Thoughts from Kennedy Forum 2016

On December 6th, I had the distinct honor to attend the Kennedy Forum Annual Meeting 2016 in Chicago, Illinois! This year’s theme was Leadership for Change! I participated in a premier annual gathering of national and global thought leaders to ignite new ideas, build cross industry collaboration and inspire actionable results in the resilience, health, and well-being of the next generation. I had a sit-down lunch which featured notable keynote speakers, including Former Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy, Pastor Chris Harris, Michelle Williams (yeah the Destiny’s Child singer) and a plethora of distinct practitioners in the field! At the forum, I had the opportunity to talk with David Adams (The Urban Assembly, learn more about their approach to SEL using the DESSA) and Dr. G. Lawrence Farmer (Director of Doctoral Programs at Fordham) about the progressive steps we have both taken to push the SEL agenda in large, urban school districts and the need for SEL assessments for all students. I attended a breakout session entitled Developing Skills for Success that featured a panel of experts like Dr. Marc Atkins (UIC Director of the Institute for Juvenile Research), a former colleague of mine, who talked about the promotion of social and emotional development in schools to support mental health. And the coolest of all, I was given access to a closed student breakout session featuring over 100 students from across the Chicagoland area and notable celebrities: Allison Schmitt (8 time Olympic Gold Medalist Swimmer), Darryl McDaniels (Hip Hop Artist of Run DMC), and Michelle Williams. It was intriguing to hear each of these notable persons of influence use this platform to share their own stories of struggle with mental health and encourage these students to be attentive to their own mental health needs and speak out. The culmination of experiences that day left me feeling empowered to continue doing the work that we do to promote innovative practices around social and emotional health. Truly, I was inspired to continue to be one of the leaders for change for the next generation!

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