Saturday, November 16, 2019 | 9:00am-2:00pm
Cole Middle School | 100 Cedar Ave. East Greenwich

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The 2019 Mental Health Summit marks the second year that NEARI is dedicating a full day of workshops centered on mental health advocacy, building communication with students, self care, understanding the impact of trauma, and so much more. Please join us in building caring school communities for Rhode Island's public school students.

Last year, participants at the inaugural Mental Health Summit collectively identified the areas of need to support mental health for Rhode Island students. A smaller committee then met and put together a statement of values; their recommendations for supports.

It is our hope that with community partners we can use these recommendations to guide mental health advocacy for our students on the state and local level. We are in the midst of a mental health crisis and our students are counting on us. Read the document

2019 Mental Health Summit Agenda

Workshops in Session I are offered again in Session II.

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Workshop Descriptions

Presented by Lisa Parker, LICSW

ACEs (Adverse Childhood Events) are common, yet impactful, experiences that shape the lives of our students and ourselves. Learn what they mean for us and our work with children in the classroom, and how to build resiliency.

Presented by Kim Pristawa

This session will examine the importance of school connectedness and how it relates to different forms of prevention in schools as well as social-emotional learning.

A connections screening process that was developed in one school district will be reviewed, including nine years worth of longitudinal data. Benefits for students and teachers will be highlighted and lessons learned along the way will be discussed.

Presented by Autumn Francesca

Educators are often depleted after a day of educating and caring for children under stressful conditions. Stress may come from school, community, or personal issues.

Chronic stress causes people to become irritable, discouraged, and prone to illness. Learn strategies and short simple practices to shift your energy and reduce stress.

Autumn will also share recommendations on how to take care of the whole body for the busy educator.

Presented by Dana Osowieki, Ph.D.

As educators and school-based professionals we are encountering more students who have experienced trauma, or who experience heightened levels of anxiety on an ongoing basis.

Brief exposure to a traumatic event can impact a community, and repeated chronic exposure to trauma both can have lasting impacts on the individual through numerous pathways, including brain-based changes, social factors, and educational performance.

This presentation will explore how trauma and anxiety affects our students, and ourselves, and will provide practical strategies for creating a safe environment for students, helping students regulate their emotions to foster learning, and self-care skills for teachers working with chronically stressed students.

Presented by Karen Buetens and Kelsey Trubia

This workshop will define family engagement, outline why it is so effective for better student outcomes, and provide practical strategies for increasing family engagement.

Participants will be provided with practical strategies that can be easily implemented and add another level of satisfaction to one’s work.

Presented by Alice Woods

Hear a brief introduction to the five Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Competencies and the RI SEL Standards: Competencies for School and Life Success, along with the accompanying indicators.

The group will then discuss and consider various ways SEL instruction can be provided, and focus on how to embed SEL practices into current teaching strategies and how they align with the standards.


Presenter: Authentic Family Engagement: What it is and how to do it

Karen Buetens LICSW, is currently the family and community engagement coordinator at the elementary level for the South Kingstown School Department. Buetens has an extensive clinical background as well as expertise in program development, community organizing, and creating social justice initiatives.

Presenter: Self Care and Wellness for Educators

In 2005, Autumn Francesca completed her MA in Ed thesis, “A conscious breathing practice in the classroom can help students with focus and concentration.” She primarily taught secondary math in Washington State.

Today, Autumn teaches mindfulness to middle and high school students, as part of school wellness programs, with the Center for Resilience in Providence. She also mentors teachers in nonviolence principles and is the Program Director for Nonviolent Schools RI.

Autumn has been practicing self-care and wellness from a variety of modalities for over twenty years. She is passionate about the journey to heal ourselves so that we can fully express our greatness.

Presenter: Trauma-Informed Schools

Dana Osowiecki, Ph.D. is a clinical neuropsychologist who specializes in working with students of all ages and supporting schools in understanding the needs of diverse learners and students with a variety of challenges that impact learning.

She has worked in Rhode Island ever since coming to Brown University in 1996 to complete her Internship and Post-Doctoral studies in neuropsychology and has expanded her evaluation and consultation services through the Center for Psychology and Learning, with additional staff who share the same approach to problem solving and interventions.

She has a particular interest in anxiety and executive functioning, factors that play a role in student success across diagnostic categories. She works from a strengths-based model and is always exploring how to make connections between neuropsychology and everyday life.

Presenter: From ACEs to Resiliency

Lisa Parker, LICSW, began her school career as an elementary teacher 33 years ago and soon after earned her Masters in Social Welfare from UCLA. She has worked in multiple settings in CA and RI serving children and their families including outpatient counseling in community agencies and her own private practice, as well as school social work.

Lisa is currently the School Social Worker at Cumberland High School where she works together with students, teachers, and families to help all students thrive. She has also created a self-worth discussion/support group in collaboration with a school advocate from Sojourner House.

Lisa is deeply passionate about social justice and equity, and this passion drives her work in making meaningful connections with students and helping to maintain an inclusive and compassionate learning environment.

This year she is also serving as a Fellow Advisor for the Yale Childhood-Trauma Learning Collaborative. When not working, she can be found rejuvenating by camping with her wife and puppy or traveling to visit her three children in NC and WA.

Presenter: Fostering Connection in Schools

Kim Pristawa has been a school psychologist for the past 17 years at Burrillville High School. She also served as Interim Pupil Personnel Director in Burrillville for two of those years and is currently serving as the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) Delegate for RI.

She developed the Connections Survey in 2010 and has presented on this topic at the state and national levels.

Presenter: Authentic Family Engagement: What it is and how to do it

Kelsey Trubia, LCSW is currently the family and community engagement coach at the secondary level for the South Kingstown School Department.

In addition to working directly with students and families, Trubia expertise includes collaborating with nonprofits, agencies, charities, and local resources to reduce systemic barriers and assist with basic needs.

Presenter: Social and Emotional Learning, Embedding Standards into Instruction

Alice Woods is at the RI Department of Education in the Office of Student, Community, and Academic Supports and currently leads the statewide initiative on Social and Emotional Learning.

RI is a member of the Collaborating States Initiative with the Collaborative for Academic and Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) and Alice is the RI representative and liaison for this work.