Ron Abel

President's Award for Excellence in Staff Service

Keith “Skip” CostaDirector of Upward Bound Ron Abel, this year’s recipient of the President’s Excellence Award in Staff Service, grew up in Southeastern’s backyard, attending Southeastern Laboratory School. He says since he and Southeastern have grown up together, it was only natural that he would want to work at Southeastern as an adult. In fact, his first job outside of the family business was at Southeastern as an instructor in a grant program called Jobs Training Partnership Act, teaching dislocated workers and women entering the workforce for the first time how to use computers and bookkeep electronically.

“My first boss hired me for 90 days initially, which she would point out to me every time she saw me so I would not get too comfortable,” Abel said. “I have been At Southeastern for 32 years now in various capacities – all on grant monies that have come to the campus as a result of my grant writing efforts.”

In fact, Abel has written hundreds of grants over the years for Southeastern and for community agencies. This involvement, he says, has had a reciprocal effect on his efforts as an employee at Southeastern.

“As I write for others, my network grows,” he explained. “The needs of the students we serve are varied. Strong community connection is helpful in meeting the needs of these students from varied and challenging backgrounds.”

For over 25 years, Abel has worked in many leadership positions at Southeastern for TRIO programs.

“Ron has served thousands of students from different backgrounds that most people would give up on,” said TRIO Programs/Special Projects Director Duane Donald. “He has served as a leader on both the regional and national levels and has gained star status serving as president of both our regional and state level associations. He is always eager to help new and incoming directors as he shares his wealth of knowledge about serving first generation and low-income students.”

In the early 1990s, Abel realized resources for youth education and prevention for drug abuse in our area were sorely lacking. Determined to do something about it, he wrote several grants and established the 501c3 agency Tangipahoa Alcohol and Drug Abuse Council. Partnering with the mayor’s office, the city gave the former Miller Library building to TADAC rent and utility free. Since then the agency has provided thousands of youth in a three-parish area information and life skills training to build healthy, drug-free lifestyles. The services have benefitted many Southeastern and Upward Bound students through ongoing drug prevention activities.

In addition to TADAC, Abel is also very active serving in various organizations, such as the Hammond Kiwanis Club, where he served as president twice, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“My continued participation in church has kept me centered spiritually and emotionally so that I can focus on the pressing needs of the first-generation, low-income students that our programs serve,” he said. “In this job, things can seem hopeless at times if you don’t have a broad perspective. My involvement with my spiritual life grounds me so that I can keep hope alive within myself and my staff as we meet challenges in the schools and families we serve.”