Dreaming without a plan is merely wishful thinking.

Our dreams must ignite our imagination and prompt us to ask ourselves how we will turn them into reality by applying intention and effort. Reaching for our dreams demands that we abandon fear and have the courage to pursue them with determination and dedication. That’s why we need partners at our Collaborative tables to encourage and challenge us, stretch our creativity, and hold one another accountable to our mission.

Join us at the Legacy Lodge and Conference Center on Lake Lanier Island in Buford, Wednesday – Friday, Oct. 2 – 4, for the 2024 Georgia Family Connection Conference where—together—we’ll dream by design.​ We’ll leverage our network’s knowledge, support, and passion to transform our dreams for our communities into reality.

This conference is designed for collaborators determined to finding solutions to the complex issues that challenge our children and families. This diverse group represents urban and rural areas of Georgia and other states, as well as multiple sectors of community life, including social services, education, government, health care, and business.

Wednesday, Oct. 2

12 p.m.                                  Registration Opens

5 – 7 p.m.                             Opening Reception

Thursday, Oct. 3

7 a.m.                                    Registration Opens

7:30 – 8:15 a.m.                 Breakfast

8:15 – 9:15 a.m.                 Opening Plenary

9:30 – 11 a.m.                     Workshop Session 1

11 – 11:15 a.m.                    Snack Break

11:15 a.m. – 12:45 p.m.     Workshop Session 2

12:45 – 1:45 p.m.                Lunch

1:45 – 2:15 p.m.                  Break

2:15 – 3:45 p.m.                  Workshop Session 3

7 – 9:30 p.m.                        Networking Reception at Game Changers

Friday, Oct. 4

7:30 – 8:30 a.m.                 Coffee and Light Fare

8:30 – 10 a.m.                     Workshop Session 4

10 – 11:45 a.m.                   Brunch & Closing Plenary Session


Professional Development

Shifting the Conversation from Deficit Mindset to Emotional Intelligence: An Innovative Approach to Drug Abuse Prevention

Saying “drugs can hurt you” or “drugs are hurting you” emphasizes external control and a deficit mindset. In this workshop you’ll learn how to shift this conversation to one that engages emotional intelligence by focusing on self-awareness, self-assessment, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management. Emotional intelligence is manifested in every aspect of our lives, from self-care to relationships. Learn how to develop personal and interpersonal skills that better equip a provider at any point on the service delivery continuum to be other-centered, effective, culturally responsive, and resilient. Learn how to provide functional, practical, and useful attitudes, skills, and tools to utilize in your personal and professional life across the prevention continuum.

Presenter

John Bringuel
Prevention and Intervention Program Manager
The Council on Alcohol and Drugs


Caring for You, Caring for Me

Being a caregiver means you’re helping family members and friends you care about live the healthiest life they can, and that involves playing a variety of roles. It’s essential to be able to identify each of those roles to best navigate the challenges that may surface. But it’s also necessary to empower caregivers to advocate for themselves and the people they care for, to connect with peers, and to celebrate the triumphs and special moments throughout their caregiving journey. Get practical tips on how to take care of yourself while also being an advocate and caregiver for others, along with tips for organizations to consider when working with families caring for loved ones.

Presenter

Lezlie Poole
Program Innovation Manager
Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregivers


Harnessing the Power of Generative AI in the Workplace

Generative Artificial Intelligence (AI) can generate text, images, videos, and other data—and the applications for this emerging technology are endless. Learn how generative AI works, how it impacts the modern workplace, and how you can apply it to your organization. Learn how to use generative AI for tasks such as content creation, workflow optimization, and decision-making.

Presenter

Ward Risvold
Assistant Professor and AI Lab Director
Georgia College & State University


Healthy Children & Children Primed for School

Mother and Child Attachment—Pathway to Infant Health and Strong Families

Research shows that maternal-child attachment—that pattern of interaction and communication established and developed between mother and baby—is the foundation of infant health and is critical to physical and mental well-being. Learn about the role of Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) in supporting breastfeeding as a key interaction that encourages attachment and improves well-being. Find out more about infant and early childhood mental health, how trauma impacts young children’s brains, and how the Georgia THRIVe Infant-Toddler Court Program and the Safe Babies Approach is being utilized in Georgia to support young families.

Presenters

Mitzi Fears
Georgia THRIVe State Coordinator
Georgia Health Policy Center

Carol Stewart
Breastfeeding Coordinator
District 4 Public Health


Building Healthy Food Access in Communities

Without access to basic needs, families struggle to focus on long-term goals—and food insecurity cannot be addressed by isolated efforts. Georgia Family Connection Collaboratives have the infrastructure and partnerships to bring a collective approach to this broad issue. Creative solutions help remove barriers and increase food access, literacy supports, and other much-needed wraparound services. High-quality family support requires attention to meeting concrete needs, removing system barriers, and building strong trusting relationships with families and partners. Find out how the Georgia Family Connection Collaboratives in Lumpkin and Lanier counties are addressing the system of services to improve access to healthy food and other critical supports to families.

Presenters

Brigette Barker
Executive Director
Lumpkin County Family Connection

Amy Griffin
Executive Director
Lanier Family Connection

Akia Lewis
Director of Strategy, Innovation, and Engagement
Georgia Family Connection Partnership


Smart Devices and Decision Support for Safer Pregnancies and Better Health

According to the CDC, 80% of pregnancy-related complications and deaths could be avoided if early warning signs weren’t missed. However, during the timeframe when women are at the highest risk for complications, they’re only seen by their birthing providers 15 times on average. The number one killer of women in the U.S. is heart disease, and yet most women aren’t making data-informed, heart-protective decisions. Without objective data, individualized recommendations, accountability, and accessible oversight—and due to the pace and structure of the health care system—early warning signs will continue to be missed and women will continue to die of preventable diseases. Learn how remote health monitoring and decision support are part of the solution to these problems.

Presenter

Katherine Sylvester
Founder
Operation M.I.S.T.


School Success

School-Justice Partnership: Showing Up to Address Chronic Absenteeism and Out-of-School Suspensions

A panel will discuss how the state statute OCGA 20-2-690.2, which forms student attendance and school climate committees in each Superior Court district, can be utilized to address the growing chronic absenteeism problem and increasing out-of-school suspensions by developing a school justice partnership.

Presenters

Morgan Bridgman
Policy Counsel
Georgia Appleseed Center for Law and Justice

Michael Key
Juvenile Court Judge
Troup County Juvenile Court

Garry McGiboney
Executive Director of Government and Education Strategies
Sharecare

Michael Waller
Executive Director
Georgia Appleseed Center for Law and Justice


Setting the PACE through School Transition

School transition helps children and families gain the necessary knowledge, skills, and relationships to prepare students for academic success. Learn how United Way of Greater Atlanta partners with school districts, early learning partners, and community partners to create a systems approach for young learners’ academic readiness.

Presenters

Laura Miller
Senior Director, Family Engagement
United Way of Greater Atlanta

Pamela Ross
Executive Director
Pamper Me Beautiful


Let’s Explore Language As A Missing Link to Child Well-Being

Learn how to implement and scale Language As a Missing Link, a new, proactive approach that employs language as a well-being indicator similar to others—like vision, hearing, and oral health—that is foundational for educational, mental health, and well-being outcomes. Examine how language serves as the missing link in early language acquisition and childhood education. Explore a successful case study and collaborative approaches to challenges in scaling language initiatives at the community level. This session offers a unique opportunity to engage with diverse voices in the field and exchange ideas on fostering language-rich environments for all children.

Presenters

April Hopson
Vice President of Adult and General Education
Columbus Technical College

Lizann Roberts
Executive Director
Coastal Georgia Indicators Coalition, The Chatham Family Connection Collaborative

Martha Ann Todd
President
Columbus Technical College


Family

Harnessing the Power of Parent Leadership

Fostering leadership in a meaningful way gives parents and caregivers the opportunity for personal growth to gain knowledge and skills—and represent a “parent voice” to help shape the direction of their families, programs, and communities. Programs also benefit from being more responsive and accountable to the families they serve. Learn how to successfully integrate parent leadership as a key program component and build shared responsibility in decision making.

Presenter

Melody Weaver
Georgia Family Support Network Coordinator
Prevent Child Abuse Georgia


Creating Trauma-Informed and Resiliency-Focused Families

The Community Resiliency Model lays the foundation for self-care using body-based wellness skills. Learn about the neuroscience that informs the Community Resiliency Model and engage in experiential practice with wellness skills. Find out how to introduce Community Resiliency Model skills within diverse settings while working with diverse populations.

Presenter

Jordan Murphy
CEO
Center for Interrelational Science and Pediatrics


Elevating the Relational Health of Couples Across Georgia

We all want healthy, happy, long-lasting relationships. But why are they so hard to maintain? Explore the science-informed practices for developing and cultivating happy and healthy couple relationships. Discover the key skills and core principles grounding the evidence-based, couple relationship education program, ELEVATE: Taking Your Relationship to the Next Level, and how this program is improving the health and well-being of individuals, couples, and families. Leave this session equipped to apply skills to promote your own relational health.

Presenter

Ted Futris
Georgia Athletic Association Professor in Family and Consumer Sciences
University of Georgia


Suicide Prevention: Moving From Risk to Safety

The suicide rate among young people is 111% higher since 2020 than it was a decade ago between 2010 and 2012. Teens that lose a parent to suicide are at a 300% higher risk than their peers with no experience with suicide. Get an overview of five core values used in conducting more than 2,000 successful suicide interventions that serve as the foundation of the Intervene Challenge and the Listen Learn Lead model of suicide intervention. Explore questions that must be raised in moving a person from risk to safety. Get empowered to engage those who are hurting and equipped to recognize risk when there are no signs.

Presenter

Kenneth “Lou” Koon
CEO
Stop Suicide USA


Community

The Connection Between Health and Housing

This action-focused workshop will share the intersection of neighborhoods and substandard housing and their association to poor health outcomes.

Presenters

Breanna Lathrop
Chief Operating Officer and Nurse Practitioner
Good Samaritan Health Center

Terri McFadden
Professor of Pediatrics and General Pediatrician
Emory University School of Medicine


Evaluating and Improving Civic Participation in the Southern United States

It’s critical for leaders to look at measures of civic participation to understand the big picture of what’s happening in our communities. In the Southern United States, where well-being and civic engagement outcomes tend to fall below national averages, increasing engagement levels has the potential to enhance both governance and individuals’ well-being. This panel discussion will focus on and compare key findings from three Southern states’ Civic Health Indexes—Alabama, Georgia, and Arkansas—and explore the measures each state is taking to address weaknesses and inequalities in civic life.

Presenters

Rachel Mosness
Executive Director
David Mathews Center for Civic Life

Robert C. Richards, Jr.
Associate Professor
University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Services


Creating Inclusive Spaces Through Conversation

Building a strong, inclusive community takes time. Learn how to address challenges you may face building bridges among community members who feel marginalized, overlooked, or judged. Begin with a real yet surreal experience of “othering” and reflect on your experiences fostering inclusion or feeling excluded. Examine strategies for getting comfortable with being curious and practice asking questions of each other that lead to opportunities for progress.

Presenter

Folami Prescott-Adams
Chief Executive Officer
HTI Catalysts


Data & Evaluation

Utilizing KIDS COUNT Data Tools

Learn how to use Georgia KIDS COUNT data and tools with different audiences—and how to use data to drive messaging. Whether you’re new to KIDS COUNT or just want a refresher, this session will equip you to be a data rock star in your community. Facilitators will help you use data tools during the session, so participants are strongly encouraged to bring a laptop.
*This session will be presented twice during the conference.

Presenter

Jacquan Jordan
Georgia KIDS COUNT Data Manager
Georgia Family Connection Partnership


Recognizing Disparities Through Disaggregated Data

Find out why using disaggregated data matters, where to locate it, and how it can strengthen your Georgia Family Connection Collaborative and help serve your most vulnerable populations. Learn to improve your understanding of the experiences of different groups, recognize disparities and inequities so that they can be addressed, and facilitate conversations about disparities in your county.

Presenters

Rebekah Hudgins
Evaluation and Results Accountability Team Co-Leader
Georgia Family Connection Partnership

Valerie Hutcherson
Evaluation and Results Accountability Team Co-Leader
Georgia Family Connection Partnership


Evaluating the GaFCP Theory of Change

Dive into work completed by Georgia Family Connection Partnership’s Outcomes Team, which explores the work of local Georgia Family Connection Collaboratives and state partners to contribute to the overall health and well-being of families. Explore findings from the annual Self-Assessment, Annual Plan Review Probes, Data Tool Use Survey, and interviews with state partners and Collaborative coordinators.

Presenters

Gabriel Kuperminc
Professor of Psychology and Public Health
Georgia State University

Michael Scuello
Senior Associate
Metis Associates, Inc.

Donna Wilkens
Managing Senior Associate
Metis Associates, Inc.

Meet Our Keynote Speaker

Will Baggett

International Storyteller and Author

Will Baggett, former operations manager for the College Football Playoff, is an award-winning major events professional, former strength coach, and dynamic speaker. He is a former major event sports administrator, having been recognized by the White House Department of Communications for outstanding service to the President of the United States during his time at the College Football Playoff.

Baggett has also helped produce events such as the Super Bowl, Final Four, and a host of college football bowl games, including the Cotton Bowl and Peach Bowl. Over his six-year coaching career, Baggett helped produce 24 NFL draft picks, including two first-round picks. Baggett first book, The Blueprint for a Successful Career, was released in 2017 to widespread acclaim and has been added to the curriculum at six nationally accredited universities. He is highly regarded as the most interactive speaker in the country, leveraging his unique INFJ personality and quick wit to leave teams more inspired and connected than ever before.

Baggett is considered to be the undisputed authority in personal branding, body language and soft skills leadership. He began speaking in 2017 and has since delivered over 250 keynotes, inspiring over 50,000 people across multigenerational workplaces in both the public and private sector.


Folami Prescott-Adams
Chief Executive Officer
HTI Catalysts

Folami Prescott-Adams, Ph.D., is a community psychologist and leads HTI Catalysts, a network of consultants whose mission is to create and hold spaces that build community, evoke organizational shifts, and promote cultural justice. Catalysts provide transformative facilitation, leadership development, and program design to client partners in service of advancing equity. Prescott-Adams is writing a book centered on Listening 4 Justice, a storytelling experience grounded in history to help us face the world.

Brigette Barker
Executive Director
Lumpkin County Family Connection

Brigette Barker has worked collaboratively within her community for 10 years to develop a family support strategy that includes a Student Outreach Center, mentor program, and family advocacy program. After serving as a therapist for residential youth programs and as victims services coordinator at the Lumpkin County Sheriff’s Office, Barker knows firsthand the impact of child abuse and neglect and is passionate about her current work in prevention.

Morgan Bridgman
Policy Counsel
Georgia Appleseed Center for Law and Justice

Morgan Bridgman engages in legal and policy reform to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline, with a special focus on Georgia Appleseed’s FAIR project for children facing long-term suspension and expulsion from school. Bridgman is a former associate on the Trial and Global Disputes team at King & Spalding, LLP, where she practiced federal complex commercial litigation and maintained a robust pro bono practice focused on issues of juvenile law.

John Bringuel
Prevention and Intervention Program Manager
The Council on Alcohol and Drugs

John Bringuel has spent 37 years working in the field of mental health. He’s worked across the prevention continuum and provided training to thousands of social service and mental health providers, professionals, and the public about how to make meetings work, shifting the conversation to emotional intelligence as an innovative approach to prevention, and other topics.

Vanessa Corona
Rape Prevention and Education Team Lead
Georgia Department of Public Health

Vanessa Corona is a prevention practitioner with a focus on underrepresented groups and mission-driven organizational growth. Corona oversees sexual violence primary prevention efforts of community level taskforces throughout Georgia.

Mitzi Fears
Georgia THRIVe State Coordinator
Georgia Health Policy Center

Mitzi Fears specializes in developing and implementing programs in the fields of maternal and child health and workforce development. Fears also has experience in coalition building and health education in the areas of chronic disease prevention and child wellness. Fears is working on providing program coordination of the Infant Toddler Court Program, which aims to strengthen stability and resiliency of families with children birth – 3 in the child welfare system by providing intensive case management and resources to prevent and address adverse childhood experiences.

Ted Futris
Georgia Athletic Association Professor in Family and Consumer Sciences
University of Georgia

Ted Futris, Ph.D., is a professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Science at the University of Georgia. He has secured more than $27 million in grant funding across his 24-year career to develop, disseminate, and evaluate educational programs that promote healthy couple relationship and stable families. As director of the Couples and Relationship Enrichment (CARE) lab, his work elevates the relationships of couples across Georgia.

Amy Griffin
Executive Director
Lanier Family Connection

Amy Griffin has led Lanier Family Connection’s efforts for the past 14 years. The Collaborative began efforts to engage the birth-to-5 population four years ago and in 2021 launched the Baby Bulldogs program, successfully enrolling 450 children. Through their work with Georgia Family Connection Partnership’s (GaFCP) Family Support Cohort, the Collaborative has found unique ways to incorporate language nutrition into their efforts. Joining GaFCP’s Food Access Cohort has allowed the Collaborative to provide access to healthy foods for families.

April Hopson
Vice President of Adult and General Education
Columbus Technical College

April Hopson has served as the vice president of adult education since 2015. She previously held the position of paralegal studies program director. Hopson held previous education positions in Alabama at Chattahoochee Valley Community College and Southern Union State Community College. Prior to moving into postsecondary education, Hopson worked in the nonprofit and legal communities.

Rebekah Hudgins
Evaluation and Results Accountability Team Co-Leader
Georgia Family Connection Partnership

Rebekah Hudgins is an anthropologist/epidemiologist who has worked with the Department of Public Health and CDC in active surveillance; conducted ethnographic research, including extensive home visits in Jamaica; conducted drug studies in both Jamaica and the United States; and worked with several organizations that are focused on community building and child and family well-being. She focuses on the intergenerational and environmental aspects of women’s and children’s health, and the importance of the family and community context.

Valerie Hutcherson
Evaluation and Results Accountability Team Co-Leader
Georgia Family Connection Partnership

Valerie Hutcherson, Ph.D., began her career as a research and evaluation specialist for the Georgia Department of Education in 1998. She’s spent the past 20 years consulting with various organizations on evaluation projects focused on education, the social determinants of health and other issues affecting child, family, and community well-being. With a background in community psychology, Hutcherson brings an ecological perspective to working with communities and organizations. The foundation of her work is recognizing and understanding how social, cultural, economic, and other environmental influences impact communities and identifying ways communities can work together to promote change. At GaFCP, she provides evaluation technical assistance to county Collaboratives in regions 3 and 5, works with the Family Support and Community for Partnerships Supporting Youth cohort Collaboratives, and is involved in the evaluation of the Kinship Navigator program. She is also a member of GaFCP’s KIDS COUNT team and Race, Equity, and Inclusion Committee.

Jacquan Jordan
Georgia KIDS COUNT Data Manager
Georgia Family Connection Partnership

Jacquan Jordan brings over seven years of experience in nonprofit work to his role managing the KIDS COUNT data and data tools for the Georgia Family Connection network. Jordan regularly provides trainings on KIDS COUNT data tools, sharing valuable insights and practical knowledge from his expertise in data management, data storytelling, and analysis. In addition to his civilian career, Jacquan proudly serves as a United States Navy Corpsman, affectionately known as “Doc” to his Marines.

Michael Key
Juvenile Court Judge
Troup County Juvenile Court

After graduating from Emory Law School, Michael Key returned home to Troup County where he practiced law from 1979 to 2016. Key served as a part-time juvenile court judge in Troup from 1989 until serving full time in 2017. Key has served as Superior Court judge pro tempore presiding over the Adult Felony Drug Court since 2016. Key is chair of the Georgia Child Support Commission and previously served as president of the Georgia Council of Juvenile Court Judges and the National Council of Juvenile Court Judges and chair of the Georgia Family Violence Commission. He specializes in trauma-informed care, court and child welfare systems improvement, meaningful family time for children in out-of-home placements, and the Enhanced Resources Guidelines of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges.

Kenneth “Lou” Koon
CEO
Stop Suicide USA

Kenneth “Lou” Koon, D.Min., is the founder of Intervene Challenge, a one-day training in suicide intervention based on his work in conducting more than 2,000 successful suicide interventions in military and civilian communities. Twenty-eight thousand individuals nationwide have participated in Koon’s training to gain skills that save lives. His dream is that one day a boy will ask his father, “Dad, what was suicide?”

Gabriel Kuperminc
Professor of Psychology and Public Health
Georgia State University

Gabriel Kuperminc, Ph.D., chairs the doctoral program in community psychology at Georgia State University. Kuperminc has been part of Georgia Family Connection Partnership’s Outcomes Team since 2008. Kuperminc’s research centers on the health and well-being of children and adolescents, with a focus on immigrant families and the role of culture. His work also involves consulting with and evaluating youth development and youth mentoring programs.

Breanna Lathrop
Chief Operating Officer and Nurse Practitioner
Good Samaritan Health Center

Breanna Lathrop, DNP, has spent more than 16 years providing health care to individuals who lack health insurance at the Good Samaritan Health Center in Atlanta. Lathrop writes, speaks, and teaches on the topics of health equity and social determinants of health. She is the co-author of How Neighborhoods Make Us Sick: Restoring Health and Wellness to Our Communities.

Erin Lee
Executive Director
Early County Family Connection

Erin Lee began working with Early County Family Connection in 2004, serving in youth leadership and youth substance use prevention roles before becoming executive director in 2021. Lee oversees initiatives for early childhood literacy, teen pregnancy prevention, and family health and wellness.

Akia Lewis
Director of Strategy, Innovation, and Engagement
Georgia Family Connection Partnership

Akia Lewis leads efforts that bring a collective impact approach to issues that intersect with food access. She also leads the Policy and Advocacy Committee for the joint Farm to School Alliance/Farm to Early Education Coalition. Lewis is a board member for Georgia Organics and a member of Slow Food Atlanta.

Terri McFadden
Professor of Pediatrics and General Pediatrician
Emory University School of Medicine

Terri McFadden, MD, serves as director of clinical initiatives with the PARTNERS for Equity in Child and Adolescent Health program. She is a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics and her professional interests include comprehensive care for the underserved, health equity, social determinants of health, early literacy/early brain development, childhood injury prevention, and medical education.

Garry McGiboney
Executive Director of Government and Education Strategies
Sharecare

Garry McGiboney, Ph.D., is a consultant for the U.S. Department of Education and served as deputy superintendent at the Georgia Department of Education for 14 years. He is a member of the Get Georgia Reading Campaign for Grade-Level Reading Cabinet and Behavioral Health Reform and Innovation Commission. McGiboney also chairs the State Juvenile Alternatives to Detention Committee and Board of the Council on Alcohol and Drugs and serves on the Georgia Parent Support Network Board of Directors.

Laura Miller
Senior Director, Family Engagement
United Way of Greater Atlanta

Laura Miller provides strategic direction for family engagement programming focused on improving outcomes for children and families through a multi-generational approach and an equity lens.

Rachel Mosness
Executive Director
David Mathews Center for Civic Life

The David Mathews Center for Civic Life is a nonprofit organization that works to strengthen civic life across Alabama. Rachel Mosness oversees programs geared toward educational initiatives and designed for community engagement. Mosness enjoys working directly with communities by facilitating deliberative forums, leading reporting out events to educate Alabamians about civic life, and providing facilitator training workshops to civic leaders.

Jordan Murphy
CEO
Center for Interrelational Science and Pediatrics

Jordan Murphy, Ph.D., is a pediatric nurse practitioner specializing in behavioral health and trauma-informed care. Murphy supports individuals and families to expand resilience using wellness and clinical interventions. She collaborates with organizations across Georgia to provide workforce development, training, and consultation.

Bentley Ponder
Deputy Commissioner, Quality Innovations and Partnerships
Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning

Bentley Ponder has worked with Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning (DECAL) since 2005. The Quality Innovations and Partnerships division houses Georgia’s Quality Rating and Improvement System, DECAL Early Head Start—Child Care Partnership Grant, the agency’s internal research and policy analysis unit, and several initiatives related to stakeholder engagement, 2Gen supports, and community partnerships.

Lezlie Poole
Program Innovation Manager
Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregivers

Lezlie Poole is a certified peer specialist and certified psychiatric rehabilitation practitioner. Poole has experience in developing, innovating, and implementing programs for crisis resolution within the mental health community. She works in the ongoing implementation of evidence-based programs and developing strategic initiatives to advance the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregivers’ mission to aid in supporting caregivers.

Robert C. Richards, Jr.
Associate Professor
University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Services

Robert C. Richards, Jr., Ph.D., JD, studies how ordinary people talk about public issues and participate in governing their communities, and he was a co-author of the 2024 Arkansas Civic Health Index report. Richards teaches communication and civic engagement and legal and ethical aspects of public service at the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service. He also helps organize community discussions and interracial dialogues about public issues in Arkansas.

Nicholas Rios
Co-Founder, Co-Owner, and Creative Director
M&R Marketing

As M&R’s creative director and visionary, Rios oversees the entire creative process to help clients strengthen and grow their business’s brand. He enjoys the challenge of working with businesses in diverse industries and leading M&R’s creative team to new levels of success. Rios founded Macon-based M&R Marketing Group in 2008. Under his creative leadership, the company was named an “Inc 5000” company in 2019 and 2020, a prestigious award given to the fast-growing companies in the United States. Since its founding, the M&R team has grown from just two employees to a full team of 20+ marketers, web developers, graphic designers, digital strategists, and copywriters. He has an extensive background in small business management and business-to-business sales for two Fortune 500 companies.

Ward Risvold
Assistant Professor and AI Lab Director
Georgia College & State University

Ward Risvold, Ph.D., is an educator and communication expert who bridges the worlds of academia and business. He teaches courses on business communication, AI applications, and plain language writing. Risvold’s passion for empowering professionals shines through his role as director of the AI Lab and his extensive experience as a workplace trainer. He’s delivered more than 50 training sessions and is a sought-after speaker for professional organizations such as SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management) and the Technology Association of Georgia.

Lizann Roberts
Executive Director
Coastal Georgia Indicators Coalition, The Chatham Family Connection Collaborative

Lizann Roberts focused her career on developing public-private endeavors to improve overall community well-being. Through her work with Family Connection in Chatham County, Roberts is emphasizing the critical role language plays in cognitive, social, and emotional development by bringing training and support to educators and community partners. Her interest in early language development stems from her belief that laying a strong foundation in language skills during the formative years is essential for lifelong learning, success, and well-being.

Pamela Ross
Executive Director
Pamper Me Beautiful

Pamela Ross has worked on behalf of children and families for more than 20 years. As an early learning and family engagement consultant and champion, Ross has worked with United Way of Greater Atlanta and other local, state, and national organizations to support parents as leaders of their children, families, and communities.

Michael Scuello
Senior Associate
Metis Associates, Inc.

Michael Scuello has been employed at Metis since 1998 with duties focused on research methodology, data acquisition, and data analysis. Scuello has been a member of Georgia Family Connection Partnership’s (GaFCP) Outcomes Team for the past decade and has served GaFCP in other capacities since the early 2000s.

Julian Serracin
Rape Prevention and Education Program Manager for Community Mobilization
Georgia Department of Public Health

Julian Serracin oversees sexual violence primary prevention efforts of community level taskforces throughout Georgia.

Carol Stewart
Breastfeeding Coordinator
District 4 Public Health

Carol Stewart’s first job was as a nutritionist for the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program in Montgomery County in North Carolina. After that she worked for West Georgia Health System as a community nutrition educator before beginning her work with Georgia’s District 4 Health Services in 2006. Stewart is a certified lactation counselor and international board-certified lactation consultant and has spearheaded the implementation of the Georgia Breastfeeding Peer Counselor program. Stewart continues to serve as the peer counselor supervisor and breastfeeding program coordinator for D4 WIC, which serves more than 23,000 participants. She innovated the “Feeding Your Infant” group nutrition education session for WIC participant families and friends. A mother of three, Stewart serves as the “fairy godmother of breastfeeding” for anyone that needs her breastfeeding assistance and support.

Katherine Sylvester
Founder
Operation M.I.S.T.

Katherine Sylvester is a mother of two, physical therapist, preeclampsia survivor, clinical assistant professor for women’s health, and vaginal birth after cesarean section (VBAC)-certified doula. Through Operation M.I.S.T., health care providers teach women to use smart devices for safer pregnancies, smoother cycles, and better health. In a virtual community, women of all ages and in all stages of life make data-driven decisions with the goal of navigating womanhood in their best health.

Martha Ann Todd
President
Columbus Technical College

Martha Ann Todd is currently the president of Columbus Technical College and was previously the deputy commissioner of adult and technical education for the Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG). Before joining TCSG in 2018, she was executive director of the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement, associate superintendent of teacher and leader effectiveness at the Georgia Department of Education, and assistant superintendent in Meriwether County Schools.

Renata D. Turner
Chief Judge
Fulton County Juvenile Court

Renata Turner received her law degree from the University of Southern California. She joined the juvenile bench in 2015 and has served on the Student and Climate Committee. Since 2015, she has been the lead judge for the School Pathways Project, a collaboration between the court and school systems to close the school-to-prison pipeline. She and Pathways members became Georgetown Center for Juvenile Justice Reform Fellows in 2018.

Michael Waller
Executive Director
Georgia Appleseed Center for Law and Justice

Michael Waller is a frequent speaker on the devastating consequences of exclusionary school discipline, poor school climate, and unhealthy housing on marginalized children, particularly children in poverty, children of color, and children and youth in foster care. Prior to starting with Appleseed as director of projects in 2018, Waller was a prosecuting attorney at the Federal Trade Commission for eight years, leading investigations and lawsuits across the country to stop companies and individuals from defrauding economically vulnerable consumers. Before that, he was a staff attorney at the Atlanta Legal Aid Society, representing indigent clients in housing, domestic violence, and consumer rights cases. He came to Legal Aid from WilmerHale, an international law firm based in Washington, D.C.

Melody Weaver
Georgia Family Support Network Coordinator
Prevent Child Abuse Georgia

Melody Weaver has a proven track record in data management, administrative support, community engagement, and project coordination. She helped lead the statewide implementation of the My Community Cares initiative, which aims to reduce the number of children going into foster care due to abuse and/or neglect—and to collaborate with state and agency partners and community members to identify and fill gaps in services and supports in targeted areas with the most removals. Weaver is trained in the Be Strong Parent Cafe and Community Cafe Collaborative models, as well as adverse childhood experiences and solution-based casework. She has extensive experience in grant and contract work for nonprofit and state organizations.

Donna Wilkens
Managing Senior Associate
Metis Associates, Inc.

Donna Wilkens is a seasoned program evaluator and researcher with a professional interest in studying efforts related to children, families, and communities. She directs large-scale studies of education interventions, out-of-school time programs, teen pregnancy prevention, community schools, and culture transformation initiatives. Wilkens is also an expert grant writer who helps clients win competitive grant funding to support their work, and she manages a team of researchers that specialize in data management, research design, and statistical analysis.

Are accommodations included in the conference registration fee?

No. Hotel rooms must be booked separately when registering for the conference.

Is there a deadline for booking a hotel room?

Yes. To be in the Georgia Family Connection block, rooms must be booked by August 30, 2024.

Is there a fee to share a hotel room?

Some attendees choose to share hotel rooms to reduce travel expenses. There is no fee for additional guests to stay in any of the accommodations. However, there are maximum capacities for each room.

What additional fees and taxes are charged by the resort?

In addition to the nightly room rate, guests will pay 13% tax plus a $5 Georgia Hotel/Motel fee. There is also a daily $15 plus tax per room resort fee which includes the gate entrance fee, valet or self parking, WiFi, in room coffee, unlimited use of Fitness Center, outdoor heated saltwater pool, firepits, and use of business center computers and printers.

Do I need to book my hotel room and make my own travel arrangements?

Yes. All participants are responsible for their conference travel and hotel arrangements.

What is the registration deadline?

Participants should register by Friday, August 30 to avoid a late fee. Online registration will close completely on Friday, September 13.

What does my conference registration include?

The full conference registration includes admission to all sessions, workshops, social events, and organized meals.

Can I register for just one day of the conference?

Yes. The rate for registering for any single day of the conference is $325. The early-bird rate does not apply to single-day registration. Single-day registration includes admission to all sessions, events, and meals on that day.

Do I have to pay the conference registration if I just want to attend a particular workshop or event?

Registration is required to attend workshops and events. You have the option to register for one day, but not for individual workshops or events.

What if I'm unable to attend the Conference because I observe Rosh Hashanah?

We are committed to hosting events and conversations that foster a sense of belonging, where all our partners can express themselves, share ideas, and collaborate with each other to advance our critical mission. We sincerely regret that the 2024 conference dates conflict with the observance of Rosh Hashanah and pledge to take steps to avoid such conflicts in the future. We value your participation because every relationship matters, and every connection holds possibilities for us to help all Georgians thrive. Please contact Carlisa Beal at carlisa@gafcp.org to find out how you can join the dialogue before and after the conference.

Who should attend the conference?

Georgia Family Connection coordinators and board members, local and state partners, and elected officials should attend this event. It’s designed for collaborators who are determined to find solutions to the complex issues that challenge children and families in their communities by setting priorities and developing strategies based on their own local data. This diverse group represents urban and rural areas of Georgia, as well as multiple sectors of community life, including social services, education, government, health care, and business.

What is the fee to gain access to Lanier Island?

The admission fee to enter Lanier Island Resort is $20 per day but is reduced and included in the $15 per day, plus tax resort fee for Georgia Family Connection conference attendees.

What is the proper attire for the conference?

Resort casual (skirts, sundresses or slacks, mid- to knee-length dressy shorts, golf shirts, and sandals) is appropriate for Wednesday evening’s opening reception and Thursday evening’s networking reception. Business casual attire is appropriate during the day Thursday and Friday. Wear comfortable shoes and bring layers, as air-conditioning is difficult to regulate in large facilities.

How can I stay connected on social media?

We’re using the #LetsTalkGA hashtag to focus our conversations on social media. This is a great way to get that feeling of hallway discussions for those who aren’t able to attend but want to engage in the dialogue.

I have registered for the conference and need to make a change. How can I do that?

For questions about registration, contact Carlisa Beal at carlisa@gafcp.org or at 404-420-7413. For questions about the conference, contact Elizabeth Turner at elizabeth@gafcp.org or at 404-420-7411.

I would like to come early or stay after the conference. Can I get the same rate at the hotel?

Legacy Lodge is offering the group rate to conference attendees for three days prior to and after the conference, subject to availability when you reserve your room.

Is transportation from my accommodations to the Legacy Lodge Convention Center and other conference locations provided?

Legacy Lodge is connected to the Convention Center. Villas are located within moderate walking distance. Lake houses are a short driving distance away from the Convention Center, with free parking available. Complimentary golf carts are also available for transportation around the property. Shuttle service will be provided to Game Changer for the Thursday night reception.

Is there a fee to park at the hotel?

Legacy Lodge, Villas, and Lake House guests must pay a $15 per-room, per-night resort fee, which includes valet or self-parking as well as other amenities.

Is parking available at Legacy Lodge and Convention Center?

Yes, ample parking is available.

Which meals are included with conference registration?

The opening reception on Wednesday will feature light appetizers. On Thursday, participants will enjoy a full breakfast buffet, elevated boxed lunch, and networking reception with appetizers. The conference will conclude with a light breakfast on Friday morning followed by a brunch buffet. Dinner on Wednesday and Thursday nights will be on your own.

Where can I have dinner?

Check out this list of Lanier Island restaurants.

I have special dietary requirements. Can you accommodate my needs?

All conference meals have gluten free, vegetarian, and vegan options. You should note your dietary requirements upon registering for the conference. If you have questions or concerns, please contact Carlisa Beal at carlisa@gafcp.org or at 404-420-7413.

What should I do if I get ill at the Conference?

If you’re experiencing symptoms of illness that could be contagious, contact Carlisa Beal at carlisa@gafcp.org or at 404-420-7413.

If I need medical care, where is the closest facility?

Urgent Care:
Northeast Georgia Physicians Group Urgent Care
4445 S Lee St Suite 105
Buford, GA 30518
770-848-9240
8AM-8PM Daily

Hospital:
Northeast Georgia Medical Center
1400 River Pl
Braselton, GA 30517
770-848-8000

Pharmacy:
Publix Pharmacy
4840 Golden Pkwy
Buford, GA 30518
770-614-7711
Daily 9 a.m. – 9 p.m.

Please note that none of these facilities are located on Lake Lanier Island.

What do I do if I have accessibility needs?

We strive to host inclusive, accessible events that enable all individuals, including individuals with disabilities, to engage fully. To request an accommodation or for inquiries about accessibility, please contact Carlisa Beal at carlisa@gafcp.org or 404-420-7413.

Who do I contact if there’s an emergency?

If the incident requires fire, police, or medical service, call 911 then alert the closest conference staff member. If you are in your hotel, call 911 then alert the hotel front desk or Elizabeth Turner at 770-547-1256.

Hit the Road – And Press Play

Help us build a Spotify playlist featuring songs that inspire you to dream to share with our colleagues and partners on the journey to Lake Lanier Island in Buford. We’ll build the playlist on our website and keep updating it throughout the conference.

Add your song by submitting the song title and artist via email (Subject Line: Playlist) to Kelsey (Kelsey@gafcp.org) or on social media using the #LetsTalkGA hashtag.

This submission will score you 10 points in our scavenger hunt.


Dreams for Our Communities

Share 2-3 sentences and a photo that depicts a specific dream you have for the children and families who live in your community—and tell us your design for making it a reality. Send your submission via email (Subject Line: My Dream) to Kelsey (Kelsey@gafcp.org) or share it on social media using the #LetsTalkGA hashtag. This submission will score you 30 points in our conference scavenger hunt.


Morning Yoga

We invite you to jumpstart your day by focusing on your mind and body with morning yoga. Join yoga teacher and Toombs County Family Connection director Paige Williamson for a gentle 30-minute yoga session. No experience is required. Meet in the Westin lobby at 6:15 a.m. Be sure to wear comfortable clothing and bring your yoga mat! You may also bring yoga blocks if desired.

Please pre-register for this session. The link will be available soon.

Paige Williamson, Toombs County Family Connection director in Lyons, is also a part-time yoga teacher. She received her 200-hour yoga teacher certification from Savannah Yoga Center in 2016. Williamson continued her yoga education at Asheville Yoga Center and graduated with her 500-hour teacher certification in 2018. Shortly after, she became the owner of the county’s only yoga studio, the Zen Den. She strives to ignite a passion in her students for movement and to facilitate their ability to use that movement as a tool of self-discovery. She encourages students to learn to trust the inner wisdom of their bodies while she provides a framework for that discovery.

Lanier Islands extends a warm welcome to Georgia Family Connection 2024 Conference participants. Take advantage of the diverse lakeside accommodations, recline in comfort and rediscover tranquility in the luxurious guest rooms at the Legacy Lodge or Legacy Villas. Or spread out with your friends in one of the private Lake Houses. If you want to get close to nature, experience one of the stunning Campgrounds and RV sites. Whichever you choose, come relax, reconnect, and savor your conference experience as we will, together, dream by design.

Legacy Lodge

Legacy Lodge guest rooms are available with either a king bed or 2 queen beds. In-room amenities include a mini fridge, hair dryer, plush robes, iron, ironing board, and a coffee maker with complimentary coffee and tea. A community microwave is available in the vending area of each floor of the lodge. Lodge amenities include complimentary Wi-Fi, heated, saltwater swimming pool, fitness center, business center and multiple dining options. Legacy Lodge is attached to the Conference Center.

Legacy Villas

These spacious and scenic villas are situated on the shores of Lake Lanier and conveniently located within walking distance of the Legacy Lodge and resort amenities. Legacy Villa rooms are available with either a king bed or two queen beds. Each villa features a gas fireplace, combination shower/tub bathroom, and a private terrace on Lake Lanier. The Legacy Villa Rooms are approximately 200 square-feet and include a flat-screen TV, wet bar with mini fridge, microwave, and coffee maker with complimentary coffee and tea. Plush robes, hair dryer, iron, and ironing board are also provided. Parking is available for one vehicle with overflow parking available near Legacy Lodge. Complimentary golf carts are also available for transportation around the property.

Legacy Lake Houses

These 1,200-square-foot lake houses feature a king suite with a private bath, plus a second suite with two double beds and a private bath. There is also a living area with a sleeper sofa, separate dining area, a fieldstone gas fireplace, and a gas grill on the deck. Each lake house also comes with a washer and dryer and fully equipped kitchen with a full-sized refrigerator, oven, dishwasher, microwave, toaster, coffee maker with complimentary coffee and tea, and stocked with plates, bowls, silverware, and glassware. Hair dryer, iron, and ironing board are also available. Parking is available for two vehicles with additional parking adjacent to the Summer House/Venetian Pier. Complimentary golf carts are also available for transportation around the property.

ADA Facilities

The resort prioritizes accessibility to ensure a comfortable stay for all guests. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accommodations include accessible room types like the Legacy Lodge Accessible King, Legacy Villa Accessible Suite, and Accessible Lake House. Guide dogs and service animals are welcome, and the staff is trained to assist guests with visual impairments. Wheelchair assistance, golf carts for transportation, Braille signage, and more are available to enhance the experience for every visitor with accessibility needs.

We strive to host inclusive, accessible events that enable all individuals, including individuals with disabilities, to engage fully. To request an accommodation or for inquiries about accessibility, please contact Carlisa Beal at carlisa@gafcp.org or 404-420-7413.