Founder Will Keynote Weekend Event, Introduce High Achieving Alumni
PHILADELPHIA, Feb. 18, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Congressman Chaka Fattah (D-PA), culminating a successful week of advocacy for educational reform, wants people to meet a ground-breaking Philadelphia surgeon and other high achievers who form Exhibit One for the goal of equalizing opportunity to higher education.
Fattah will keynote the 25th Anniversary National Conference on Higher Education – which he founded as a young state legislator and where he is participated every February since 1986 – at the dinner-plenary session Saturday (Feb. 19). The Conference, which began Thursday, continues through Sunday at the Sheraton Philadelphia City Center Hotel. It will draw 1,000 college students from more than 20 states -- its broadest national reach ever.
The Congressman is spotlighting Dr. Ala Stanford Frey, the first African-American female pediatric surgeon trained entirely in the United States – who happens to be a 1991 Conference alumna and recipient of a post-graduate scholarship from that Conference to pursue her medical studies.
"Conference alumni have gone on to perform the important work of our nation as innovators, inventors, engineers, scientists, doctors and lawyers, and the Conference will continue that momentum this weekend," Fattah said. "Momentum is the motto and watchword for the Higher Education Conference. The goal is to bring together underserved students, often from modest backgrounds, to inspire and equip them to reach higher."
"There are more than 12,000 alumni of this conference who have gone on to greater things – and perhaps no one has climbed higher and faster from humble beginnings than Dr. Frey," Fattah said. "She was born in North Philadelphia in modest circumstances to a teenage mom within walking distance of Temple University Hospital. She went on to become a pioneering pediatric surgeon saving lives at that very hospital, and the head of major department at Temple Hospital."
"Dr. Frey is a living example of what our young people can do, regardless of their family or background, when they are given a chance – an equal opportunity – to pursue their studies," Fattah said.
Dr. Frey was speaking at the Conference on Friday as part of a professional panel and an Alumni Reflections program. She is currently associated with Abington Memorial Hospital and St. Christopher's Hospital for Children. Her work with child victims of the Haitian earthquake has been featured in the news media.
Fattah, a leading Congressional advocate for education reform, opportunity and financial equity, especially involving access to higher education, said, "It is inspiring to meet these young people, the leaders of tomorrow, who will lead our nation to its next generation of greatness. When we invest in educating our young people we are investing in a better America."
The Higher Education Conference culminates Fattah's busy week on behalf of educational reform and opportunity – a series of events that stitch together the theme that has informed the Congressman's work throughout his public life: equal educational opportunity from pre-school to professional school.
The Congressman traveled to Orlando, Florida, on Monday (Feb. 14) where he addressed 1,400 educators and other professionals involved in the expansion of Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs. Fattah is the architect of GEAR UP, the college readiness program that prepares low-income students, starting in sixth and seventh grade, to aim high for a college education. The program has improved the life chances for 12 million students in 49 states, with a $3 billion-plus investment, since he guided GEAR UP through Congress in 1998.
Also on Monday, President Obama unveiled his budget which calls for $323 million for GEAR UP in a time of deep spending cuts. Fattah hailed the President's level funding plan as an endorsement of GEAR UP's "proven effectiveness" to put students "on the path to realizing their dreams, and our nation's imperative of college attendance and graduation."
On Thursday, Fattah's proposal to create a federal commission to probe and propose solutions on issues of educational opportunity and equity came to fruition with the launch of the Equity and Excellence Commission by the U.S. Department of Education. Fattah proposed the Commission idea to President Obama at a meeting in February 2009. He later partnered with Rep. Michael Honda (D-CA) to enable and fund the Commission.
Fattah will be a busy participant at the Higher Education Conference. In addition to Saturday evening's keynote he will meet with STEM Fellows -- young men and women who attended earlier conferences as undergrads and are currently enrolled in advanced degree programs for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. Panels throughout the conference will include such topics as how to prepare for entrance tests and navigate the college admissions process, how to apply for financial aid, and "what the current economic crisis means to me."
SOURCE Office of Congressman Chaka Fattah