By Carissa Collins
Before attending my first YAR 2014 conference, I grabbed what every social media intern needs, a reporter’s notebook and a smartphone, and arrived at Endicott College. My job was not only to experience this one-of-a-kind conference but to live-tweet throughout. What I didn’t realize was how inspiring and full the day would be!
The range of professionals (over 750) was incredible, as keynote speaker Nancy Rappaport quickly discovered. She asked attendees to raise their hands according to vocation: social workers, school staff, law enforcement officers, therapists, and others. Rappaport, a Harvard professor, called for a “paradigm shift” in behavioral consequences, where we “catch kids being good” to give them the emotional reaction they crave.
The afternoon keynote speaker, Jefferson Prince, was knowledgeable and hilarious, which was good right after lunch. He showed a video called, "It's Not About the Nail" to remind us how much kids need empathy. "Help your youth make a narrative to organize their experience,” Prince said. "That can be incredibly healing." (Yes, that was a Tweet.)
After a delicious lunch of wraps and salad, I caught up with Matt Jass, a refugee youth program leader at the New American Center in Lynn, who was loving his first time at YAR 2014. “It’s good to see all the different resources working together toward caring for youth,” he said.
Then there were the workshops, many profound. With twelve in the morning and thirteen in the afternoon, it was hard for me to choose. So I dropped in on a few: Renee Hoekstra, Psy.D. shared about her work in adolescent group therapy, and how some of her patients tell her that her girls’ group therapy session is “the best hour and fifteen minutes of their week.” Sarah Durfey of the Emmanuel Gospel Center gave a powerful workshop on human trafficking, even touching on the horrendous “market” on the North Shore of Massachusetts. According to the Eva Center (Boston Area), almost half of all women in human trafficking aged out of the foster care system. (Another Tweet!)
I found it incredible to see how connected all these professions (social work, medicine, education, law, etc.) really are. As a student privileged enough to attend college and grow up in a healthy family, it was humbling to learn about the risks many kids and teens face: poverty, abuse, and mental health challenges.. These attendees are at the forefront of these pivotal fights! They were at YAR for one reason: to change lives.
I left the conference inspired with hope and deeply humbled by their service. Oh, and I even got a photo with one such leader, Amy Julia Becker whose book A Good and Perfect Gift, shows just how valuable every child is.
To see my tweets and more highlights from #YAR2014, please visit us on Twitter