Boone County student shares West Virginia perspective with national audience
GEAR UP alumnus talks about the road to college during inaugural Obama Foundation Summit
CHICAGO – This Tuesday and Wednesday, James “Ikie” Brooks, West Virginia “Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP)” alum, participated in the inaugural Obama Foundation Summit in Chicago, IL.
The Summit, which took place on October 31 and November 1, invited civic leaders from around the world to collaborate on solutions to problems in society and to share advice on embracing cultural diversity.
Brooks, a Boone County native, was invited to share his experience of growing up in rural West Virginia. He focused on topics such as equal education access for students in West Virginia as well as facing the challenges, such as prescription abuse, that face the state. He highlighted education initiatives like the federally funded West Virginia GEAR UP program, which helps students plan, apply and pay for a college education. He stressed the importance of guiding rural students to the educational pathway that is right for them.
“Attending the Summit was a humbling experience,” said Brooks. “It was an honor to be in the room with so many diverse leaders and brilliant minds. I’m grateful to the Obama Foundation for this incredible opportunity, and I look forward to taking what I learned at the Summit back to my community.”
Brooks largely credited the guidance he received in high school for his invitation to participate in the Summit.
“Having a strong support system to help me navigate high school and beyond made a difference for me,” said Brooks. “Being a GEAR UP student allowed me to get the support I needed as a first-generation college student. I understood that life after high school would consist of my pursuing my dreams, and being invited to attend an event like the Summit was certainly a dream come true.”
Dr. Adam S. Green, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs at the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission (HEPC), applauded Brooks for his hard work and eagerness to give back.
“We are so proud of Ikie and all that he’s accomplished,” said Green. “He continues to amaze us with every project he tackles. He’s not only proven himself to be a determined student, but his desire to give back to his hometown demonstrates his stellar character. I know the knowledge he gained during the Summit will be put to good use.”
Brooks is currently a senior at Marshall University studying political science. This summer, he was selected to participate in the “Beating the Odds” road trip during which he travelled across the country and interviewed professionals who overcame obstacles to earn an education. During this campaign, he met former First Lady Michelle Obama and interviewed her regarding her experiences as a first-generation college graduate.
Brooks was a West Virginia GEAR UP student at Scott High School during the program’s first grant cycle, which ran from 2007 to 2014. Currently, HEPC is administering the second consecutive West Virginia GEAR UP grant cycle, which began in 2014 and will conclude in 2021.
To learn more about the Obama Foundation Summit, visit www.obama.org/summit.
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A video recap of this summer’s Beating the Odds Summit can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=StH7E1tl5ic