National Youth-at-Risk Conference

chairs sxchu_mzacha

No one likes to use labels to categorize people, but they do help us form a common language. Labels help us in our discussions, without continually having to define and clarify every thing we say.

“At-risk” is one of those labels that grates against my heart. After all, aren’t we all “at-risk” in a sense? But then I remember that many face far more intense challenges than I ever will. And let’s be honest, Allendale is full of “at-risk” youth.

Children and teenagers in Allendale live with challenges that put them at risk for failure. They cannot control most of these factors, such as food scarcity, parental unemployment and/or uninvolvement, lack of quality health care, lack of quality education system, environmental pollutants, etc.

For the most part, I’ve been at a loss of what to do. I don’t know the answers. I don’t usually know what questions to ask. And I don’t even know how much I don’t know. I’m often left just Wondering.

That’s why I’m thankful for the upcoming National Youth-at-Risk Conference, which I will be attending in early March, in Savannah, GA.

The Mission

“The conference trains adults who serve youth to create safe, healthy, caring, and intellectually empowering educational environments that foster the well-being of all children and adolescents. . . . Participants learn about current research-based educational programs and strategies, which empower young people to overcome at-risk conditions that may threaten their safety, health, emotional needs, or academic achievement. Participants also gain knowledge of proactive solutions and best practices for meeting the serious challenges faced by many of our youth today such as school violence, poverty, learning difficulties, underachievement, achievement gaps, illiteracy, boredom, apathy, low expectations, misbehavior, dropout, drugs, bullying, gangs, teen pregnancy, sexual harassment, racism, and dysfunctional families. . . .  Illustrative of the conference mission, the conference logo–consisting of three overlapping circles–represents the well-trained collaborative efforts of schools, families, and communities in fostering the well-being of our youth.”

youth_at_risk logo(emphasis mine)

I especially this last part, which emphasizes the importance of schools, families, and communities working together, a topic I talk about in Improving Our School Report Card and Community in 3 Parts.

The Speakers and Topics

With over 100 presentations on topics ranging from academic achievement to social skills, from mental health to physical safety, from mentoring to business collaborations, this event could be overwhelming. There will be more information than I could absorb in four days, and more ideas than I could implement in a decade.

I also signed up for a pre-conference workshop “Overcoming Poverty Challenges: Teaching With Poverty in Mind,” led by Eric Jensen. I recently bought Jensen’s book Teaching with Poverty in Mind, and plan to read it before this conference. You know, in case he wants to ask for my opinion.

Another speaker is Ruby Payne, author of A Framework for Understanding Poverty. This controversial book was one of the first I read on the topic of poverty (see Love Them Into the Middle Class for an example of what I learned from it).

A Great Opportunity

Attending this conference will mean missing a few days of work, and cancelling our after school program for a day, I believe it will be well worth it, both in terms of applicable information and networking. You can be sure that I’ll have a lot to blog about this when I’m done.

And maybe this event will be a benefit to you. If so, hurry up and register; the discounted rate applies until February 22.

Edit: Read the quick highlights of what I learned, in At-Risk Youth: What Can Be Done?

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**image courtesy of mzacha via

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