TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – The University of Alabama’s RISE Program is hosting a two-day conference with 30 directors, therapists and teachers from other RISE centers around the nation to collaborate for the first time. The conference runs Thursday, July 26, to Friday, July 27.
UA’s RISE Center, part of the College of Human Environmental Sciences, is a nationally recognized early childhood education program that is dedicated to excellence in service, research and teaching. According to Andi Gillen, director of UA’s RISE Center, all RISE programs have a similar mission and are passionate about serving children with special needs and their families in an inclusive environment.
“The uniqueness of the RISE model is what makes the collaboration among the programs so important,” Gillen said. “It is wonderful to meet with others who share your passion and vision for inclusion in the early childhood setting.”
Although RISE directors meet on an annual basis, the conference in Tuscaloosa is the first time staff members will come together to discuss best practices and challenges and to share ideas. The conference’s theme is, “Let us not outshine each other but shine brighter together.”
“This two-day event will enrich, support and nurture our commitment to serving families and children with special needs,” Gillen said. “We all experience similar challenges and successes. It will be great to share these with each other, learn from each other, and at the end of the two days, walk away with new ideas that will enhance the RISE Center at The University of Alabama.”
The RISE Center at UA opened in 1974 and was the first RISE program in the nation. With that precedent in mind, Gillen feels it’s fitting for UA to host the first conference of its kind.
The conference opened with a breakfast Thursday morning at The University Club. Susan Bell, wife of UA President Stuart R. Bell, welcomed attendees to the University and Tuscaloosa. Bell was joined by Dr. Mary Kay Meyer, associate dean and professor in the College of Human Environmental Sciences, who provided a brief history of the College and its support of the RISE Program.
Through early intervention and early childhood preschool services, children at RISE are equipped with the skills necessary to succeed in a school setting without an exclusively special education. UA is joined by representatives from the Austin, Texas; Corpus Christi, Texas; Dallas; Denver; Houston; and Huntsville centers.