Media Highlights

8,000 Students Learn How to Reach Their American Dream at ‘Opportunity Days’ Conference


May 2, 2012


Christopher Cashman, 212-804-6370


The University of Texas at El Paso and the national non-profit Opportunity Nation partner to highlight innovative strategies for closing the opportunity gap both regionally and nationally

Opportunity Nation and the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) today joined forces to hold a multi-day conference designed to identify strategies that can help repair the national economic ladder of opportunity; build local communities of opportunity; and inspire more than 8,000 area students to recognize the importance higher education plays in allowing them to reach their American dreams.

The conference, titled “Opportunity Days at UTEP,” is part of Opportunity Nation’s recurring series of regional events spotlighting the pivotal role that higher education institutions play in enhancing economic mobility in America.

“Opportunity Nation is built on the idea that cross-sector collaboration will lead to the greatest success. This is the exact philosophy that UTEP is employing and demonstrating here at Opportunity Days,” said Mark Edwards, executive director of Opportunity Nation. “Additionally, El Paso County did not score as highly as some might have hoped on our Opportunity Index, the nation’s first quantitative snapshot of what opportunity looks like in communities across the country. But given the immense, cross-sector involvement and shared spirit of collaboration on display here today, I believe UTEP is poised to spark a social mobility & opportunity revolution in the El Paso region. I’m honored to be a part of today’s event and look forward to working with UTEP to revitalize belief in the American Dream.”

“UTEP is very excited about being part of Opportunity Nation because its goals are so well aligned with what we do on this campus,” said UTEP President Diana Natalicio. “What we want to do is rally the business leadership to focus on ways in which we can work together to attract industry and to support startups to create new jobs. We must begin to capitalize on El Paso’s unique assets and transform this region from merely sustaining an economy that has traditionally undervalued indigenous talent, to invigorating it through upward mobility and wealth creation. We need to attract companies that come here for our brainpower, not just for our hands.”

Opportunity Days at UTEP kicked off on Wednesday with a series of expert-level discussions focusing on to discuss how to enhance the strengths and address the challenges of the area’s human and economic development. The theme of the day, “Building Opportunity and Social Mobility through Collaboration: The El Paso Model,” was designed to build on the nationally recognized success of the work of UTEP, El Paso Community College, area school districts, and other El Paso Collaborative for Academic Excellence partners to increase academic achievement and social mobility. UTEP and its partners unveiled plans for a three-year local initiative that will invigorate the region’s economy through greater collaboration between academic institutions and regional businesses in the El Paso area.

On Thursday, more than 8,000 fifth- and seventh-grade students from neighboring school districts will get a look at their future when they descend on UTEP for Day 2 of UTEP’s ‘Opportunity Days’ conference. Entitled “Pick Your Dream,” students will attend an open house designed to simulate what a college-level learning experience entails. The days events will also reiterate the importance of education and its role in attaining success in the 21st century.

Activities will include visual displays that employ concepts of chemistry and physics, such as explosions of hydrogen-filled balloons and corn starch “quicksand” (run across it and it’s supportive; stand on it and you sink), as well as a group of professional skateboarders and BMX riders who will perform stunts tied to various scientific concepts such as the relationship between velocity and acceleration.

Today’s event is part of a series of regional events being convened by Opportunity Nation’s Higher Education Council, an inclusive group of colleges and universities that each have committed to holding an event on their campus in 2012 that pushes opportunity and the American Dream to the forefront of their community’s discussions ( In addition, the head of each campus is serving on the Opportunity Nation Leadership Council, where they are using their leadership position as a platform to facilitate discussions about local and regional actions that can be taken to improve opportunity in their communities.

To learn more about Opportunity Nation and the steps they are taking to develop a shared plan to restore opportunity in America, visit


Opportunity Nation is a broad coalition of more than 200 businesses, non-profits, corporate partners, faith-based organizations, educational institutions, and civic organizations focused on closing the opportunity gap in America. The campaign has created a shared agenda of bipartisan policy proposals and private sector innovations to increase opportunity, economic mobility, and access to the American Dream. For more information please visit and check us out on Twitter @oppnation and on Facebook at OpportunityNation. 

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