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ESP Conference Attendees Poised to Move Forward

“My story is the story of all of us—each day, we make sure our students have what they need,” Saul Ramos, a paraeducator from Massachusetts, told a sold-out VEA Education Support Professionals Conference in Richmond. “And you know we don’t do it for the money. We do it because it’s rewarding. It’s all of us working together as part of an essential team.”

Ramos, the 2017 NEA ESP of the Year, works with visually impaired students and was the conference’s keynote speaker, urging attendees to step up. “Leadership doesn’t start on the stage,” he said, “it starts way in the back, when you advocate for your students, when you serve as an Association rep—it only takes one person.”

About 60 ESPs from across the state spent two days in Richmond, attending workshops, networking, and hearing presentations, all designed to hone their skills. Sessions included learning how to mobilize members around important issues, plotting career paths, developing the ability to lead, and understanding the importance of political action.

Lisa Brown, a paraprofessional and member of the Spotsylvania Education Association, came away enthused. “It empowered me and has given me the self-confidence to speak out,” she said, “even if it’s at a Board of Supervisors meeting.”

Tracie Smith of the Covington Education Association, seconds that. “I’ve got more information to bring back to our local,” she said. “Even though we’re a small local, we can still be a powerful one.”

VEA President Jim Livingston and Vice President James Fedderman also addressed the group, with Livingston alternately expressing appreciation for the work being done by ESPs and encouraging further involvement. “We do this often difficult, often aggravating, hardest work anyone could imagine, and we do it collectively every day,” he said. “Not for ourselves, but for our kids, and as our public schools go, so go our communities. We need you, and all of us, to ensure that public education has a future.”

Visit the VEA's Flickr site to see photos. View here.


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