center will celebrate 25 years of lifetime learning at the “Silver Star Celebration” fund-raiser luncheon. The venue is Centerpoint Church in Aspen Village, from noon-1 p.m., (doors open 11:45 a.m.) and lunch will be catered by the Alley House Grille.

The mission of the Archuleta County Education Center is to offer high-quality and cost-effective educational programs to residents of Archuleta County in collaboration with other state and community providers, including our local school district, to improve literacy and academic preparation, increase high school graduation and college-bound rates, and provide workforce training and life skills for responsible citizenship.

This year’s luncheon will feature a speaker who is an expert on new educational research. Finessa Ferrell is the director of health and wellness at the  Colorado Legacy Foundation, overseeing work in school climate change, equity, best practices in healthy schools, student behavioral health, healthy school indicators and social emotional learning. Before joining CLF, Ferrell led the National Center for School Engagement and the Colorado office of Homeless Youth Services; she worked as an evaluator for Search Institute, a policy analyst in school violence prevention for the National Conference of State Legislatures, and as a college professor. Finessa’s career has focused on the intersection of social-emotional health, academic achievement and school safety and she has a substantial background in research and policy. A graduate of the University of Oklahoma and the University of Wisconsin, Finessa holds graduate and undergraduate degrees in political science, communication arts and education policy and education administration.

“The Colorado Legacy Foundation (CLF) is an independent nonprofit working in partnership with the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) and public education stakeholders to accelerate bold improvements in students’ achievement through innovation, collaboration, and capacity building,” the CLF website states. The Foundation’s mission statement reads: “The Colorado Legacy Foundation believes that increased student achievement for all Colorado Students requires effective leaders in every school, effective educators in every classroom, and healthy and engaging environments that ignite a passion for learning in every student.” The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is a strong supporter of the Colorado Legacy Foundation, awarding many grants for educational research and development over the last several years.

Ferrell’s presentation is entitled, “The Heart-Mind Connection:  Helping Students Achieve Success.” Research is increasingly clear that learning is not a passive act, but an active one.  It is a function of the mind working in tandem with the heart and they are inextricably bound up together in that effort to take in information, apply it and demonstrate it. In fact, the developing adolescent is geared — by biological design — to be heavily influenced by emotional impulse rather than rational decision making. By looking more carefully at how the adolescent brain works, in combination with recent research on grit, academic mindsets, stress response, motivation, anxiety, and trauma, we can begin to understand the fundamental misalignment between how we traditionally have structured student learning and how students actually become engaged in learning.

Student speakers from our many programs at the education center will also have the opportunity to tell their stories. Mayzie Burton will represent the Alternative High School Diploma Program, Elena Frank will represent the ESL program, Nahtanha Rae Sell will speak for the SCCC student body, and Natalie Pentall will talk about her experience of gaining her GED.

Come and help the education center continue to offer a wide range of unduplicated educational services in Archuleta County by attending our fund-raising luncheon and perhaps becoming a sponsor. For more information, visit our website,, where you can purchase your luncheon tickets via PayPal. You may also become a sponsor of the event at levels from $100 - $500 by donating online or requesting a sponsor form from our office. Or, drop by the education center office (264-2835) on the corner of Fourth and Lewis streets. Office hours are Monday-Thursday, 8:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m., and Friday, 8:30 a.m.–1:30 p.m.