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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.

Jaime Aquino

Dr. Jaime Aquino, Senior Vice President
Discovery Education

Dr. Jaime Aquino began his career when he was recruited by the New York City Board of Education as a bilingual teacher. He was then selected as the New York State Bilingual Teacher of the Year in 1990. In addition to teaching in New York City, Aquino also served as a mathematics and science staff developer, a mathematics coordinator, a director of bilingual education programs, a curriculum writer, deputy executive director for the Division of Instructional Support, and local instructional superintendent. Outside of NYC, Aquino has served as deputy superintendent of instruction for Los Angeles Unified School District, chief academic officer in Denver, CO, and deputy superintendent for curriculum and instruction for Hartford Public Schools (CT).

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.