October 24-27, 2023
For the first time since the pandemic, Region 9 Head Start Association hosted the annual family engagement conference in person in Kona, Hawaii. Offering in person sessions for attendees as well as virtual, pre-recorded sessions. The conference addressed family engagement and cultural engagement with the theme “Thriving Together With You!” The conference explored this theme through keynote speakers and a variety of workshops.
Day 1 of the conference featured a screening of the Black Boys Documentary, which was followed by a discussion featuring Lisa Wilson – National Center on Early Childhood Development, Teaching and Learning (NC ECDTL), Director of Equity & Outreach, Jon-Thomas Royston – Never Whisper Justice, CEO & Co-Founder, Chad Williamson – Never Whisper Justice, Producer & Co-Founder, Chris Barnes –National Center on Developmental Teaching & Learning, Project Manager, and Lisa Gordon – The Children’s Equity Project at Arizona State University, Project Director.
The documentary shines light on the spectrum of Black male humanity in America through conversations about the nexus between sports, education, and criminal justice. Following the film, the panel shared the new Supporting School Readiness and Success of Young African American Boys (SSRSYAAB) Project: Reflections on a Culturally Responsive Strength-Based Approach Strategy Guide that aims to address the learning needs of African American boys and their families.
The general session, on day 2 featured keynote speaker Dr. Jennifer Zosh, a Human Development and Family Studies professor at Penn State University. As the director of the Brandywine Child Development Lab, she studies how infants and children learn about the world, her most recent work focuses on playful learning. Zosh spoke about “exploring the unique power of playful learning to support whole child development”.
In her keynote presentation, Dr. Zosh explored how families can help maximize children’s learning by creating joyful experiences that promote active minds, engaged and meaningful learning. Zosh shared how play is a spectrum and how free play, guided play, games can be used to achieve learning outcomes. Zosh further explored how playful learning and pedagogy can be used in schools, communities, and at home.
Day 3 of the conference featured a general session that featured guest speakers; Shawna Pinckney – Office of Head Start, Associate Deputy Director, Cynthia Yao – Office of Head Start Region 9, Regional Program Manager,
Jefferey Arciero – Office of Grants Management Region 9, Grants Officer, Lisa Gordan – The Children’s Equity Project at Arizona State University, Project Director, and Lisa Wilson – National Center on Early Childhood Development, Teaching and Learning (NC ECDTL), Director of Equity & Outreach .
In their general session, the speakers shared about Leading with Equity Community of Practice that Region 9 Office of Head Start is launching this year and provided attendees with a glimpse of upcoming work, as well as the importance of advancing and integrating equity into critical work happening in Head Start programs. They also spoke about Head Start’s priorities and shared messages from key leaders in Head Start.
The final day of the conference’s general session was led by Dr. Travis J. Bristol, Associate Professor of Teacher Education and Education Policy at UC Berkeley. His research focuses on the role of educational policies in shaping teacher workplace experiences and retention; district and school-based professional learning communities; and the role of race and gender in educational settings. Bristol spoke on “learning how to love and to teach other people’s children”.
In the general session, Bristol provided preschool educators with tools to create positive learning environments for all students. Bristol shared stats from the US Department of Education which reported that Black preschoolers are suspended at high rates; Black females accounted for 19% of all preschoolers yet they accounted for 53% of female suspensions. The primary focus of his session was to provide tools to support all teachers in learning to love and teach other people’s children.
In addition to featuring inspiring keynote speakers, the conference also provided attendees with an array of workshops to attend that focused on the theme: “Thriving Together with You”. One workshop hosted by Patrice Gardner – Nevada Department of Education, CCDF Grant Administrator, discussed inequality in education as well as what it means to be culturally competent and explored how to create thriving learning environments in early childhood education for both children and their families.
Ronald Mah, a licensed Marriage, and Family Therapist led multiple workshops throughout the conference, including “Discovering and Creating the Stories of Family Hope and Growth”. In this workshop Mah explored the theme of thriving together by educating participants on how their histories create their present experiences and opportunities and how to use them to create hope and growth for themselves and future generations.
For the second year in a row, the Region 9 Head Start Association presented the annual Family Engagement and Cultural Effectiveness Conference online and on-demand: with live and prerecorded sessions. In recognition of the diversity of our families, the conference featured workshops in both Spanish and English. The conference addressed family engagement with the theme “Elevating Families: Exploring Justice, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion”. Each day, the conference explored this theme through keynote speakers and a variety of workshops.
The general session, on day 1, featured keynote speaker Dr. Victor Rios, a sociology professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He spoke on “Justice – The Anti-Racist Educator: Engaging with Children and Families through an Equity and Justice Framework”.
Dr. Rios uses his personal experiences, which include dropping out of school, living on the streets, and being incarcerated as a juvenile, combined with his research, to develop interventions for marginalized students. These interventions promote personal transformation and civic engagement. In his presentation, Dr. Rios provided educators with practical strategies for being reflexive about anti-racism and for having courageous conversations with families, students, and colleagues.
Day 2 opened with a general session presented by Keynote speaker Denise Collazo, a social justice leader, spoke on “Equity – Three Keys to Thrive During Trying Times”. In addition to being a social justice leader, Collazo is a mentor to fellow women of color, a family work-integrator, and author of Thriving in the Fight: A Survival Manual for Latinas on the Front Lines of Change.
In her keynote presentation, Collazo shared the three keys of thriving on the front lines of change, as well as the three warning signs that you might be surrendering instead of thriving. She left attendees with encouraging and inspiring messages that they can utilize during trying and constantly changing times.
Day 2 of the conference wrapped up with a family concert featuring Uncle Wayne and the Howling Dog Band. The band’s mission is to create positive music that kids can enjoy. They achieve this by playing at schools, public libraries and special events for kids and their families to enjoy.
The final day of the conference kicked off with keynote speaker, Leticia Galyean, the Chief Executive Officer of Seneca Family of Agencies, who spoke on “Inclusion – Unconditional Education™ in the Early Childhood Space”. Galyean runs a nonprofit agency that provides unconditional Care™ to youth and their families. Seneca Family Agencies supports more than 18,000 children, youth, and families.
In her session, Galyean shared lessons on supporting early childhood learning sites in innovating across behavioral health and education systems to provide culturally responsive, trauma-informed supports to entire family systems and school communities to secure long-term educational equity.
In between these inspiring keynote speakers there were an array of informative workshops that focused on the themes; justice, equity, diversity and inclusion. The workshop, “Understanding & Supporting Children with Incarcerated Parents” which was delivered by Danielle Brook, focused on the theme of justice. Brook spoke about reducing the stigma surrounding incarceration, the challenges facing youth with incarcerated parents, and how the community can offer support.
For the theme of equity, Julie Kurtz delivered a workshop on “Trauma-Responsive Family Engagement in Early Childhood: Practices for Equity and Resilience”. In her workshop, Kurtz offered comprehensive resources for building trauma-responsive family engagement in schools and programs, with the goal of improving equity in family engagement practices.
The theme of diversity and inclusion was addressed through the workshop “LGBTQ+ Affirming Practices in Early Childhood Spaces” offered by Lindz Amer. Amer provided specific tips and best practices for making spaces for kids and families more queer-inclusive utilizing inclusive vocabulary.
Responding to the unprecedented events of 2020, the conference addressed Family Engagement through four lenses: Health and Well Being, Economic Opportunities, Culture and Equity, and Civic Participation. Each day the conference started with a thought-maker who showed attendees innovative ways to address family engagement.
Dr. Dipesh Navsaria, a pediatrician working in the public interest, spoke on “Health and Well Being.” He blends the roles of physician, occasional children’s librarian, educator, public health professional, and child health advocate. With graduate degrees in public health, children’s librarianship, physician assistant studies, and medicine, he brings a unique combination of interests and experience together, with a special emphasis on working with underserved populations, early literacy programs in health care settings, particularly around ideas of early brain and child development, which include neurobiological effects of adversity and poverty upon the developing brain.
Marriage and Family Therapist Laura Fish spoke on “Caring for Ourselves During Uncertain Times.” A private practitioner, Fish believes physical, mental, and spiritual health are tantamount to a fulfilling life. While earning my Masters in Counseling from San Diego State University, she worked as a pre-school teacher, which sparked a passion for working with children and families. Since then she has worked as a therapist with child, adolescent, and adult populations in various settings, including San Diego’s LGBT Community Center, Scripps Hospital’s outpatient treatment for the severely mentally ill, and community-based wraparound service programs for CPS-involved families
Presenting on Culture and Equity was Anthony Barrows, managing director at the applied behavioral science firm ideas42, where he leads the economic justice portfolio and has also overseen projects in local government, post-secondary education, and civic engagement. He previously worked for more than 10 years in child welfare, spanning positions in direct service, supervision, training, advocacy, project management, and systems improvement. He is also a practicing artist and has led art classes and arts-oriented youth development programming.
The “Civic Participation” keynote was delivered by the Office of Head Start Director Dr. Deborah Bergeron. She has been a teacher at heart her entire life and has spent three decades in pre-K–12 public education as a classroom teacher and elementary and high school administrator. In the course of her career, Bergeron also started, grew, and ultimately sold her own educational services company.
Designed to celebrate the different cultures, traditions and practices that are reflected in the modern family, this annual event helps participants learn how to use the strengths and attributes of culture to aid a child’s own successful walk through the world.
Special sessions included topics such as families experiencing homelessness, performance standards, integration challenges faced by children and families, transitions to Kindergarten and building a quality fatherhood program,
The Keynote speaker on the first day was Sacha Klein, Ph.D., M.S.W., an Assistant Professor at the School of Social Work at Michigan State University where she teaches child welfare, social policy, and community and organizational leadership. Her research focuses on maltreatment of infants and toddlers; early care and education for foster children; and racial/ethnic disparities in child welfare involvement. =
The second day started off with keynote speaker Dr. Deborah Bergeron, Director of the Office of Head Start. She has spent three decades in pre-K–12 public education as a classroom teacher and elementary and high school administrator. In the course of her career, Bergeron also started, grew, and ultimately sold her own educational services company.
Elizabeth Philipose, Ph. D. a meditation teacher, scholar, and speaker, keynoted the closing session, “The Frequency of Peace in Our Classrooms and the World,” which presented techniques to activate whole-soul creativity and dynamic wellbeing for individuals, couples, schools, workplaces, and organizations.
Designed to celebrate the different cultures, traditions and practices that are reflected in the modern family, this conference shows participants how to use the strengths and attributes of culture to aid a child’s own successful walk through the world.
Among topics covered in 2018 were strengthening family financial literacy; cultivating a welcoming and inclusive environment; support literacy at home; increasing family engagement after birth; and advocating for migrant and seasonal families.
Opening the General Session was Daniel Goya, Program Director, Partners in Development, a foundation that inspires and equips families and communities for success and service using timeless Native Hawaiian values and traditions. Goya spoke about calling the community to work and repair early education systems.
The second day keynote address was by Dr. Deborah Bergeron, Director of the Office of Head Start. During her tenure as a school administrator, she specialized in school improvement. Her focus was on academic achievement and school climate. Bergeron used her experience as an elementary principal and her strong background in pre-K–12 instructional leadership to provide unique insights into how Head Start can support our most vulnerable children to become school ready.
The closing keynote speaker, Dr. Karen Mapp, a senior lecturer on education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and the faculty director of the Education Policy and Management Master’s Program. Over the past 20 years, Mapp’s research and practice focus has been on the cultivation of partnerships among families, community members and educators that support student achievement and school improvement. She shared what is known about the powerful impact of effective family–school partnerships on students, parents, teachers, and schools.
In this conference, nationally and internationally known practitioners, researchers, and motivational speakers share their knowledge, to teach about parent engagement through the lens of cultural awareness. They covered topics that ranged from food security to engaging families with multiple traumas in mental health. The central focus was cultural awareness and using a family’s unique cultural experiences as an entryway to learning and engagement with presentations such as families learning through cultural experiences; discovering and appreciating the diverse expressions of our shared humanity; opening doors to opportunity, and increasing health literacy of families to promote positive health outcomes.
The conference’s opening keynote address was on implicit bias, presented by Dr. Walter S. Gilliam, Director of The Edward Zigler Center in Child Development and Social Policy and Associate Professor of Child Psychiatry and Psychology at the Child Study Center at the Yale School of Medicine.
Venus Rosete-Mederos opened the second day with a keynote address “Culture, Community, Family.” Rosete-Mederos is a family and community advocate with a pioneering spirit, having worked with non-profit organizations, government agencies, and private/public school systems. She founded several community grassroots initiatives such as the Neighborhood Place of Wailuku, a family strengthening agency, helping to prevent child abuse and neglect; and the Valley Isle Keiki Fest, a free educational family event that now occurs annually under the leadership of the Valley Isle Kiwanis Club.
Silvia Esqueda led the closing session key, “Parent Voices/Parent Choices, which also included Head Start parents Tameka Henry, Sona Rubenian, and Alexis Kahue. Esqueda is a bilingual/bicultural licensed therapist, who has worked for more than 16 years with Latino parents and their children. She is the national lead facilitator for Abriendo Puertas/Opening Doors program and a consultant for multiple non-profit organizations. She is a trainer, conference speaker, and writer of Latino immigrant issues as it relates to education and mental health.
I have been to management workshops, not leadership training. This has totally changed my perspective and encouraged me to propel forward in developing my skills.
I am honored and humbled to be a recipient of the Region 9 Head Start Association’s Legacy Scholarship. The scholarship helped me get one step closer to achieving my goal of becoming a Head Start Director.
I took part in The disproportionate impact of COVID 19, and how to provide “real” support for black/brown children and families and I just want to say this was an amazing webinar. I hope we can look forward to further conversation on this topic.
Thank you so much for making events like this! I really enjoyed and learned so much teaching strategies to implement STEM in the classroom.
The HR Network was an excellent opportunity to network and learn the best practices from other HR professionals within Head Start programs. You will be amazed by the level of talent and experience of the participants.
The Summer Camp training was powerful and inspiring! Each presenter was very engaging, it’s hard to even pick a favorite session!
The Leadership Challenge training was very relevant to my work as a Head Start leader! Great facilitation; stayed with the program yet allowed time for individual and small group reflections.
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