The My Journey Event has Concluded

But wait - you can still get access to the recorded sessions!

You can still benefit from this valuable information for students and parents as you navigate the college admissions process by signing up to be notified when session recordings become available. See below for session tracks, speaker information, and student panelists that will all be included within the recordings.

Welcome Keynote and Student Panel
 

Tina Gridiron
Vice President, ACT Center for Equity in Learning

 

Tina Gridiron 

10:00 a.m. – 10:15 a.m., CT
Welcome Keynote

Tina Gridiron serves as Vice President for ACT’s Center for Equity in Learning and for over 25 years she has actively supported students along their college access and success journey. She is a self-proclaimed “student cheerleader, advocate, and champion” and in all her efforts she seeks to encourage students to strive for excellence, take risks, build strong relationships, and remain flexible and ready for change.  As a first-generation college student—who grew up in inner city Los Angeles—she personally understands the challenges and questions that students must navigate when preparing for college.  During this session Tina will share college insights, make recommendations, and celebrate the grit, resilience, and dedication of the students participating in the My Journey event. 
 

12:00 p.m. – 12:30 p.m., CT
Student Panel Discussion

No journey is the same, but every journey offers insights into discovering what matters most to you. Join this panel discussion moderated by Tina Gridiron to hear perspectives from current college students on the journey from high school to where they are now. Get the benefit of their experience as they discuss their ambitions, challenges, and which tools they leveraged to reach their goals on their paths to success. This panel will provide authentic takes on the journey from high school to college from students living the experience. 

My Journey Session Tracks

Choose your own path or follow one of the tracks below.

Bryan Contreras
10:15 a.m. - 10:45 a.m., CT

Step by Step: Critical Milestones That Lead to College Planning Success
It’s no secret — college and career planning can be overwhelming. During this presentation, we’ll pull back the curtain and identify critical milestones that will help students and families plan for success. The session will highlight 9th- and 10th-grade college prep behaviors and break down time sensitive college application advice for 11th and 12th graders. Learn how a counselor helped students explore careers, jobs, and various types of colleges to help them arrive at a balanced college match list that met their needs.


Dr. Erin Verity
10:50 a.m. - 11:20 a.m., CT

How to Conquer the College Admissions Process
Deciding where to go to college is supposed to be exciting and fun, yet for many it feels mostly complicated and overwhelming.  If that's you, then join this session.  We'll talk about some common myths about the admissions process and discuss what colleges are really looking for. We'll help simplify the process to help ensure your college search and application journey is a successful one. 

 

Don Pitchford
11:25 a.m. - 11:55 a.m., CT

Making Sense of Recent Changes to Admission Policies and Practice
Many colleges and universities have had to adapt and alter their admission policies in response to the pandemic, but along the way some of these changes have made life more complex and challenging for students on the college-going journey.  Participants in this session will benefit from resources and guidance intended to help make sense of some of the dynamic and complex aspects of today's college admissions process.

Michelle Hunt
10:15 a.m. - 10:45 a.m., CT

Instructor Takeover: Preparing for the ACT
Join Michelle Hunt, an instructor for Kaplan Test Prep, for a presentation that will focus on tips before and during the exam to help with studying and preparing for the exam, as well as how to combat anxiety that comes with standardized testing and tips to calm nerves.

 

Andrew Taylor
10:50 a.m. - 11:20 a.m., CT

Test Prep: Who, What, Where, When, Why?
During this session we will introduce the free and paid resources, experiences, and products that ACT provides and partners with others to provide to support test preparation for the ACT test. Experiences, resources and products include “Preparing for the ACT”, free practice assessments, self-paced tools, the Official ACT Prep Guide, and other preparation resources.

 

Andrew Taylor
11:25 a.m. - 11:55 a.m., CT

Why Test? The Value of the ACT
In this session you’ll learn how the ACT is one of the most powerful tools you can leverage as you pursue your college and career journey. You’ll get an in-depth look at the importance of testing in the current admissions landscape and how ACT scores can help win scholarships and secure placement into the college and courses that are right for you. From the right school to the right major, to the right career — learn how the ACT is the right tool to help you get where your dreams will carry you. 

Dr. Nancy Lewin
10:15 a.m. - 10:45 a.m., CT

How to Score Scholarships
Don’t leave money on the table when it comes to paying for college. As the value of education translates to increased earning potential, be sure to take advantage of scholarships to pay for school. Scholarships are a fantastic financial resource that you need to know how to access the way to achieving your education and career goals. Learn about scholarships and how to apply as well as how your ACT score can help with gaining scholarships on your journey to success!

 

Gladys Recinos
10:50 a.m. - 11:20 a.m., CT

ACT Fee Waivers, College Application Waivers, and the No-Cost Tools in MyACT:  Let’s Get Ready for Free!
Tap into success with the library of free tools and resources from ACT! Join this session to learn about all the no-cost resources for students available in MyACT.org, including a free full-length practice test and college major & career exploration tools for learners ages 11 and up. We will review how to access ACT fee waivers and college application waivers and address why and how ACT scores are used as an external measure of college and career readiness after admissions. 

 

Lisa Smith
11:25 a.m. - 11:55 a.m., CT

Financial Aid FAQs

For most students and parents, calculating the cost of college is a primary and stressful factor in determining which school is the right school. This session will help you gain the clarity to make confident decisions by learning about the financial aid process, including timelines and major action points, as well as how to find a wealth of information from the Federal Student Aid website. Attendees will get an overview of the information the FAFSA asks for and why it’s necessary, along with information to help troubleshoot some common mistakes. Join this session to learn how to take advantage of every FAFSA dollar available for bringing your dreams to life through the power of education.  

Speaker Information

Bryan Contreras

Bryan Contreras, Vice President, myOptions Encourage

Bryan Contreras is Vice President at myOptions Encourage, the nation’s largest free college and career planning program. He has spent the last twenty years working to improve post-secondary outcomes for students through student counseling, program management, leadership development, and education technology. Both personal and educational experiences serve as the foundation for his commitment to this work. Prior to joining myOptions Encourage, he served as the Executive Director, KIPP Through College at KIPP Houston Public Schools for over a decade. There he designed a college and career-planning program that empowered students to make educated decisions about their futures. During his leadership tenure, he also developed an alumni support program that continues to serve thousands of college age students today. He has served or serves on a variety of advisory boards, including the Woods Project; University Houston- Downtown’s Scholar’s Academy (STEM initiatives); SixUp; and Hispanic Scholarship Fund (Advisory Council- Houston). 

 

Tina Gridiron

Tina Gridiron, Vice President, ACT Center for Equity in Learning

Tina Gridiron, a leader in higher education and philanthropy, joined ACT’s Center for Equity in Learning in 2019 and focuses her efforts on enhancing the work of the Center with its external partners, and shaping ACT’s broader efforts to close gaps in equity, opportunity and achievement in education and the workforce. Previously, Tina led grant initiatives as an officer and director for Lumina Foundation where she worked extensively with community colleges, minority-serving institutions and regional comprehensive institutions. She has also served as the acting director of the Black Community Services Center at Stanford University. Tina holds a Master of Arts in higher education administration and a Master of Arts in sociology, both from Stanford, and earned a Bachelor of Arts in political science from the University of California, Berkeley. She currently lives in Indianapolis, Indiana. 

 

Michelle Hunt

Michelle Hunt, ACT Instructor, Kaplan

Michelle is a top-rated ACT teacher who graduated from Brigham Young University with her BA in English. She is passionate about encouraging students both inside and outside of the classroom — For over 7 years, Michelle has helped thousands of students achieve their goal scores and is an advocate for hard work and preparation. 

 

Dr. Nancy Lewin

Dr. Nancy Lewin, Senior Director-Center for Equity in Learning, ACT

Dr. Nancy Lewin is Sr. Director with the Center for Equity in Learning. She was a former non-profit executive director at The Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents in Washington, DC. She brings 23 years of experience to ACT, as a former teacher, school administrator, special education director, chief academic officer and adjunct professor. She earned her doctoral degree in professional leadership at the University of Houston and graduated from the Rice University Educators Entrepreneurial Fellowship Program. Nancy now lives in Austin, TX with her husband Dave and her son David. Her daughter Renee resides in New York City. Nancy joined ACT’s Center for Equity in Learning in November and is currently focused on multiple projects to increase equity, access, & opportunity for under represented students. 

 

Don Pitchford

Don Pitchford, PhD, Senior Director of Strategy and Market Engagement , ACT

Across his 16 year career Don has served in various roles at ACT consulting with higher education leaders, professional organizations, school leaders, SHEEO’s and product managers with a focus on the development of best practice enrollment management strategies and in developing innovative college readiness programs. Don and his wife Melanie have four children and reside in the hill country outside Austin, Texas.  

 

 

Gladys Recinos

Gladys Recinos, Account Executive, ACT

Gladys is responsible for understanding and supporting the college and career readiness measurement goals and objectives of California and Nevada K-12 schools and districts on behalf of the ACT. Gladys began her work in education as a classroom bilingual early literacy specialist and adult education teacher with the Clark County School District. In addition to providing insights on how ACT assessments can be used to increase student learning and post-secondary planning, her work is focused on helping educators and families support learners navigating college and career readiness through data-informed best practices centered on equity and early readiness. Gladys lived in Las Vegas, NV for 17 years, and she currently resides in Southern California where she is a proud mom of two young adults who have graduated from college and have joined the workforce as a professional classical musician and an entrepreneur.   

 

Lisa Smith

Lisa Smith, Director of Financial Aid, Henderson State University

Ms. Lisa McCollum Smith has been active in educational finance since 1987. She presently serves as Director of Financial Aid for Henderson State University. Lisa is a Certified Career Development Facilitator and conducts numerous Financial Aid Workshops throughout Arkansas which she has assisted students in finding scholarships to further their education; Ms.McCollum Smith is known as “The Free Money Lady”. Lisa previously coordinated several state scholarships and formerly served as Director of Financial Aid for Arkansas Division of Higher Education for 13 years and Outreach Coordinator for 23 years at Arkansas Student Loan Authority, a non-profit state agency that provides educational funding.

 

Andrew Taylor

Andrew Taylor, Vice President, Product, ACT

Having worked in the global education market for over 20 years working for Pearson in various roles around the world, Andrew joined ACT in April 2020. He leads the Product function, including Market Leadership, Product Management and Market Research and Insights.  Additionally, he also leads  global teams in Shanghai and South-East Asia.   The Product function at ACT is positioned to serve the College and Career readiness mission of ACT by delivering products that support students, educators, and Higher Education by delivering world class assessment and adjacent products that inform users of progress and help them shape their educational pathways. Taylor’s experience includes working in the Higher Education not only in the US but also in the global space namely in the UK,  South America, and Asia. One of the roles he filled in his time at Pearson was leading a close partnership with Arizona State University’s online programs. 

 

Dr. Erin Verity

Dr. Erin Verity, Associate Director of Admissions, Florida State University

Erin Verity serves as the Associate Director of Admissions at Florida State University, overseeing file review, data and research, and strategic initiatives. Erin has been working in enrollment management for 10 years, with experience across admissions, enrollment management technology, and the registrar. She holds 3 degrees from Florida State University, including a doctorate in Instructional Systems and Learning Technologies. Her applied research focuses on the feasibility of holistic review, specifically in public selective universities. 

Student Panelists

Fahad Alden
Student, Sophomore, Major: Digital Media,
The University of Massachusetts

Javae Harmon
Student, Freshman, Major: Biological Sciences, Clemson University

Chris Wells
Student, Sophomore, Major: Pre-Med
Missouri State University

What participants from last year's event had to say!

“The event was a helpful resource to me because it helped me realize how important it is to be involved in knowing this information rather than relying on my high school to take care of things.”