Cultural Connection: Celebrating National Disability Employment Awareness Month with Kelly Von Lunen

The U.S. Department of Labor observes October as National Disability Employment Awareness Month to commemorate the many and varied contributions of people with disabilities to America’s workplaces and economy.

To continue our commitment to our values and promote a culture of inclusion, the Ascend communications team spoke with Kelly Von Lunen, managing editor in shared services, who provided an insightful reminder to approach life from a person-first perspective — and the importance of understanding and appreciating the lived experiences of others.

Ascend Communications (AC): Tell us about your role at Ascend.

Kelly Von Lunen (KVL): I’m the managing editor within learning products. I’ve been here almost 10 years and work on a team with copy and developmental editors helping create print and online products for two of Ascend’s brands — ATI and NHA. I also serve as a member of our internal Diversity & Inclusion Council and am working on my master’s [degree] right now, focusing on diversity and inclusion in higher education.

AC: How did you become interested in diversity, equity, and inclusion?

KVL: Being an individual who is hard of hearing, it’s very personal to me. There’s a very strong Deaf community specifically for people who are manual language first — but not for people like me, who are hard of hearing but also don’t fit in Deaf culture.

There’s kind of a middle ground for people who might have an invisible illness [a medical condition that is not outwardly visible to others] but are expected to perform at an abled level. There’s a kind of normativity that everyone is fully able unless they strongly show you otherwise.

AC: We recently learned about the complexity of identity among Hispanic, Latino/a and Latinx communities in a conversation with [Ascend Learning Director of Talent Development & Inclusion] Carolyn Vasquez, who shared that self-identification is a personal decision based on one’s own lived experiences. Would you say that same concept is applicable to people with disabilities?

KVL: I think that that self-identification is really important, and sometimes forget that people view me as disabled. If I [were to] take out my hearing aids, I would be functionally deaf — but I’m not part of the Deaf community. Even though I am a hard of hearing person, that is not a key part of my identity.

I’m 36 and I’ve worn hearing aids since I was four. I don’t know what the [official] line is between hard of hearing and deaf, but there’s a distinction between Deaf with a capital D and deaf with a lowercase d.

[Editor’s Note: According to the National Association of the Deaf, Deaf with a capital D refers to a particular group of deaf people who share a language — American Sign Language (ASL) — and a culture. When spelled with a lowercase d, deaf refers to the audiological condition of not hearing].

AC: You mentioned this journey began for you at a young age. What was that like?

KVL: The thought has always been that something happened after I started to talk, but my hearing loss was diagnosed when I was four. My parents noticed that I would grab people’s faces to make them look at me and I would sit really close to the TV. At the time, schools didn’t offer a hybrid experience for students with hearing loss. You had to either pick a [mainstream] school or a school for the deaf — who told me my hearing was too high-functioning [to attend school there]. My parents took me to an audiologist, who had a similar viewpoint — they said, “Why is she here? She talks fine.”

AC: Can you trace your hearing loss to an event or experience?

KVL: Not an event or experience, but likely genetics, because my five-year-old son is having a similar experience [with his hearing]. I took him to an audiologist, and it was nearly the same experience as my own — the initial response was, “why is he here?” But they put him through the hearing test and discovered hearing loss.

AC: How did that feel having your son’s experience mirror your own?

KVL: It’s hard for me not to project my own experience on my child, but he’s going to have a different experience than I am. We’re in a different school district and in a different economic situation than I had growing up. Technology has progressed a lot in 30 years and the world has changed to be more accepting in a lot of ways — so that’s exciting — but it’s also exhausting to know that on some level I will need to continue to advocate not only for myself, but for him, too.

AC: How has being hard of hearing influenced your professional life? 

KVL: Working as an editor [at Ascend], I focus and try to keep a good pulse on person-first language. We have made a lot of strides in the past 10 years to improve that, reducing or removing a lot of biased language from educational materials. It’s important to have a person-first approach in everything.

Speaking from my own experience, I simply ask for what I need in a professional setting. It’s important for me that people turn on their cameras because seeing their face(s) and being able to lip read greatly enhances my ability to understand and interpret what they’re saying. I’ve been fortunate that the people I work with directly are all very understanding and accommodating, as are many of the people I meet with.

AC: How can folks be more accommodating towards people with hearing loss?

KVL: If somebody doesn’t hear you, don’t assume that they didn’t understand it. They just need you to repeat it one more time, and if you can, repeat it the exact same way instead of rephrasing. For me, I’ve already got this “Wheel of Fortune” puzzle in my brain right now with about 60% of the information, and I’m working to fill in the other pieces. If you rephrase what you said, I have to start over. If that still isn’t working, then try rephrasing yourself.

AC: Thank you so much for taking the time to share your story with us. Your perspective and experience have been so enlightening, and we look forward to sharing it with others.

KVL: Thanks for the opportunity. Disabilities are not monolithic, and people experience things in different ways. It’s important to be able to connect with people and hear about their lived experiences.


Five Tips to Communicating with People with Hearing Loss

Combining tips and resources from the Hearing Loss Association of America and the Association for the Study of Higher Education, here is a helpful guide on how to communicate and host meetings with people who have hearing loss.

  1. Speak clearly, distinctly and at normal speed unless asked to slow down. Use a normal tone unless you are asked to raise your voice.
  2. Speak expressively and provide a clear view of your mouth so lip reading is possible. Because persons who are deaf or hard of hearing [sometimes] cannot hear subtle changes in tone, which may indicate sarcasm or seriousness, many will rely on your facial expressions, gestures, and body language to understand you.
  3. If you are having trouble understanding the speech of a person who is deaf or hard of hearing, feel free to ask them to repeat. If that does not work, then use a paper and pen.
  4. Meeting Tip: Provide agenda items, background materials and names of attendees in writing in advance. If meeting in person, provide seating so that the person with hearing loss has their back to any windows and sits as close to the main speaker as possible.
  5. Meeting Tip: Background noise, music, cross-conversations, reverberation, and distance from the speaker all contribute to a difficult listening environment. Ensure that subtitles and/or the meeting transcript are enabled for all users. Ask what can be done to make hearing easier.

FACTS Education and Kognito Partner to Help Educators Support Student Mental Health

FACTS Education Solutions, a provider of K-12 professional development and instructional services and Kognito, a leading health simulations company, announced a partnership to help private and faith-based schools address student mental health related to the fallout of COVID-19.

Through this new partnership, FACTS Ed customers now have the opportunity to access several Kognito simulations to support school climate, safety, and wellness. Educators, staff, students, parents, and caregivers can gain knowledge and skills surrounding critical topics including emotional and mental wellness, trauma, social emotional learning, substance use, and coping with loss.

A FACTS Ed facilitator will guide educators through simulations either on-site or online, and facilitate conversations surrounding the experience to help ensure they are getting the most out of the training. This holistic and tailored approach combines the power of Kognito’s evidence-based simulations with FACTS Ed private sector expertise and hands-on, personalized services to best prepare learners to meet the needs of today’s students.

“Enhancing our professional learning portfolio with Kognito content – which is proven to impact the lives of students and educators – directly aligns with our mission at FACTS Ed. We couldn’t be more pleased about bringing the programs and services to our school partners,” said Tiffany Wilbur, Manager of Educator Services at FACTS Ed.

During the 2020-2021 school year to date, nearly 24,000 teachers and leaders at private and faith-based schools have participated in 370 live and on-demand professional learning and development events. Kognito’s role-play simulations have been deployed by more than 13,000 schools and districts, but the power of its role-play experiences has yet to be fully harnessed by the private sector. This new partnership will enable private institutions to rapidly build the capacity of educators and students to lead real-life conversations that can improve student mental health, academic performance, and school safety.

Student mental health and the mounting anxiety related to COVID-19 is a huge concern among educators and administrators. A Reuters survey found that 74% of districts reported multiple indicators of increased mental health stresses among students since the onset of the pandemic. Educators are on the front lines, and because they see students on a regular basis, they are uniquely positioned to identify those who may be struggling, and when necessary, connect them to support.

Unfortunately, research shows that although students at private schools need support surrounding mental health and substance use, they aren’t currently getting that support. A quantitative survey published in “Frontiers in Psychology” before the pandemic revealed that only 24% of private/independent high school students cited teachers as helping them cope with stress, and over 30% reported using alcohol or other drugs within the last 30 days.

FACTS Ed and Kognito are confronting this gap, and this new partnership provides schools with the superior content and support they need to successfully implement mental health training into their professional development curriculum. By giving educators the knowledge and skills they need to support their students during this unique time, schools can create a more supportive community that enables their students to thrive.

“The importance of and need for social emotional learning has been spotlighted by the pandemic,” says Jennifer Spiegler, SVP of Strategic Partnerships at Kognito. “We’re excited to work with FACTS Ed to help educators across the country learn valuable skills that can help them meet students where they are, and set them up for success during this critical time.”

About FACTS Education Solutions
FACTS Ed is committed to making educational dreams possible through service and technology. Combined, they serve more than three million students and families at over 11,500 schools. FACTS Ed’s education services include professional learning and development, instructional services, title funding consultation, and a coaching program that uses video technology to help teachers develop their skills. FACTS also offers a comprehensive suite of technology services including tuition management, a student information system, payment administration and processing, financial needs assessment, admissions/enrollment solutions, and a fundraising and development platform.  For more information, visit

New Kognito Online Simulations Give Educators Hands-on Practice to Support Students’ Emotional and Mental Wellness

Kognito brand logo with tagline "Conversations that change lives."

Kognito’s newest training tool builds awareness, knowledge and skills around emotional and mental health, as well as suicide prevention, as schools expect a surge in children who need help.

Kognito, the leading evidence-based simulation company, today announced a new professional development training tool for educators. The online role-play simulation, Emotional & Mental Wellness, builds awareness, knowledge, and skills around emotional and mental health as well as suicide prevention.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has brought students’ emotional and mental wellness to the forefront,” said Scott Healy, General Manager of Kognito. “To address the needs of schools and districts, we developed the Emotional & Mental Wellness module to train teachers and school staff on identifying the warning signs of psychological distress. It also builds upon utilization of effective communication techniques with students to discuss concerns, build resilience, and increase connectedness.”

With an SEL (social and emotional learning) and trauma-informed lens, the Emotional & Mental Wellness program prepares educators to lead real-life conversations that build resilience, strengthen relationships, and connect students with appropriate support. The program introduces new features such as an optional advanced practice scenario and the inclusion of de-escalation and mindfulness techniques.

“The training was very inviting and not intimidating. It was constantly reassuring me that we all go through this. I need to have that self-awareness,” said a parent in New York that participated in a review of the online simulation.

Kognito’s evidence-based simulations have been used by more than 750,000 educators, staff, and students in over 13,000 schools and districts across the U.S. These unique online learning experiences have been proven to change behavior by increasing skills and confidence to manage critical conversations around topics that impact social and emotional wellness, school climate, and school safety.

Cultural Connection: Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month with Carolyn Vasquez

Inclusivity is one of our values at Ascend Learning; we are eager to include all people and diverse perspectives. To learn more about what it means to live our values both in and outside the workplace, we sat down [virtually] with Carolyn Vasquez, Ascend Learning director of talent development and inclusion, to discuss National Hispanic Heritage Month — which is observed Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 in the U.S. — to explore the uniqueness and complexity of identity among Hispanic, Latino/a and Latinx communities, and gain insights on how to celebrate this month in your own community.

Can you provide some background about National Hispanic Heritage Month — whom is being celebrated and how did it start?

Carolyn Vasquez (CV): In 1968, [then U.S. President] Lyndon Johnson instituted a national weeklong celebration of Hispanic Heritage Week to acknowledge the contributions of people of Hispanic descent in the fields of art, business, science and those who bravely fought as soldiers during American wars and conflicts. He famously proclaimed “this is our heritage” in that speech, which was an important moment in our history where Hispanic and Latin Americans were publicly recognized as being in fact American.

The Sept. 15 date was selected to recognize five Latin American countries who gained their independence from Spain 200 years ago on that date. There are three others that gained independence in the days after September 15. Fast-forward to 1988 — [former U.S. President] Ronald Reagan extended it to 31 days, and in 1989, it was first proclaimed by [former U.S.] President George H.W. Bush.

This period is referred to as Hispanic Heritage Month, and you’ve also used the term “Latin American.” Can you elaborate on the difference between these terms?

CV: “Latin American” is generally understood to include people from Central and South American countries as well as Mexico. Although “Hispanic” originally referred to somebody who originates from Spain, it was adopted in the 1970s as a term that now usually refers to people whose origins are from Spanish-speaking countries; in other words, Hispanic is a language-based term that does not include Brazilians or Haitians. 

Over the decades, the terms Latin, Latino and Latina — and now, the contemporary term Latinx — came into the fold as terms for anyone whose families’ lineage could be traced to Central and South American countries [and not Spain]. Like many other cultures and countries, many in our community do not identify with the words chosen to historically categorize them [but] instead self-identify in a term for their country of origin because each country has such diversity in terms of their traditions, culture, and even variations in language.

For those unfamiliar with the term, what does Latinx mean?

CV: Latinx is a non-binary expression of Latino or Latina. It is a source of heavy debate in the Hispanic and Latino/a communities, because it is a gender-neutral term intended to categorize a particular group of people whose heritage is rooted in the Spanish language, which grammatically uses genders.

Which brings us back to the challenge that there isn’t one term that encompasses and feels right for everyone in the Hispanic, Latino/a or Latinx communities. To say “I’m Latinx” versus “I’m Hispanic” is a deeply individual choice that references the different intersectionalities of ourselves.

What about individuals who were born outside the U.S. in a Latin American country, but were raised here — or U.S.-born individuals whose family members immigrated from a Latin American country? How do those circumstances influence their identities?

This is a very personal question to me because I come from a multiracial family that is made up of Hispanics, Latinos and Latinas all from different countries of origin. My husband, who is an incredibly proud Guatemalan man, was born and raised in Boston [and from birth was a U.S. citizen], but if you were to ask him about his background or ethnicity, he will say he’s Guatemalan because it’s where his mother and biological father are from.

I was raised in a multiracial family where each of my immediate family members was born in a different place. I was born in Colombia, was adopted as an infant and was raised by two Caucasian parents in a predominately white suburb of Boston. If people ask me about my background, I will often say I was born in Colombia, but in some ways, I identify more as an American or Latinx — or more simply, a human ‘mix’ — than as a non-Spanish-speaking Latina. I am somewhere on the sliding scale in between where any terminology really fits me. I think my personal identity is still being formed.

My [non-biological] brother also was adopted from Colombia. As a Black Latino man raised in America, his identity has been more distinctly carved from his race rather than what language he speaks. He would identify as Afro-Latino, but it doesn’t quite encompass who he is either.

Some categorizations don’t necessarily translate to self-identity in an easy way — they don’t always match up. Ultimately, folks will use the term that’s right for them, depending on their lived experiences.

In what ways can people celebrate during and after Hispanic Heritage Month?

CV: There are so many wonderful ways to acknowledge the month, and it’s based in awareness and education. I always believe the best way to celebrate different cultures is to follow the thread that interests you most — food, fashion, film, music, dance and others — then pull on it and see what you uncover. We have very complex histories — while we are celebrating many different countries and their many contributions to the world, it is important to also acknowledge and understand some of the hardships that folks have had to face in this country.

Another way to engage is through conversation. If you have friends, colleagues or neighbors who are part of these communities, ask them about their personal narratives, their culture or their familial culture.

The list of ways to engage or celebrate is endless — but the best way to embrace the culture is to follow what interests you.

ExamFX Acquires Training Consultants

Expanded product portfolio strengthens ExamFX’s ability to meet professionals’ training needs by accelerating learning, advancing job readiness, and enabling employment success

ExamFX, an Ascend Learning, LLC brand and a leader in licensing training for the insurance and financial services industries, recently acquired Training Consultants, a recognized provider of securities licensing training with over 40 years of experience.

The acquisition creates a comprehensive solution for insurance and securities licensing training in the financial services industry, strengthening ExamFX’s leadership position with proven outcomes and candidate success.

“We’re very pleased about the acquisition of Training Consultants,” said ExamFX General Manager, Scott Barnes. “Training Consultants is a highly-regarded brand in the industry serving capital markets, insurance, and diversified financial services segments. Incorporating Training Consultants’ products will expand ExamFX’s portfolio providing industry-leading learning tools and resources for all learners.”

Once integrated, clients and candidates will have access to the best of both companies – which includes a new state-of-the-art learning platform, live virtual instruction, and an analytics tool that provides data visualization, predictive modeling, and actionable insights. This will further enable clients to achieve recruitment goals by accelerating candidate learning and increasing licensure success.

Will Leahy, who led Training Consultants prior to the acquisition, stated, “We’re excited to join ExamFX and become a part of Ascend Learning’s Safety & Security segment. The acquisition creates an unparalleled offering in securities and insurance licensing training.  I’m thrilled about the value this brings to our customers and the industry.”

“Training Consultants’ alignment with ExamFX will create an elevated and comprehensive solution by combining expert content and learning technology,” said Tim McClinton, President, Ascend Learning Safety & Security. “I’m excited about this new venture and helping financial services professionals advance their careers with our market-leading materials.”

About Training Consultants
Training Consultants has been successfully qualifying candidates to pass their securities exams since 1979. They offer exam-focused courses delivered through On-Demand Video, Live Webinar, In-Person Instruction, and traditional Textbook formats. Training Consultants provides enterprise-level solutions, service, and management tools to some of the largest institutions in the financial services industry.

About ExamFX
ExamFX is an established leader in the development and delivery of online exam prep and continuing education training for the insurance and financial services industries. Since 1996, ExamFX has helped more than seven million candidates prepare to pass their licensing and qualification exams. Through its learning platform, ExamFX offers candidates top-rated online training, predictive analytics tools for managers, and a unique “Pass Guarantee.” ExamFX is proud to be an Ascend Learning, LLC brand.

About Ascend Learning
Ascend Learning, LLC is a leading provider of online educational content, software, simulation, and analytics serving students, educational institutions, and employers. With products that span the learning continuum, Ascend Learning focuses on high-growth careers in a range of industries, with a special focus on healthcare and other high-growth, licensure-driven professions. Ascend Learning products, from testing to certification, are used by frontline healthcare workers, physicians, emergency medical professionals, nurses, certified personal trainers, financial advisors, skilled trades professionals and insurance brokers.

ATI Nursing Education Publishes Next Generation NCLEX Guidebook for Nurse Educators

When educators have been teaching students to prepare for a licensing exam using question types that have remained consistent for nearly a generation, how do they prepare students when major changes are introduced to the exam?

This is the situation currently facing nurse educators across the U.S., who prepare nursing students for licensure through the National Council Licensure Examination, or NCLEX exam, which is maintained by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN).

The NCSBN is introducing significant changes to the NCLEX in 2023 so the test more accurately measures students’ clinical judgment, or their ability to apply their nursing knowledge in concrete situations to protect the health and safety of their patients. More than three years in the making, the Next Generation NCLEX (NGN) introduces new question types that are more complex and difficult than questions students have been prepared to answer for the past 25 years — an initiative that has created uncertainty and anxiety among nurse educators.

ATI Nursing Education, an Ascend Learning brand, has created a free educational tool to alleviate educators’ apprehension and build confidence that they can meet the challenge: the Next Generation NCLEX Guidebook, a comprehensive resource that helps nurse educators understand the actual changes coming to the test and how to prepare for them as well as the theoretical and conceptual underpinnings of the changes — and strategies to prepare nurses for both the NGN and day-to-day practice treating clients.

Janean Johnson, DNP, RN, CNE and nursing strategist at ATI Nursing Education, said that the publication focuses significantly on NCSBN adding more clinical judgment to the exam, a critical skill for nurses — especially those in entry-level positions.

“Clinical judgment is necessary for nurses to recognize and respond appropriately to urgent changes in a client’s condition based on evidence presented,” Johnson said. “Strong clinical judgement on behalf of nurses results in improved client outcomes and fewer nursing errors.”

Filled with strategies and details to equip nurse educators across the country with the knowledge needed to prepare nurses for both the NGN and day-to-day practice treating clients, the Next Gen NCLEX Guidebook is available for download here:

NASM and AFAA’s Optima Event Wins Gold Stevie Award® for Best Educational Conference

Ascend Learning is pleased to announce that Optima, an annual conference presented by two of its brands — the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) and the Athletics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA) — received a Gold Stevie® Award for Best Educational Event at the 18th Annual International Business Awards®.

The Stevie® award recognizes best-in-class virtual events that took place in 2020. Winners were selected from more than 3,700 nominations across 63 nations and territories.

“Optima is the premier event for our community to learn, network and share the latest science and trends,” said Laurie McCartney, President of Ascend’s Fitness & Wellness segment, which includes NASM and AFAA. “When the pandemic forced the world into a lockdown, we had to quickly pivot to build and deploy an exceptional virtual experience. Thanks to the dedication and hard work of our teams, we reached more members of our community than ever before.”

The Optima 2020 conference included 100 educational sessions for Continuing Education Units, guided workouts, and valuable opportunities to network with leaders and peers in a state-of-the-art virtual environment.

Some of the highlights that helped make the event a success include:

  • 30,000 simultaneous attendees at any time during the 4-day event
  • Zero down-time with full redundancy to address spikes in traffic
  • More than 120,000 registrations and 120 hours of streaming content
  • Gamification with an engagement leaderboard and prizes 3x a day
  • More than 65 expert speakers and 18 sponsor booths

Building on the success of the 2020 event, NASM and AFAA today announced that their seventh annual Optima Conference will include a registration option for free access to learning sessions, exclusive insights, and related knowledge focused on the latest science and trends in fitness and wellness. The conference will be accessible online from Oct. 21-23, 2021, with complimentary registration open now at

Inspiration, Gratitude, Affirmation and Excitement: Ascend Shares Thought Leadership in EdTech at 2021 ASU-GSV Summit

Inspiration, gratitude, affirmation and excitement for the future — these are the takeaways for the five leaders from Ascend Learning who contributed their thought leadership as panelists and moderators at the 2021 ASU-GSV Summit, Aug. 9-11 in San Diego.

Now in its 12th year, the annual event — a partnership between Arizona State University and Global Silicon Valley — connects leading minds focused on transforming society and business around learning and work.

Speaking on topics ranging from the state of medical EdTech and the student mental health crisis to AR/VR, simulations training and the “Pre-K to Gray” journey, leaders from Ascend were thrilled to reconnect with the global community of leaders driving positive change in education.


Ada Woo, chief of staff and senior director in Ascend’s assessment sciences unit, joined a panel of leading minds to explore how AI is currently incorporated into learning platforms, and potential for the technology in the future.

“It was inspiring to be among EdTech innovators who care deeply about improving learning outcomes,” Ada said. “I am especially excited about our work in education technology and Ascend leading the way in workforce education.”

Deb Serri, vice president of simulation at Ascend, also came away with renewed inspiration from a panel that explored the intersection of AR, VR, and simulations with on-the-job learning. She said she looks forward to sharing that inspiration with her teams, which develop simulations for multiple Ascend brands including Kognito, ATI Nursing Education, National Healthcareer Association, Public Safety Group, National Academy of Sports Medicine, and Jones & Bartlett Learning.

“ASU-GSV was a great learning opportunity, and I am inspired by the exceptional talent present in the EdTech space,” Deb said. “I’m looking forward to bringing that inspiration back to Ascend.”


Moderating a panel with two physicians, an associate dean of a medical school, and two founders of some of the most advanced simulation companies in medical education is a welcome challenge for any professional in the EdTech space.

Jeff Jones, Ascend’s senior vice president of strategy and corporate development, appreciated the opportunity to gain new perspectives from such a group while moderating the discussion, “The State of Medical EdTech.”

“We explored a number of issues and opportunities in medical education with an emphasis on producing caring clinicians focused on producing the best outcomes for patients,” Jeff said. “I am truly grateful for their time and the expertise they shared with me and the audience at ASU-GSV Summit.”


As manager of strategic initiatives and partnerships (HigherEd) at Ascend’s Kognito, Darren Jones, Ed.D., understands the evolving role of technology in meeting the social, emotional and academic needs of college and university students. As a panelist at the summit, Jones came away confident in Ascend and Kognito’s leadership in the mental health tech space, and its role in helping faculty and staff to provide aid to students as they return to campuses this fall amidst the ongoing challenges created by the pandemic.

“I left the conference feeling affirmed in the work we do at Kognito,” Darren said. “We are pushing the envelope while meeting people where they are, so that we empower others to contribute to safe and supportive environments.”


With more than three decades of experience as a leader at mission-driven businesses in healthcare and education services, Ascend CEO Greg Sebasky has seen how technology has driven lifelong learning prior to COVID. Greg was one of several EdTech CEOs in a panel exploring the role of EdTech in the future.

“My opportunity to participate in a panel with leaders from K-12, Higher Education, and Corporate Learning was a privilege,” Greg said. “We are committing ourselves to work together to accelerate the learning pathways that can move people into careers of their choice, where they have the knowledge and skills to have an impact in their communities. Very exciting!”

Ascend has sponsored the ASU-GSV Summit for three years, and our team members have been attending the event since 2015, gaining knowledge, expanding our network and bringing back fresh perspectives to Ascend. We are proud to sponsor events where we can make a collective impact in the EdTech world and further our mission to change lives through education. A special thanks to all our leaders for speaking on behalf of Ascend at this key industry event!



Video and photo highlights from the 2021 ASU-GSV Summit are available on the GSV YouTube Channel: Direct links to the panels featuring Ascend Learning leaders are below.

ZumbaTeams Up With The Athletics And Fitness Association Of America (AFAA) For One-Of-A-Kind Offering

Instructors Around the World Will Get and Maintain Their AFAA Group Fitness Instructor Certification Faster, More Easily, and at a Low Monthly Price 

April 19, 2021 (Miami, FL): ZumbaⓇ, the largest branded fitness company in the world, announced today it will be partnering with the Athletics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA), one of the top fitness certifying organizations in the US, to allow its global community of instructors (Zumba® Instructor Network // ZIN™) to easily get and maintain their Group Fitness Instructor Certification at a low monthly subscription rate. This is the first time AFAA has ever offered a program like this, which covers certification and recertification content for one low price, making it easier than ever for ZINs to access the accredited certification program and tools. AFAA has also built the offering so that the training takes 25% less time, because it gives ZINs credit for what they already learned in their Zumba Instructor Training (Basic 1).  

“Our main goal at Zumba is to support our instructors to be the best fitness professionals they can be, which empowers them to lead classes more successfully,” said Zumba CEO Alberto Perlman. “Partnering with AFAA means we are able to deliver on this, and we’re proud they have collaborated with us to create this exclusive offering that will cost our instructors less money and take them less time to complete; truly a win-win!”  

 The first-of-its kind package includes:  

  •  AFAA Group Fitness Instructor Certification (AFAA-GFI) Course and Certification
  • 5 bi-monthly online courses per year to complete recertification credit requirements
  • Recertification Renewal Fee Covered
  • 1 additional online AFAA/NASM fitness or wellness course per year to further development

“Zumba revolutionized the fitness industry by blending super-charged aerobics with a dance-infused, pulse-pounding Latin beat,” said Laurie McCartney, President of the Fitness & Wellness segment for Ascend Learning. McCartney oversees AFAA and the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), providing industry-leading certifications and specializations for fitness professionals. “By working together, we’ve made it faster, more convenient and more affordable for ZINs to get and maintain their accredited Group Fitness Instructor Certification through AFAA, which will help expand their career opportunities and better empower them to transform more lives around the world!” 

Only ZIN™ Members qualify for this offer. To become a Zumba Instructor visit:  

About Zumba Fitness, LLC: 

Founded in 2001, Zumba® is the largest branded fitness company in the world – reporting more than 15 million weekly participants, in 200,000 locations, across 186 countries. Zumba blends contagious world rhythms with easy-to-follow choreography for an effective workout that empowers participants to become their best selves – mind, body and soul.  In addition to its original Zumba program, the company offers 10 Zumba specialty classes – from aquatic-based to those specifically designed for active older adults and children. In 2016, Zumba launched its first non-dance, HIIT workout STRONG Nation™, where music acts as the main motivator. The Zumba lifestyle is rounded out by the company’s many consumer product offerings, including video games, original music, activewear and footwear, and interactive Fitness-Concert™ events. For more information about Zumba’s programs and products, or to find a live or virtual class, Follow us onFacebook andInstagram

About AFAA: 

The Athletics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA) has led the way in certifying group fitness and personal trainers for over 35 years. AFAA pioneered the first nationally standardized guidelines for fitness professionals and has prepared over 350,000 instructors and trainers in 73 countries. AFAA’s Group Fitness Instructor Program is accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA). Learn more at 

The Original EMT Textbook Celebrates 50th Anniversary with New Twelfth Edition

Jones & Bartlett Learning Public Safety Group Continues to Help Transform EMS Training for Millions


Jones & Bartlett Learning Public Safety Group, a division of Ascend Learning, announced the release of the 12th edition of Emergency Care and Transportation of the Sick and Injured, 50 years after the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) published the first edition in 1971. Since that time, the textbook has helped transform how EMS education is delivered throughout the world and helped train millions of world-class EMS providers.

In 1997, the AAOS partnered with Jones & Bartlett Publishers (now Jones & Bartlett Learning) to release Emergency Care and Transportation of the Sick and Injured, Sixth Edition. Since the publication of that edition, these organizations have worked together to create teaching and learning systems that combine superior medical content with market leading technology solutions and online courseware to transform all levels of EMS training. The 12th edition features the most comprehensive suite of instructional materials yet to ensure complete coverage of standards and science and provide needed information on career readiness, critical thinking, and mental health.

“On behalf of the Jones & Bartlett Learning Public Safety Group and Ascend Learning, we’re honored to help celebrate 50 years of excellence from our valued partner—the AAOS,” said Tim McClinton, President of Professional Education, Ascend Learning. “Day in and day out, this textbook helps improve the quality of emergency medical care in the United States and abroad; it’s inspiring to think of how many lives have been impacted over the years.”

“It’s an honor to publish a text that is so well-respected that it has become the gold standard in its field,” said Anna Salt Troise, chief commercial officer, AAOS. “In today’s multi-disciplinary approach to healthcare, influential texts like Emergency Care and Transportation of the Sick and Injured, are essential for EMS providers of all levels.”

Far more than just a textbook, the 12th edition is supported by an array of innovative and flexible course delivery tools, from foundational resources that prepare students for certification, to comprehensive education solutions that facilitate student engagement and virtual learning. Learn more about these tools and the 12th edition textbook at

About the Jones & Bartlett Learning Public Safety Group (
Jones & Bartlett Learning Public Safety Group has become the world’s most innovative and trusted source for educational materials and solutions for EMS and fire students, educators, and professionals by leveraging the collective value of our people, products, and partners. From initial training to recertification to retirement, we strive to be a lifelong learning partner to those who serve our communities tirelessly and ensure our safety and well-being.

About Ascend Learning (
Ascend Learning is a leading provider of online educational content, simulation, software and analytics serving students, educational institutions and employers. With products that span the learning continuum, Ascend Learning focuses on high-growth careers in a range of industries, with a special focus on healthcare and other high-growth, licensure-driven professions. Ascend Learning products, from testing to certification, are used by frontline healthcare workers, physicians, emergency medical professionals, nurses, certified personal trainers, group fitness instructors, financial advisors, skilled trades professionals and insurance brokers. Learn more at

About the AAOS (
With more than 39,000 members, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons is the world’s largest medical association of musculoskeletal specialists. The AAOS is the trusted leader in advancing musculoskeletal health. It provides the highest quality, most comprehensive education to help orthopaedic surgeons and allied health professionals at every career level best treat patients in their daily practices. The AAOS is the source for information on bone and joint conditions, treatments and related musculoskeletal health care issues, and it leads the health care discussion on advancing quality.