2017 National At-Risk Education Network (NAREN)-TranZed Conference Highlights
15th Annual National At-Risk Education Network (NAREN)-TranZed Conference
The 15th Annual NAREN-TranZed Conference in Annapolis, Maryland was held on October 19th and 20th. The Children’s Guild’s new charter school, Monarch Academy in Annapolis Maryland hosted the event. This year’s theme was “Trauma and Transformation.” According to a recent article published in The Baltimore Sun nationally, 46 percent of children are impacted by trauma. The NAREN-TranZed Conference seeks to equip child-serving professionals and the parents and children they serve with tools to deal with this epidemic. The conference had impressive keynote speakers, enriching breakout sessions, and authentic youth performances.
NAREN, a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation, was founded in 2001 and its mission is to facilitate the dissemination of information, support, and networking opportunities for educators dedicated to increasing the success and well-being of at-risk youth. The association was acquired by the TranZed Alliance several years ago, and the annual conference is a collaborative effort. The TranZed Alliance is a large child-serving organization founded as The Children’s Guild in 1953. It is headquartered in Baltimore, Maryland and is one of the largest providers of special education, group living, treatment foster care and family mental health services in the state.
The Alliance is the parent organization for numerous schools including Monarch Academy Charter Schools and programs located throughout Maryland and Washington D.C.; these include two non-public schools, five charter schools, three group homes, a treatment foster care program, an autism center, and an outpatient mental health clinic. The organization is dedicated to positively transforming young lives and the adults who serve them through a continuum of educational, behavioral health support, training and consultation services, and a national foundation. Its mission is to transform the way America cares for and educates its children.
Frank Kros, Director of NAREN and COO of The Children’s Guild, led the conference effort and welcomed over 600 participants on Thursday morning. Attendees included staff from the TranZed Alliance as well as those from other Maryland school districts including large groups from Anne Arundel and Cecil County Public Schools. Conference participants also included child-serving professionals from organizations all over the country including CA, NY, WA, PA, UT, ID, WY, WI and Washington DC.
The CEO of The Children’s Guild, Dr. Andrew Ross kicked off the conference by introducing the “Kids First Movement,” the idea of teaching the whole child, not just from an academic perspective. The Children’s Guild’s Chief Academic Officer, Nakia Nicholson followed Dr. Ross with a discussion on techniques that educators can use to change the mindset of children affected by homelessness, poverty, and trauma.
On Friday, Frank Kros, MSW, JD, President of the TranZed Institute and COO of The Children’s Guild welcomed the attendees to Friday’s session. He was followed by Dr. Steve Parese, Ed.D., Founder of SBP Consulting, Inc. Dr. Parese discussed creating strong, trusting relationships with individuals that have experienced prior trauma to improve positive academic outcomes. The conference concluded with a performance by Authoring Action a captivating group of kids aged 12-18 that harnessed the power of the spoken word and creative writing to communicate new ways of thinking and behavior for social change. Mr. Kros closed the conference with a keynote speech on the impact of trauma and children.
The event offered unmatched access to over 60 workshops that address a crucial public health issue in America – childhood trauma. The attendees saw the conference as a way to grow professionally and intellectually. While some attendees were looking for different educational strategies such as reading, others were looking to learn about how to manage ADHD needs in their students. Some were looking for ways to introduce cultural awareness into their classrooms. Whatever they were looking for, they had a choice of workshops where they could share with each other and learn best practices on how to educate children who are academically, emotionally, and socially challenged.
In the “Raising Literacy For At-Risk Students” workshop, Reading Specialist and Alternative Programs Teacher, Rachel Tambornino from WI discussed strategies to help children who are struggling readers feel engaged in the reading process. She provided resources for must-have books that help reluctant readers stay engaged while reading to achieve success and she provided free online resources that help practitioners chart a student’s success.
In the “Rethinking ADHD: What Works, What Doesn’t, and Why,” workshop, Debi Filippi, a certified presenter with the Transformation Education Institute, provided conference goers with an ADHD workbook, tips for explaining ADHD to teachers, techniques, and strategies to relax children affected by ADHD, and free resources on how to adapt children for success at home and in the school environment.
In the “Cultivating Cultural Competency,” workshop, clinicians with The Children’s Guild, Jamie Wilson and Ester Mack hosted an interactive discussion on how practitioners can increase their cultural competency and become more aware of racial diversity in the workplace and the implications of not taking into account the cultural differences of the populations that you serve.
The NAREN-TranZed Conference was an exciting way to build new relationships with those in the child-serving community who are like-minded and passionate about serving at-risk children that have experienced trauma in their lives. Plans are underway for next year’s event, and dates will be announced soon!