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National Rural Education Association


National Forum to Advance Rural Education - November 11-12, 2021 at JW Marriott, Indianapolis, IN

Keynote Speakers

Sarah Frey

Sarah Frey, Farmer, Business Owner, & Author
Frey Farms

Sarah Frey has been described by the New York Times as the “Pumpkin Queen of America” because she sells more pumpkins than any other producer in the United States. Founded by Sarah in 1992 and headquartered in Keenes, IL, Frey Farms is a Certified Woman Owned Business that distributes fresh fruits and vegetables throughout the country, serving the nation’s top 25 retail chains. With a mission to end food waste in the fresh produce industry, the family makes natural food products and beverages from imperfect or “ugly fruit.” They produce a line of beverages and fresh juices under the Sarah’s Homegrown and Tsamma Watermelon Juice brands. Sarah and her four older brothers operate farms and facilities in seven states. She is also the author of the bestselling book, The Growing Season: How I Built a New Life–and Saved an American Farm published by Random House. Sarah will serve as co-executive producer of the upcoming ABC television series, The Growing Season, based on her story.

Christina Kishimoto

Dr. Christina M. Kishimoto, Superintendent in Residence
Discovery Education

Prior to Dr. Kishimoto’s current role, she served as state superintendent of the Hawaii State Department of Education. Her education career spans over 25 years of equity-focused work across three states, in lower and higher education, including two previous CEO/superintendent roles in Gilbert, Arizona, and Hartford, Connecticut. Dr. Kishimoto has proudly served as board president of the Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents, board member of the Council of Chief State School Officers, and is a national Chief for Change. Dr. Kishimoto is passionately committed to the power and promise of public education as a nexus of community advancement and economic growth through student voice, parent engagement, and a diverse portfolio of innovative school designs led by public educators.

Danielle Richardson

Haley Danielle Richardson, Second-Grade Teacher
University Charter School, Livingston, AL

Haley is from a small town, Reform, Alabama, where she grew up and attended elementary and high school. She has spent her entire life living rural. Haley came to Livingston to attend college at the University of West Alabama (UWA), which felt like home from the moment she stepped foot on campus. In 2018, she graduated with a bachelor's in science in elementary education and a minor in special education. She is currently working on her master's in elementary education at UWA to further her knowledge on the best practices of teaching. Haley has always been appreciative of where she’s come from, and working at a place-based school has allowed her to really resonate with her "place" in a rural environment as a teacher and as a local citizen. One thing Haley really enjoys about teaching in a rural area is being able to have close connections with the students, their families, and the community. 

Benjamin Winchester

Benjamin Winchester, Rural Sociologist
University of Minnesota Extension, Center for Community Vitality

Ben has been working in and for small towns across the Midwest for over 25 years. He lives in St. Cloud, Minnesota, with his wife and two children. Ben is trained as a rural sociologist and works as a senior research fellow for the University of Minnesota Extension, Center for Community Vitality. He conducts applied research on economic, social, and demographic topics surrounding a theme of “rewriting the rural narrative” that is vital to rural America. He was a founding employee at the Center for Small Towns, an outreach and engagement program at the University of Minnesota, Morris, and he specializes in community development, demographic analysis, data visualization, and moving communities away from anecdata.