ACT Names National College and Career Readiness Award Recipients at First Annual Gala

More than 150 education and workforce thought leaders, congressional members and staff, and federal and state officials gathered May 21 to honor national award recipients at ACT’s first annual National Gala on College and Career Readiness in Washington, DC.

The event was the culmination of ACT’s new campaign to create awareness around the goal of nationwide college and career readiness.  A student, a high school, a community college, and an employer received national awards for their exemplary efforts toward advancing this goal.

ACT CEO Jon Whitmore speaks about “Improving the Future” at the 2013 National Gala on College and Career Readiness on May 21 in Washington, DC.

Jon Whitmore, ACT chief executive officer, proposed rethinking the concept of readiness.  Recalling childhood playground races that began with “ready, set, go,” he suggested that those commands were in the wrong order for college and career readiness.

“Readiness—the state of being ‘ready’—is not what happens before the race begins, but is achieved long after the race has begun,” Whitmore said. “And unlike a sprint, or even a marathon, there isn’t a single finish line for readiness, but a series of milestones that indicate readiness at particular points in time. College and career readiness reflects years of sustained effort—by individuals who have a vision, get set, and then go-go-go until readiness is achieved.”

Whitmore noted that the gala’s keynote speaker, David Plouffe, “knows a few things about crossing finish lines in first place.”  Plouffe is a former senior advisor to President Barack Obama and was manager of his 2008 presidential campaign.

David Plouffe, political strategist and best-selling author, spoke on “Preparing Individuals for College and Career Success” at the 2013 National Gala on College and Career Readiness.

Six states participated in this first College and Career Readiness Campaign: Alabama, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Wisconsin. Nine national leaders in education and workforce development evaluated the state nominations in four categories and selected the national award recipients.

Sheree Gremillion, Alabama (Student Readiness Award)

A senior at Rogers High School in Florence, Alabama, Gremillion earned a 3.98 grade point average and a composite score of 33 on the ACT® college readiness assessment—achieving academic excellence while participating in many extracurricular activities and overcoming personal hardships. Gremillion will receive a $4,000 scholarship from ACT and plans to attend Freed-Hardeman University this fall, double majoring in nursing and Spanish. Her goal is to become a bilingual nurse and help those in need, in America and other countries.

Rufus King International School, Wisconsin (College and Career Transition Award)

Rufus King International School in north Milwaukee has created a “college-bound atmosphere” for its 1,440 ethnically and socioeconomically diverse students—many of whom will be first-generation college students. Posters from various universities decorate the building, and the school displays and celebrates students’ college acceptance letters and scholarship awards. Students participate in rigorous International Baccalaureate programming and quarterly assessments, and receive career exploration and college search support. They must also complete community service requirements.

Edgecombe Community College, North Carolina (Career Preparedness Award)

Edgecombe Community College, located in a county with a 16.6 percent unemployment rate, strives to improve its students’ opportunities in today’s labor market through job fairs, mentoring, student assistance funds, and other programs.  Over the past three years, 70 percent of Edgecombe graduates have earned a Certificate of Career Readiness, which is powered by ACT WorkKeys® assessments.  The school led the process for Edgecombe County to become one of the first Work Ready Communities in North Carolina, and it frequently partners with area companies to ensure that its students graduate with the skills and the recognition needed for career success.

Sargento Foods, Inc., Wisconsin (Workplace Success Award)

Sargento Foods, a pillar of Wisconsin’s dairy industry for 60 years, has been profiling its jobs in the ACT National Career Readiness Certificate ™ (ACT NCRC) system; eventually, 90 percent of its positions will use the NCRC to aid in the employment process. Headquartered in Plymouth, the company has earned Top Workplaces in Southeastern Wisconsin honors for the past four years.  Sargento Foods collaborates with area schools to give students experience that will pave the way to future employment locally and to equip them not only academically but also with strong soft skills:  collaboration, respect, initiative, and a strong work ethic.

ACT CEO Jon Whitmore (center) poses with the 2013 ACT College and Career Readiness Campaign national award recipients. From left to right: Louie Gentine, president, Sargento Foods, Inc.; Deborah Lamm, president, Edgecombe Community College; Sheree Gremillion, student at Rogers High School; and Peter Samaranayake, principal, Rufus King International School.

To learn more about the ACT College and Career Readiness Campaign, please visit


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