I have had time to breathe now that SXSWedu 2017 is behind me, and I am just as fired up as I was that week. Besides having the opportunity to present the work we do here at the foundation, I was able to sit in on and participate in a variety of exciting exchanges, keynotes and discussions that reinforced why I've dedicated my life's work to education. Here are a few inspiring moments from my experience at SXSWedu that are worth sharing.

"We've got it from here. Thank you for your service."

Dr. Christopher Emdin's provocative keynote challenged everyone in the room to reimagine new possibilities for education. To do so, we must face the issues of equity and diversity that are inherent in the system and address them purposefully. This set the stage for the week and caused me to not only think about why I chose to be in education but to realize that it's time to step up the game. Emdin's words invigorated me to put myself out there and recommit myself to being a vocal opponent of those who are setting out to destroy, dismantle and minimize opportunities for every member of our society. 

"To actually make a difference, we have to get into the heads of students and learn how they live their lives, and then develop programs and policies."

Dr. Sara Goldrick-Rab delivered a sobering discussion of the barriers that keep young people from achieving higher education. Her keynote truly made me wonder if things are done intentionally to hold people back. One of the best things we can do is to help educators realize that teaching must be focused on the future and preparing young people for their work and lives ahead. Experience is a wonderful teacher, but if we remain stuck in the past, innovation dies.  

"I used to be _________, but now I ________."

I was invited by our colleagues at Discovery Education to share my thoughts in a rapid fire five-minute presentation. I chose to talk about the importance of becoming engaged in life and learning. Although I grew up rather shy and introverted, I have realized that I can make a difference if I simply engage. The process is different for each person; some use their education, travel and life experiences, or simply seek understanding through nature. What's important is that we do engage -- particularly when we are witness to prejudice, racism and things that are dividing us and causing damage.

These moments and countless other conversations served to encourage and inspire me to be better, to do better, to think differently, to act and to engage. We have the opportunity to make change, we are responsible to do so for our future. I am reaffirming my commitment to pursue justice, inspire others and educate those around me to do the same. Join me!

Champions of the unexpected.