Two Trine University students traveled to Washington, DC, for the National Education
Association Student Leadership Conference (NEA-SLC), held June 29-July 2.
Mikaela Gerba of Highland, Indiana, a senior, and sophomore Samuel Miller of LaGrange,
Indiana, both social studies education majors, participated in the conference, held
at the Hyatt Regency Capitol Hill Hotel.
This was the second time Gerba had attended the conference. She completed a fellowship
for the NEA from January to June, during which she made weekly phone calls, organized
events and recruited members, and presented findings from her fellowship to a board
of peers at the conference.
“My organization had one of the best success rates of the fellowship, so it was really
nice to hear positive comments from my peers about my hard work,” she said. “It was
a great way to share ideas that were successful and others that were not and discuss
how these ideas can be tweaked to become successful.”
Gerba has been a board member of the Student Education Association (SEA) at Trine
since her freshman year, and has served as its president since her sophomore year.
She was elected vice president of the Indiana Student Education Association board
in 2015 and will serve as president for the organization this next year. She credits
faculty advisor Amy Alexander, Ed.D., with encouraging her to take leadership in the
“Dr. Alexander is truly the reason I have become some involved with this organization
at not only the local level, but at all levels,” she said. “She has given me the courage
and confidence to run for every position that I now hold; she was the first to believe
in my abilities.”
She said the NEA-SLC gave her the opportunity to continue her leadership training.
“This year I participated in leadership seminars and workshops where I was able to
learn valuable information on how to find leaders, create a strong governing body,
and how to motivate people to participate in events,” she said.
Those who attended the conference also participated in one of 10 outreach programs
designed to benefit the community. Gerba helped create Little Free Libraries for donated
Gerba, who plans to teach high school after graduating, said the conference also helped
her develop skills for her future career.
Miller became involved with the SEA when he started at Trine in fall 2015. SEA members
from across Indiana elected him to represent the state at the NEA-SLC.
During the conference, David Johns, executive director of the White House Initiative
on Educational Excellence for African Americans, served as keynote speaker and hosted
a panel of educators and related professionals.
“I learned more about the problems facing our youth — specifically institutional racism
— and heard a run-down on the effects of the new Every Student Succeeds Act, which
is replacing No Child Left Behind,” he said. “More importantly, I made contacts with
fellow aspiring educators and got to discuss our passion and ways to improve not only
our local SEA chapter at Trine, but also the Indiana SEA.”
Miller also attended the National Education Association Representative Assembly, a
gathering of thousands of education professionals, which included a guest speech by
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
“I was able to witness nearly 6,000 members from across the nation bring up their
concerns and action plans to help better the education system in America,” Miller
said. “As an aspiring educator I was part of the Student Program Caucus, where we
took strong stances on certain new business items. This taught me more about the democratic
process and certain tips and tricks those who vote use to help get their concerns
“As a social studies education major this opportunity was invaluable in helping me
gain first-hand experiences in our nation’s capital that I can take with me into my