Breakout Session Offerings

We are excited to release our breakout session schedule! Our 19 sessions have been curated for Educators, School District Leaders, Counselors, Youth Serving Program Staff, & Community Leaders. Continuing Education credits are available for eligible professionals! Our skilled trainers have a broad range of experience, expertise, and certifications. Conference attendees will have the opportunity to attend three breakout sessions.

Developing Relationships To Unlock Student Potential


graphic icons.jpg

Sensory and Behavior: Who Knew There Was a Connection

Have you ever stopped to think about the awe you experience when seeing a beautiful red cardinal, the peace, and warmth you feel when cozied beneath your favorite blanket, or the happiness of the smell and taste of a freshly baked cookie? These sensory experiences guide you to a feeling of security, well-being, and safety. On the other hand, have you ever sensed a bump in the night, heard a wailing siren, or felt your heartbeat faster when something unexpected happened? These unpredictable sensorial experiences make you uncomfortable and perhaps a bit unbalanced.  Recognizing how these sensory experiences impact our personal lives positively or negatively can help us better understand our behaviors and those of our children. This session will briefly explain the new research on the predictable brain and offer several strategies and design techniques for creating sensible spaces and predictable places.

Facilitator: Melissa Williamson, EdD, CTP (At the Heart of Teaching, Learning, & Leadership)

How Patterns of Youth Connectedness to School, Parents, and Friends Interact with Problem-Focused Mentoring Conversations to Influence Mentees Long-Term Educational Outcomes

A recent 10-year follow-up study of the Communities in Schools of San Antonio school-based mentoring program examined the long-term effects of school-based mentoring on the later pursuit of post-secondary education (PSE). It found that time spent on different conversation topics, especially conversations focusing on school problems, was helpful for some types of youth but possibly harmful for others in terms of facilitating their likelihood of pursuing PSE. This talk will present these different styles of engagement (configurations of connectedness to school, parents, and friends), provide tools for program staff to use to assess youth connectedness (as well as for recording match conversation focus for mentor supervision and training purposes) and suggest ways to use connectedness profiles to help mentors navigate conversations early in the mentoring relationship.

Facilitator: Michael Karcher, EdD, PhD (University of Texas at San Antonio)

"What Were They Thinking?!" Understanding Adolescent Brain Development and How to Respond Effectively

"Have you ever been in a situation with a child or teen with challenging behavior and found yourself saying, "What were they thinking?!"

In this session, we will talk about child and adolescent brain development and how to be effective in your work with children and teens. We will cover development, trauma, and common mental health needs that arise in this age range. We will then discuss motivational interviewing and other tools to utilize when you get back to your campus so you can continue to build and strengthen your work with students.

This session will be primarily practice-based while utilizing theory and research to inform practice.

Facilitator: Rebecca Juarez, LMSW (UTSA)

Promoting Healing, Mindfulness, Health, and Positive Development


head heart graphic icon.jpg

Harnessing the Power of Physical Activity to Promote Academic Achievement and Protect Against Mental Health Challenges

This session will adopt a more theoretical and knowledge-based approach, although application examples will also be provided. The speaker will discuss 1) the state of physical activity, physical education, and sports participation among youth in the United States, with a focus on Texas, 2) the myriad of factors that have contributed to this epidemic of physical inactivity, 3) how we can help youth overcome these barriers to engage in a physically active lifestyle, and 4) the beneficial impact that regular physical activity participation can have for promoting academic achievement and protecting against mental health challenges commonly experienced during these critical developmental years.

Facilitator: Denver Brown, PhD (University of Texas at San Antonio)

Art as a Tool for Engaged Learning and Healing

The session will be a mix of theory and practice-based examples that will include strategies on how to incorporate visual, performance, and literary (and other) art as a tool for engaged learning for all academic subjects and as a vehicle for cultural grounding and healing.

Examples and assessment ideas will be presented.

Facilitators: Rhonda BeLue, PhD & Natalie Bradford, PhD (University of Texas at San Antonio)

Empowering Professionals and the Students We Serve


Untitled design (2).png

Self-Care: What Is It? Why Do I Need It?

Self-care is a popular concept for adults attempting to recover from or prevent burnout. Still, our children also lead busy, extracurricular activities, family obligations, and friendships require their time and attention. Kids need to develop self-care strategies to maintain physical and mental wellness. Come learn how to help your students create self-care plans that enhance their well-being. The lesson will be modeled to participants, who will receive the resources. 

Facilitator: Lisa Ranallo, MA, CSC (ESC-20)

Meeting Teacher and Student Mental Health Needs: Lessons from the Basecampus Teacher Support Program

In this practice-based session, we will share the key lessons we learned about teachers’ practices surrounding their personal mental health and students’ mental health through an evaluation of the Basecampus program at two San Antonio high schools. We will then engage in a conversation surrounding teachers’ mental health and their confidence to serve students.

Facilitators: Jasmine Victor, PhD; Han Bum Lee, PhD; Victor Villarreal, PhD; & Sharon Nichols, BA, MA, PhD (UTSA)

In Their Shoes: Teen Dating Violence

This session will allow participants to become one of six teen characters experiencing dating violence. Participants will make choices along the character's journey based on true stories and then debrief with fellow participants. This interactive session uses the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence experiential activity "In Their Shoes-Teen Dating Violence. Please note that this session will not have seating as it is interactive/a simulation requiring participants to move between stations.

Facilitator: Maritza Garcia-Pulido (CIS-SA)

Understanding the Cultural Experiences of Youth From Immigrant Families

Since the 1970s, the foreign-born population in the United States (US) has rapidly increased, reaching an all-time high of nearly 44. million (13.7% of the total population) in 2018 (Budiman, 2020). Today, the majority of foreign-born individuals residing in the US originate from what is commonly known as the global south (i.e., Latin America and Asia) which typically hold collectivist-based beliefs (i.e., focus on the well-being of the family, clan, nation, or religion), whereas members of the receiving society typically emphasize individualism (i.e., focus on autonomy and self-sufficiency; Hofstede, 2001). The migration patterns to the US over the past 50 years have, therefore, produced cultural divides between immigrants and the society that receives them. As a result, scholarly interest on the challenges faced by immigrants has substantially increased over the last few decades (Chirkov, 2009; Schwartz, Unger, Zamboanga, & Szapocznik, 2010). Drawing on research conducted among Hispanic/Latino immigrants in the last few decades, this presentation will explore the challenges immigrants face.

Facilitator: Alan Meca, PhD (University of Texas at San Antonio)

Ethics for Social Workers and Counselors

In this session we will review various ethical responsibilities for Licensed Social Workers and Counselors in a school setting. We will discuss school-specific issues, ethics, and the law.  We will discuss potential barriers to recognizing ethical issues and process ethical case studies in the school setting while running through the Ethical Decision-Making model.

Facilitator: Kimberly Sayers, LPC-S (Communities In Schools of San Antonio)


Guardians of Hope: Suicide Prevention Training Certification

This training provides a 3-year certification in suicide prevention. The QPR training is designed to provide innovative, practical, and proven suicide prevention training. The signs of crisis are all around us. We believe that quality education empowers all people, regardless of their background, to make a positive difference in the life of someone they know.

Facilitator: Nisi Bennett, LSS (All Heart Initiative)

Art of Giving Through Empowerment

Experience the magic of the 'Art of Giving Through Empowerment' session! Join us on a transformative journey where empowerment becomes the canvas for giving. Led by Sebastian, this session unveils the secrets of empowering our youth and programs in extraordinary ways. Discover the art of understanding, connecting, and mentoring students from diverse backgrounds while igniting their leadership potential. Engage in intimate peer conversations that will reshape your approach to positively impacting lives. Don't miss your chance to explore the dynamic fusion of art, empowerment, and giving in this captivating session!

Facilitator: Sebastian Sanders (The Sanders Hand)

Dyslexia 101

One in five students have dyslexia, whether they are diagnosed or not. A teacher that is equipped with information on dyslexia can be a lifeline to a struggling student. Celebrate Dyslexia offers an experiential seminar to instill an understanding of dyslexia and equip educators with the necessary information to support the one in five students in their classroom. The overall purpose is to enable every campus, school district, and student nuclear support system to be a safe, high-quality educational environment where dyslexic students may become self-driven and thrive.

Facilitator: Jasmin Dean, MM (Celebrate Dyslexia)

Cinematic View of Treatment Planning and Interventions

This session will provide a unique look at treatment planning and interventions through the use of famous movie characters. Participants will be invited to learn about the best practices, uses, and history of cinematherapy. Movie characters will be role-played to provide case information for the 'therapists' (participants) to assess and develop interventions. Resources and information for interventions and treatment planning will be provided.

Facilitators: Barbara Bryan, LCSW-S & Jonathan De Jesus, MA, LPC, NCC (CIS-SA)

An Introduction to Motivational Interviewing for School Staff

This session will introduce school staff (e.g., teachers, specialists) to Motivational Interviewing (MI). MI is an evidence-based counseling approach shown to help students with behavior change. The presentation will provide a foundational/ theoretical orientation to MI by defining and providing examples of the process and sharing research support of how and when MI can be helpful. The presentation will then progress into a more practice-based introduction of skills and techniques consistent with MI.

Facilitators: Mackenzie Hart, PhD & Felicia Castro-Villarreal (UTSA)

Building a Thriving Community


Rooted in the Big C

Attendees will converse with other professionals to gain knowledge and skills related to community-building efforts to support the whole child and family best. Training participants will develop innovative ideas on incorporating individualized initiatives into a bigger cause, or the Big C. This training addresses how to engage the community to help build capacity effectively, solidify new funding opportunities, create a community of wrap-around support for children and families, and many other organizational needs. Finally, participants will be able to use these tools in a practical scenario and present plans on how to break through barriers every organization experiences when engaging the community.

Facilitators: Kane Jaggers, LMSW, Nicole Nguyen, BS, & Cynthia Ramirez, BAS (SJRC Texas | Belong)

Merging the Disability Lived Experience into the Classroom

In this presentation, attendees will receive basic Disability Confidence training. The speakers will then delve into the journey, sharing lessons learned, positive outcomes, and the thought processes behind their collaborative efforts. Participants will also be guided through envisioning exercises:

1) Teachers: Exploring how they can incorporate the lived experiences of individuals with disabilities into their classroom settings and identifying potential community partnerships to enhance their students' learning experiences.

2) Nonprofit Professionals: Examining how the needs, barriers, and challenges of those they serve can create valuable learning opportunities when collaborating with local classroom environments."

Facilitators: Neda Norouzi, M.Arch, MURP, B.Env.D (University of Texas at San Antonio) & Melanie Cawthon, CNP, MS (disABILITYsa)

Bridging The Gap: Strengthening Health Literacy in Youth With a Lived Experience of Foster Care

"This session aims to shed light on the critical issue of health literacy among youth with a lived experience of foster care. These young individuals face unique challenges impacting their ability to navigate the healthcare system effectively. We are breaking down barriers affecting health literacy and care access through workshops, one-on-one sessions, social media, and YouTube.

Key topics we will cover in this session include 1) understanding the specific challenges and barriers encountered when it comes to accessing healthcare services, making informed decisions, and managing their health 2) exploring effective strategies for teaching foster care alumni how to navigate the complex healthcare system and advocate for their health needs 3) learn about successful collaborations between healthcare providers, social services, and community organizations to improve the health literacy of youth with a lived experience of foster care."

Facilitator: Debbie Jennings, DNP, MSN, RN, CENP (Doin Well, LLC)

Building School Flourishing Communities with Whole Child Educators

This session will provide a whole child education approach for educators integrating Social Emotional Learning, Character Development, and Culturally Efficacious Education including research-based models to accomplish this goal and the leadership needed.

The workshop includes models, strategies, and tools to provide whole child education to the students PK-12th and the leadership to align all the stakeholders' efforts for flourishing school communities.

The session is theoretical and practical.

Facilitators: Maricarmen Esper, PhD, ME (MACC-UTSA) & Lorena Claeys, PhD, MCI, MEL (UTSA)