In partnership with ESU3 and more than a dozen partner organizations on the Steering Committee, The Kim Foundation hosted another successful Nebraska School Mental Health Conference on June 2nd and 3rd. More than 500 people from throughout Nebraska attended the virtual conference and gained knowledge in a number of areas they can now take back to their classrooms and practice to better serve the youth of Nebraska. From our rural communities to urban communities, local experts shared successes, best practices, and hands on tools that attendees will put into practice when students arrive back to school in August.
We welcomed several national keynote speakers who set an incredible tone for the conference. A long-time friend of the foundation, Mike Veny, started us off with a dynamic opening keynote focusing on his lived experience, the importance of diversity and equity through all services, and encouragement and energy to motivate attendees. Mike always does an incredible job and we were so grateful to have him back with us once again. Laura van Dernoot Lipsky ended day one with a passionate presentation about mental wellness, self-care, and compassion fatigue. Laura is a national expert in these areas and shared a number of valuable resources with attendees to ensure their own mental health was a priority so that they can continue to serve our youth in a healthy and safe way for all.
There wasn’t a dry eye in the house when Carson Molle and his mother Amber shared their story to close out the conference. Carson is a young man from Wisconsin who attempted suicide when he was 14. Thankfully he survived but has had a long road of therapy and healing over the last four years. They were so transparent and honest about the ups and downs their family has faced through Carson’s journey, but shared their story in a way that instilled hope in the audience, as well as the importance of screening all youth – not just those who you believe to be at risk. The grace, honesty, and resilience that Carson and Amber radiated was something that will stick with me for years to come. It was a touching reminder of why we do what we do each and every day.
When they finished their presentation, four Nebraska youth joined Carson on stage. Let’s just say that these youth stole the show! The entire audience was in awe of their passion, advocacy, and drive to help others. The rave reviews started flooding into the chat almost as soon as they started. The youth spoke about things that they have accomplished, people who supported and advocated for their mental health, tools that have worked for them, and the importance of us as adults meeting them where they are and helping to navigate services and resources. This presentation was certainly my favorite of any I have seen in quite some time and served as a wonderful reminder of how powerful the youth voice can be in shaping our work. Thank you to those brave, passionate youth who ended the conference with such a strong conclusion. You were amazing!
Lastly, I just want to thank Jill Haupts from our team who put in countless hours behind the scenes to make the conference such a success. Jill you are a rockstar! And a huge thank you to our Steering Committee members and incredibly generous sponsors who allow us to bring this incredibly worthwhile event to Nebraskans each year. Save the date for 2022 – IN PERSON! – June 1st & 2nd at the Embassy Suites La Vista.
Julia Hebenstreit, Executive Director of The Kim Foundation
Julia Hebenstreit is the Executive Director of The Kim Foundation. She received her J.D. from Creighton University in 2005, and her BS in Journalism from the University of Nebraska Omaha in 2002. She has been with The Kim Foundation since 2011, and prior to that worked for local non-profits doing development, strategic planning, communications and advancement. She has a passion for helping people and improving lives, and serves on the Executive Committee for Nebraska Association of Behavioral Health Organizations, as the 2015 Hill Day State Captain for the state of Nebraska, and as an active member of the Nebraska Suicide Prevention Coalition, the Early Childhood Mental Health Coalition, BHECN Advisory Committee, RESPECT Advisory Board, Connections Advisory Board and the Project Propel Planning Group.