Addressing Trauma amid COVID-19

Saturday, September 26 | 9am-3pm

A Virtual Event

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The 2020 Mental Health Summit marks the third 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.

This year, the weight of a global pandemic has added more trauma and anxiety to our communities already in crisis. Please join us in building caring school communities for Rhode Island's public school students regardless of whether they are learning from a distance or in-person.

NEARI 3rd Annual Meeting Poster

Thank you to Rhode Island Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control for their support on this effort on ACES and Suicide Prevention

2020 Mental Health Summit Agenda

Session Descriptions

Presented by Ellen Flannery-Schroeder, Ph.D., ABPP

The presentation will present information on anxiety, it's identification and management in schools, as well as evidence-based approaches to treatment. Methods to support students to use coping skills to help them to face their fears and reduce anxious distress, managing parental concerns, and tips for supporting youth and their families through the anxiety related to COVID and the return to school will also be discussed.

From ACES to Resiliency

Presented by Lisa Parker, LICSW

ACEs (Adverse Childhood Events) are common, yet impactful, experiences that shape the lives of our students and ourselves. The current pandemic has the potential of triggering the trauma response for all of us. Learn what ACEs mean for us and our work with children in the classroom, and how to build resiliency.

Resilience for Educators Returning to School During COVID-19 Challenges

Presented by Glenn A. Miller

Increasing resilience pro-actively and saving strength for the complex challenges of the COVID-19 era tap resources many already have in place. Self-care is not selfishness- it is essential to maintaining health and capacity to help others in every role in school communities. This training includes practical approaches to building resilience for school staff and coping with related COVID-19’s unprecedented challenges and other community and individual trauma.

  • Identify personal factors that foster resiliency
  • Learn 12 habits that help build resilience
  • Identify coping strategies to ease trauma reactions

Using the Philosophy of Kingian Nonviolence to Create Classroom Communities that Encourage Trusting and Compassionate Relationships

Presented by Stephanie Acosta Griffin, Robin Wildman

This engaging workshop will delve into the idea of creating peaceful classroom communities through interactive activities and lessons such as Shared Agreements, Community Building Circles, Dr. King’s 6 Principles, and more. We will also discuss the importance of strengthening the classroom community throughout the school year.

Increasing Family Engagement During COVID-19 and/or Distance Learning ( Grades K-5)

Presented by Karen Buetens

Increasing Family Engagement During COVID-19 and/or Distance Learning (Grades 6-12)

Presented by Kelsey Trubia

This workshop will define and explain Authentic Family Engagement, and share practical strategies for increasing student and family collaboration. Teachers and Staff will be provided with strategies that can help address important basic needs, increase support and communication, and improve student learning during this stressful and unusual time.

Family Engagement strategies vary depending on the student’s age, thus, there will be separate workshops designed for elementary and secondary students (grades 6-12).

Covid's Impact on Youth Mental Health

Presented by Jennifer Brown, LMHC

We are living in unprecedented times. World events have impacted us all with no "normal" way of living, and no "going back to normal" is on the horizon. As adults we have the responsibility of assisting children as they navigate through their emotional responses while at the same time managing our own.

The purpose of this training is to identify how the 2020 pandemic is likely to impact the youths in our lives. What emotional and behavioral responses are you likely to see and how can you help support our children by managing our own response to these events.

Session Speakers

Presenter: Using the Philosophy of Kingian Nonviolence to Create Classroom Communities that Encourage Trusting and Compassionate Relationships

Acosta Griffin, a Wickford Middle School special education teacher, believes in Rocking for World Peace with lessons integrating Kingian Nonviolence, cultural responsiveness and music.

She is a certified Kingian Nonviolence educator. As a teacher in Rhode Island, she has written about Social-Emotional Learning, Racism, and Educational Equity.

She is an organizer, currently using tools learned through her teacher’s union-NEARI. As an executive board member of Nonviolent Schools RI, the Rhode Island Writing Project, RI People’s Museum, and the Racial Social Justice committee at NEARI, Mrs. Griffin is earning her racial social justice merit badge.

Mrs. Griffin is also a strong advocate for mental health in Rhode Island and has participated in an annual Mental Health Summit in RI.

Recently, Stephanie Griffin was asked what sparked her move towards social justice activism: “After our school was trained in Kingian Nonviolence by Nonviolent Schools RI, I learned ways to help my community change through compassion in action. I feel it is important that my students see their teacher as one who lives by a Kingian value of understanding that the 'time is always right to do what is right'."

Presenting: Covid's Impact on Youth Mental Health

Jennifer Brown is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor who has specialized in trauma treatment for over two decades. She received her Masters in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Lesley University.

She has experience working with patients of all ages in both residential and outpatient settings. Currently, Jennifer works full time as a Behavioral Education Development Specialist at Bradley Hospital. Jennifer plays an active role in the training and education of Bradley Hospital employees as well as members of the community.

She is passionate about breaking the stigma associated with mental health and it shows when she steps in front of a room full of employees, educators, or members of the community. Outside of work, Jennifer can be found volunteering for the American Red Cross or spending time enjoying nature's gifts.

Presenter: Increasing Family Engagement During COVID-19 and/or Distance Learning

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 support for social justice initiatives. Karen is an experienced presenter and has several published articles on coordination and collaboration.

Presenter: Anxiety, School-based Learning, and COVID-19: Maintaining Well-being During a Pandemic

Flannery-Schroeder is a Professor of Psychology and Director of the Clinical Psychology Program at the University of Rhode Island (URI). Dr. Flannery-Schroeder graduated from Franklin and Marshall College, received her M.A. from Connecticut College and Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from Temple University.

Dr. Flannery-Schroeder’s areas of research and clinical expertise include anxiety disorders in children; efficacy of cognitive-behavioral treatment and prevention programs for children at risk for anxiety; as well as the role of family factors in the onset and maintenance of childhood anxiety.

Dr. Flannery-Schroeder also directs the outpatient Child Anxiety Program in the Psychological Consultation Center at URI and serves as Co-Director of the New England Center for Anxiety in Westerly and North Kingstown, RI.

Presenting: Resilience for Educators Returning to School During COVID-19 Challenges

Miller, Director, Employee Assistance Services, provides training, consultation, and clinical services for client organizations of Coastline EAP. Glenn has been a frequent trainer for the 11 school departments contracted with Coastline EAP.

He also has provided extensive trauma and grief debriefing support for school communities. Glenn joined Coastline in 1993. Prior to his work in employee assistance, he held a variety of administrative and clinical positions in the chemical dependency treatment field.

He holds a Masters degree in Human Services from Springfield College, a Bachelor degree from URI, is a licensed Advanced Chemical Dependency Professional and a Certified Employee Assistance Professional.

In addition to developing and conducting many of Coastline EAP’s seminars, Glenn has been a trainer for the Drug and Alcohol Treatment Association and the Institute for Labor Studies.

Presenting From Aces to Resiliency

Parker 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 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.

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.

For the past two years she has also served as a Fellow Advisor for the Yale Childhood-Trauma Learning Collaborative. When not working, she can be found rejuvenating by camping with her wife, dog and cats, or traveling to visit her three children in NC and WA.

Closing Speaker Kyle has worked in the fields of mental health and education for over twelve years. He received a Masters in Special Education with a concentration in Applied Behavior Analysis from Arizona State University in 2011.

He holds certifications as a K-12 Building Administrator, District Level Special Education Administrator, and Provider Certification Training in Collaborative Proactive Solutions. Prior to teaching, Kyle worked at two leading psychiatric hospitals in Rhode Island.

He has worked on locked down psychiatric units, residential care, and home-based services. He was a 2009 Teach for America Corps member where he taught in a 1-4 Self-Contained Autism classroom in Phoenix, Arizona. As a second year teacher, Kyle was a national semi-finalist for teacher of the year.

He was the building principal of a leading elementary school in Rhode Island that by design was intentionally diverse.

Kyle founded TILO to combine his personal and professional experience in hopes of inspiring a new reality of what is possible.
For more on Kyle and Tilo Learning, visit

Presenting Increasing Family Engagement during COVID-19 and/or Distance Learning (Grades 6-12)

Trubia 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’s expertise includes collaborating with nonprofits, agencies, charities, and local resources to reduce systemic barriers and assist with basic needs.

Presenter:Using the Philosophy of Kingian Nonviolence to Create Classroom Communities that Encourage Trusting and Compassionate Relationships

Wildman has been a Kingian Nonviolence practitioner for 19 years, and is a recently retired Rhode Island public school teacher.

She is the Executive Director of a nonprofit organization-Nonviolent Schools RI-which is a result of her desire to instruct educators and school administrators in Kingian Nonviolence, as they can work towards institutionalizing the philosophy and strategies, thus transforming the climate and culture of their schools.

Robin has conducted workshops, given lectures, and trained hundreds of adults and children in the conflict reconciliation strategies utilized by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and many others during the civil rights movement.

She is the author of two Kingian Nonviolence curriculums, used nationally and internationally by educators. Robin has worked closely for many years with her mentor and honorary board chair, legendary civil rights leader Dr. Bernard LaFayette Jr.

Opening Speaker

Darlene is an experienced non-profit leader who has dedicated her career to helping children and families impacted by childhood trauma. She received her Bachelor of Science degree from Providence College and her Master of Science degree in Human Service Administration from the University of Massachusetts.

She is an alumni of the Harvard Kennedy School Executive Education program where she received her certificate in nonprofit leadership. Darlene is a graduate of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business program.

For more than 35 years, Darlene has worked in both public and private organizations designing and implementing services to promote, safety, stability, and permanency for abused and neglected children as well as advocating on a local and national level for trauma- informed and innovative practices in children’s programs and policies.

Darlene is the CEO and Executive Director of Adoption Rhode Island, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting safety, belonging and permanency through compassionate services, advocacy and education. Darlene has recently launched the Center for Advanced Practice at ARI to provide professional development training, consultation, and support services to educators, social workers, child development specialists, and other child serving professionals.

Additionally, Darlene serves as a child welfare consultant for JBS, Inc. At JBS, Inc, she has participated in numerous national child and family service reviews and has provided safety reviews in the unaccompanied minor program.

Darlene is the Vice Chair of the National Adoption Exchange Association, a Board member of the Voice For Adoption and a member of the National Family Builders Association. Darlene also serves as the Vice Chair of the Rhode Island Coalition for Children and Families and a member of the Rhode Island Child Fatality Review Team.

She has served as a mentor for the Nonprofit Leadership program at the Rhode Island Foundation. Darlene has been recognized with a Congressional Angel in Adoption award for her commitment to foster children waiting for adoption and an award from the Attorney General’s office for her service to children who have been victims of abuse. She is an innovator, a leader, and strong advocate.