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Leadership Institute for Future Teachers Serves as Platform for Careers in Education

When the first group of high schoolers arrived on NC State’s campus in the summer of 1986 to attend what would later become known as the Leadership Institute for Future Teachers, former NC State College of Education Associate Dean Anona Smith Williams ’91MS, ’02EDD knew the program had the potential to be special.

“It was beautiful, watching the students arrive from across the state of North Carolina, excited to have this experience,” said Smith Williams, the NC State College of Education’s 2023 Distinguished Alumna. 

What she did not know was that LIFT, now a six-day, invitational program hosted by the College of Education for students interested in teaching who are rising high school seniors in North Carolina, would still be thriving today and that, over 30 years later, it would continue to serve as a platform for aspiring future teachers to find their voice, champion their beliefs and join a network of their fellow educators.

“It is a chance to spend a week with people who have a shared interest and that is so empowering, knowing that you’re not alone,” said Lindsey Hubbard, who, as the college’s director of outreach and strategic partnerships, will serve as the program manager this year.

While LIFT has grown and changed over time, many of the key elements that were present during its first year remain in place. Students still learn from educators who share their backgrounds, engage with state leaders — the first LIFT featured opportunities to meet with former governors James Martin and James B. Hunt Jr. ’59, ’62MS, an alumnus of the College of Education — and create presentations that provide an opportunity to demonstrate their achievements. 

Throughout, they are supported by NC State College of Education students who serve as LIFT counselors. Maia Solomon, a science education major, attended LIFT as a high school student in 2020, and has returned each year since to give back.

“I wanted to be a part of this experience for students,” Solomon said. “I wanted to serve as someone who students could engage with during their time at LIFT and create connections that could last a lifetime.”

After graduating from college, those who take part in LIFT are able to draw on those connections, as well as their experiences in the program, to become teachers, school administrators, and leaders in the private and public sectors.

“The bond established during the week of LIFT is cultivated and nurtured throughout a LIFT participant’s college experience,” Smith Williams said. “This is what makes LIFT not just a one-summer experience for participants but rather a lifelong bond between themselves and the program.”

Meet Nine LIFT Alumni

Douglas McCullough ’19MSA, who participated in LIFT in 2005
Principal, Salem Middle School

Douglas McColloug

“There usually is a moment in life where you realize your dreams can become a reality. LIFT was that for me. I never saw myself as the principal of a school, so it’s amazing to think that this story started with going to visit NC State for a week because I told my 11th grade social studies teacher that I wanted to be a teacher.”

Andrea Loera Valdez, who participated in LIFT in 2022
Incoming elementary education major and Teaching Fellow

“The LIFT program has improved my ability to communicate both in the classroom and in daily life. Once I returned to class from summer, speaking to others had practically become second nature.”

Bettina Pope, who participated in LIFT in 1989
School counselor, Wake Forest High School 
Former classroom teacher for 28 years

“LIFT is what propelled me to attend NC State University. Prior to attending LIFT, I thought of NC State as an engineering school, not a place for someone who was interested in majoring in English education. Attending LIFT set the trajectory for the rest of my life.”

Maia Solomon, who participated in LIFT in 2020
Science education major and Teaching Fellow

Photo of Maia Grace Solomon

“LIFT has helped me expand my network with educators and future educators across the state. During my time as a student and a mentor in LIFT, I have connected with so many amazing people. Having these connections has helped me to continue to strive to become the best educator that I can be.”

Samantha Villanueva Garcia, who participated in LIFT in 2023
Incoming elementary education major and Teaching Fellow

“Before LIFT, I always knew that I wanted to help others, especially children, in my future career. During LIFT, I was shown a career that I know can make a difference and impact children’s lives. After LIFT, I applied and got into NC State, as an elementary education major and also will be a Teaching Fellow!”

Dalton Dockery ’94, who participated in LIFT in 1989
Southeast District Extension director, NC State Extension

“LIFT made a huge difference in my life. It gave me the self confidence to achieve my goals in education. Without LIFT I probably would have struggled a lot. I never would have thought I would be in the position I am now with the university, and I am sure LIFT had a lot to do with it.”

Natalie Clark, who participated in LIFT in 2021
Elementary education major and Teaching Fellow

Photo of Natalie Clark with Wolfie

“I wish I could go back and do it all over again! LIFT is a good way to dip your toes into the water if you feel education may be your path in the future.” 

Kimberly Williams, who participated in LIFT in 2006
Assistant principal, Grady Brown Elementary School
Former classroom teacher

“LIFT is a program that will give you the experience and lessons of a lifetime, and ultimately help you make decisions about your future, while building relationships with others with like minds.”

Samiya Abdul-Lateef, who participated in LIFT 2020
Elementary education major and Teaching Fellow

“All of us who are a part of the College of Education feel attached to the label of ‘teacher’ because that is a huge part of our life. LIFT established the foundation of that for me. It gave me a sense of pride being a part of the LIFT program, knowing that I was learning from amazing educators and getting to understand the teaching profession not just from their perspective, but learning about it to form my own perspective. That is what made LIFT special to me. I was able to get enough information about teaching and the education program at NC State to know if that was the right place for me. It quite literally changed my life.”

Support for the 2024 Leadership Institute for Future Teachers includes:

Dr. Allison Mitchall, executive director
Lindsey Hubbard, program manager
Dr. Trisha Mackey, assistant program manager
Brooke Dove, program support
Dr. Karen Anderson, leadership development coach
Alcedos Vanterpool, graduate assistant
Carol Bono, storytelling coach
Ryan Clancy, program support

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