Shallow men believe in luck. Strong men believe in cause and effect.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson
The number 13 proved to be lucky for the New Mexico Department of Health, Office of School and Adolescent Health as they produced another successful Head to Toe Conference on School and Adolescent Health. This 13th annual conference, held April 14 – 16, drew more than 800 New Mexico school nurses, counselors, social workers and others working to improve the health and well-being of our children to the Albuquerque Convention Center.
More than 300 attendees took advantage of the half-dozen intensive preconference workshops that provided an in-depth look into key school health issues. The full-day workshop on managing relational aggression among adolescent girls in schools sold out more than two weeks before the conference, and the training on helping administer to the needs of the student with diabetes in school brought essential information to more than 70 school nurses.
On the first day of the conference the convention center was abuzz with excitement as old friends were greeted and new friends made as attendees share time with each other and the 40 exhibit tables from community organizations and state agencies that provided valuable resources and information.
Opening keynote presenter Dr. Pat Cooper, the chief executive officer of the Early Childhood and Family Learning Foundation in New Orleans, LA and formerly the superintendent of schools in McComb, MS shared his experiences and passion on the importance of coordinated school health programs on academic success. CLICK HERE for a copy of his PowerPoint presentation (Note: this is a very large file and will take a while to download). The following day, Ross Szabo, director of youth outreach for National Mental Health Awareness Campaign, inspired the audience to speak out to young people who are struggling to deal with mental health issues and eradicate needless stereotypes.
Over the course of the two days, attendees could select from 66 different breakout sessions on a wide variety of health, behavioral/mental health and school-based health center issue. Included in these sessions were a number of presentations that were developed to encourage and illustrate young people and adults working together to create solutions to adolescent health issues. Both youth and adults attended AND presented in these dynamic, interactive sessions.
Head to Toe has always strived to bring conference attendees new and cutting-edge concepts and programs, and this year, the conference planning committee created a new program track to focus on the effects of trauma on children and adolescents. Participants in the Trauma Track learned how to provide treatment/supports in a trauma-sensitive manner to significantly increase individuals’ engagement, and treatment and academic success.
At the close of the conference, hundreds of continuing education certificates were distributed to the individuals who rely on this important conference to grant them the credit hours necessary for them to maintain their licenses.
Overall, Head to Toe 13 proved that the health and wellness of New Mexico’s children has nothing to do with luck, but is the result of the hard work, enthusiasm and dedication of our school health providers.