Category Archives: Conferences

Georgia School of Addiction Studies: A Recap of Our Week in Savannah

IMG_2795The 8th Annual Georgia School of Addiction Studies (GSAS) was held August 25-29, 2014 at the Hyatt Regency in Savannah. The theme, “Unleashing the Power: Prevention, Treatment, and Recovery” speaks to the power we each have in our field to make a difference in the lives of those we serve.  This annual conference brings together professionals in the prevention, treatment and recovery fields and provides GUIDE  staff the opportunity to reconnect with old friends and meet newcomers in the prevention field while attending sessions designed to share the most recent research and most impactful strategies for creating change in our communities. For the 8th consecutive year, GUIDE staff members participated in the conference in a number of ways and were grateful for the opportunity to attend.

Ari Russell serves on the GSAS Board of Directors as a representative from the Prevention Credentialing Consortium of Georgia (PCCG). She is an active member and arrived in Savannah early to assemble participant packets, set up registration tables and prepare for the conference. Ari was also part of the contingent of GUIDE workshops offered during the conference. Ari facilitated both the 6 hour Ethics in the Prevention Field and the 3 hour Ethics for Recertification courses as well as co-facilitated a workshop on writing a Drug Free Communities grant with Ellen Gerstein of the Gwinnett Coalition.

GUIDE082014_021In addition to the three workshops Ari led, GUIDE’s Associate Director Jessica Andrews-Wilson taught four workshops over the course of the five day conference. Jessica facilitated two 3 hour workshops, Youth Voice and Choice in Prevention Programming and One Campaign, Many Messages: How to Turn Your Prevention Campaign into Social Media Content, and two 6 hour workshops for prevention professionals seeking PCCG credits, Cultural Competency and Communication Skills. All of the workshops GUIDE offered were met with praise for their engagement, meaningful activities and high-quality content.

IMG_2911While Ari and Jessica were busy teaching, other GUIDE staff including Mahuli Jakubek, Molly Vance and Sarah Stokes attended multiple sessions, learning and gathering information to bring back to influence the work we are engaged in around Gwinnett County. These staff members attended workshops by renowned speakers including Mike Nerney and Merrill Norton and learned more about the effectiveness of underage drinking laws, the impact of underage drinking on adolescent development, latest research regarding marijuana and heroin and how to get more involved in prescription drug abuse prevention. As always, the information shared at GSAS will benefit not only our staff, but our entire community as we share the new knowledge we gained.

photo (8)Georgia Teen Institute (GTI) had a special part of GSAS with an exhibit to promote our summer conference, recruit new youth action teams and volunteers and sell our Caboodle and Commonality Cards. Our staff took turns staffing the exhibit and talking with conference participants about opportunities to engage with us through GTI. We are always excited to share our passion for GTI with others – and were thrilled that several participants bought some cards to use within their own programs!

GUIDE082014_077Thursday was an important day during the conference. Celebrated as “Prevention Day” each year, Thursday features the Prevention Awards Luncheon where several valuable individuals are recognized each year. 2014 marked the first time a youth award was given, and we are proud to announce that the recipient of the first annual Youth Ambassador Award was our very own Josselyn Garcia! Recognized for her dedication to prevention and her diligent and meaningful work in her high school and across Gwinnett County, Josselyn was presented the award in front of the crowd of prevention professionals, beaming GUIDE staff members and her parents. The Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD) also honored Ari with an award for her Extraordinary Contribution to Prevention to celebrate her 28 years of leading GUIDE and the field of prevention in Georgia. Jessica was invited to share highlights of Ari’s work and our staff were thrilled that we pulled off the surprise of this award! On Thursday evening, Ari and Jessica conducted business as they participated in the PCCG Meeting and then conducted one of three interviews for people applying to receive credentials as Certified Preventionists. One of the other interviewees was our newest Program Specialist, Molly Vance. When Molly receives her credentials later this month, GUIDE will again be one of only a couple of agencies where all program staff  are credentialed!

As always, we left Savannah thankful for a week of connecting, learning and growing and renewed in our passion for prevention and proud of our contributions to the conference and the recognition our team received. We are already looking forward to the 2015 conference!


GUIDE Plans First Ever Teens R 4 Me Conference

RUS_5487On March 7 and 8, GUIDE partnered with the Georgia Department of Human Services (DHS) and the Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS) to conduct the first ever Teens R 4 Me Conference. The conference took place at the Renaissance Atlanta Waverly Hotel and welcomed more than 450 participants from across the state. The entirety of the conference focused on supporting foster youth as they transition out of care and making sure they’re successful during that process. The transition can sometimes be difficult; therefore, it was imperative to provide participants with ample resources, skills and tools needed to be successful. The conference provided said resources based on five pillars: Connected, Educated, Employable, Healthy and Safe.

On Day One, the conference sought to follow these objectives:

  • Assist supervisors in identifying and utilizing best practices that support and promote quality Every Child Every Month (ECEM) visits to you in foster care, ages 14-21
  • Provide tools and resources that strengthen the ability of DFCS staff to develop and execute transition plans that prepare youth for independence and self-sufficiency
  • Provide guidance to DFCS leadership on policies and procedures that affect youth as they transition into adulthood and out of care

RUS_5452Social services case managers, supervisors, and DHS leadership came from all parts of Georgia to participate during this portion of the conference. The day started with inspiring words from Dr. Sharon Hill, DFCS Director, Commissioner Keith Horton and the always motivational J.R. Henderson. Afterwards, participants had the opportunity to hear from experts in the field from state agencies such as the Georgia Department of Education and the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice, as well as organizations including Georgia Care Connection and the J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership. In addition, young adults that have transitioned out of care acted as panelists, which provided youth voice to each of the topics. This allowed participants to gain a better understanding of the youth they serve. The various panels of experts provided resources and skills that participants could immediately take RUS_5493back and share with youth. Juvenile Court Judge Vincent Crawford closed out the day providing information on new policies and procedures related to the field. DFCS staff left the conference motivated and inspired to share these resources and skills with their fellow coworkers and youth in their programs.

RUS_5399On the evening of Day One, the conference welcomed youth and young adults, ages 14-21, who are currently in or recently transitioned out of care. Conference Staff greeted participants with smiling faces, lots of fun activities and amazing food! On Day Two, participants had the opportunity to be energized by the fantastic performer J. Fly and motivated by J.R. Henderson. Similar to the first day, participants then divided into various breakout sessions and learned about resources and skills needed to be successful during transition. This included how to obtain college scholarships; skills needed to get and keep a job they love; and how to stay healthy, in both body and mind. The conference came to an end with an interactive resource café. During this time, participants were able to network with several exhibitors such as AmeriCorps, Georgia College 411, Covenant House and more! They also engaged in activities related to health and well-being, safety and connectedness. As the conference came to a close, several participants mentioned that they didn’t want to leave and kept asking when the next one would take place.

RUS_5506Because of this conference, DHS staff and youth in care now have resources they might not have received otherwise. Teens R 4 Me was truly a success! Thank you to DHS for asking GUIDE to be a part of this incredibly life-changing conference.