Expo 2019: Recap, Resources, and Reflection

Expo – June 27, 2019


SUNY Global Center

116 E 55th Street 

New York, NY 10022

This year’s Expo explored what it means to disrupt the status quo. Programming featured a keynote, panel discussions, and breakout sessions where attendees:

Examined deeply entrenched barriers to equitable outcomes;

Learned about strategies for changing broken systems;

Built on each others’ expertise to turn ideas to action.

The whole day was a powerful reminder of how important it is to create space for all of us to build on each other’s expertise and turn ideas into action. As you plan your program for the coming year, get your hands on some of the resources and expertise shared.

Thank you so much to the 150+ practitioners, funders, students, and leaders who joined us at this year’s Expo!

Recapping the day:

8:30 – 9AM

Breakfast and Welcome

9 – 10AM


Advancing Racial Equity: The Role of the Nonprofit Sector


Member-Led Breakout Sessions, Block 1

Adults as Mirrors and Models: Building Adult SEL

Ramapo for Children

Elevating Youth Voice to Improve School Culture: Two Community Schools’ Intertwined Improvement Stories

Center for Supportive Schools, Urban Arts Partnership

Collaborative Approaches to Building Student SEL Skills: Partnership at Work


Institutionalizing SEL: Two Organizations’ Approaches

Phipps Neighborhoods, YMCA

11:45AM – 1PM

Member-Led Breakout Sessions, Block 2

Research + Role-play: Designing Student-Centered Curriculum

The Opportunity Network

Student Agency: Getting to the Root of What Matters

Center for Family Life, East Harlem Tutorial Program, Sadie Nash Leadership Project

Creative Approach to Adult SEL: Lulu and Leo’s Principles and Practices

The Lulu and Leo Fund

Youth-Adult Partnership in Action: Student-Led Improvement Projects

Students from SSN’s Elevating Youth Voice Program

Finding Their Why: Infusing Positive Youth Development Principles Into College Readiness Activities

Opportunities for a Better Tomorrow

1 – 1:45PM


1:55 – 3PM

Panel Discussion

Place-Based Systems Change: Removing Barriers to Equitable Outcomes

3:15 – 4:15PM

Action Groups: Unpacking the “Status Quo” & Our Path Forward

Equipped with practices from the network, strategies from systems change experts, and their own expertise, participants will join small groups to dig into pivotal student outcomes and barriers to reaching them, and contribute to the Network’s path forward

4:30 – 5:15PM

Recognitions and Closing

5:15 – 6:30PM

Happy Hour!


Julie Nelson, Race Forward

Race Forward believes five areas are necessary to make meaningful change: narrative shift, institutional and sector-level transformation, community-led research, policy development, and movement building. Julie Nelson of Race Forward encouraged the Network to normalize, operationalize, organize, and visualize racial equity. How?

Normalize: Develop shared understanding of what structural racism is, what its effects are, and why it exists.

Operationalize: Use methodologies to ensure decision-making promotes racial equity.

Organize: Have internal infrastructure and partnerships, because no individual organization will dismantle racism alone.

Visualize: What would a racially equitable NYC look like?

Read more from Race Forward on our Resource Library.

Breakout Sessions:

➔Adults as Mirrors and Models: Targeting Adult SEL Competencies

Cecily Mitchell-Harper

Program Evaluation Associate, Ramapo for Children

Educators have a unique opportunity to help students build community, connect to their environments and develop important social-emotional and life skills. Too often however, adult’s social-emotional competencies are overwhelmed in educational settings – limiting their capacity to do this work (Jones, 2013). 

Cecily Mitchell-Harper gave participants a taste of Ramapo’s professional development training, which supports participants to: (1) increase their capacity to recognize their own triggers and feelings in their work with young people and develop plans for managing their emotions, (2) engage young people in constructive problem solving by decoding behavior into feelings and offering alternatives, (3) create structures and routines for self-reflection, processing conflicts, goal setting and stress-management, (4) foster environments that promote positive and empathetic relationships between all members of the community.

Participants were excited to bring back strategies from Ramapo’s toolkit to their colleagues.

Find the toolkit Cecily shared on our Resource Library.

➔ Elevating Youth Voice to Improve School Culture: Two Community Schools Share Their Intertwined Improvement Journeys

Lori-Ann Clementson

Community School Director, FDA III

Michael Jones

Community School Director, Facing History School | Urban Arts Partnership

Kristina Wylie

Assistant Principal, Facing History School

Lori-Ann Clementson, Community School Director at FDA III joined forces with Mike Jones, Community School Director and Kristina Wylie-Colmenares, Assistant Principal at the Facing History School  to share the intentional steps each school team took during the 2018-19 school year to elevate youth voice in their schools, build students’ sense of belonging and ultimately, decrease chronic absenteeism. FDA III implemented a Passport Challenge—an attendance intervention where students checked in with staff daily to monitor attendance and build relationships. The Challenge was improved throughout the year and ultimately resulted in students attending more than in years past. The Facing History School shared social and emotional learning data with staff to elevate the need to focus on student belonging, invited students to share feedback with teachers on a student panel, and created space for teachers to plan improvements based on student feedback. These interventions were shared across the school teams and resulted in both schools implementing a version of the attendance challenge. 

Read more about youth voice.

➔Collaborative Approaches to Building Student SEL Skills: Partnership at Work

Greg Cox

Chief Operations Officer, ENACT, Inc.

Greg Cox and Alicia Thompson engaged participants in a reflection activity that, in true ENACT form, incorporated improvisation, creativity, and joy. The ENACT team presented their approach on building partnerships, focusing on their partnership with Zone 126, and then asked participants to think about organizations that they might be able to collaborate with in order to help students reach their goals. Through discussion, pair shares and some acting, participants learned the different factors that play into creating partnerships with organizations who share similar vision, and to maintain them.

Learn more about their Building Partnerships strategy.

➔ Institutionalizing SEL: Two Organizations’ Approaches

Khari Freeman

Senior Director, Schools and Community Education, Phipps Neighborhoods

Lauren Barr, Esq.

Vice President, Youth and Community Development, YMCA of Greater New York

We all know Social-emotional learning is important.  But where does an organization that wants to take a strategic, coordinated approach to building SEL into the culture of their organization, start?  In this session, we heard from two organizations, YMCA of Greater NY and Phipps Neighborhoods, that have taken different paths discuss what they’ve done, what they’ve learned, and where they’re going next.

Visit the Resource Library to read through their strategies and lessons learned.

➔ Research + Role Play: Designing Student-Centered SEL Curriculum

Meshay Long

Curriculum and Student Events Assistant, The Opportunity Network

Stephanie Nudelman

Internships Assistant, The Opportunity Network

Stephanie Nudelman and Meshay Long shared how and when practitioners can survey students to discover how they like to learn, How they can adapt our curriculum to leverage staff strengths and meet student needs, and how to design Educational Live Action Role-play (Edu-LARP) to teach skills. 

Participants learned about research, roleplay, and student-centered pedagogy.

Explore Edu-LARP.

➔ Student Agency: Getting to the Root of What Matters

Julie Brockway

Director, Center for Family Life

Ja’Dell Davis

Advisor, Sadie Nash Leadership Project

Mel Jackman

Managing Director, OST, East Harlem Tutorial Program

We hear the term agency a lot – what does it mean, really?? 

Network leaders and youth from EHTP, Center for Supportive Schools, and Sadie Nash Leadership Project shared what they believe agency really means and how they cultivate it at their organizations. Ja’dell Davis provided a helpful frame to think about embedding practices that cultivate student agency: organizations must start with –

1) a belief that all young people are capable and worthy of having agency and

2) a focus on relationships to better understand young peoples’ strengths, needs, goals, and aspirations.

Panelists agreed that the Network can play a role in fostering agency in our students namely by: continuing to provide platforms for youth to share their voice, sharing promising practices that cultivate agency, pooling funds to advocate for policy, collecting and analyzing data alongside young people and their families, and working to understand how young people are already displaying agency in their lives (outside of programming and school).

What does agency mean to you and your organization?

➔ A Creative Approach to Adult SEL

Stephanie Krieger

Senior Director of Programs, Lulu & Leo Fund

Debra Disbrow

Creative Coach, Lulu & Leo Fund

As a leader in your organization, how can you develop your own social-emotional skills to foster it in youth? The Lulu & Leo Fund has an answer: 10 Principles of Creativity.

Stephanie Krieger and Debra Disbrow of the Lulu & Leo Fund shared their organization’s approach to adult social-emotional learning: the 10 Principles of Creativity. Through activities and discussion, participants explored the power of choosing creativity in their daily work and brainstormed how they could bring adult SEL — through the principles — back to their own organization. 

Dive into Adult SEL.

➔ Finding Their Why: Infusing Positive Youth Development into College Readiness Activities

Robin Blanc

College Access Director, Opportunities for a Better Tomorrow

Shayaun Pakizegi

CAP Counselor, Opportunities for a Better Tomorrow

Opportunities for a Better Tomorrow’s College Access Director, Robin Blanc, and CAP Counselor Shayaun Pakizegi led participants through their journey of creating a college access program that prioritized self-efficacy and motivation in youth. After a small group discussion into the research surrounding efficacy and motivation, the OBT team shared their model for backwards planning, which incorporated positive youth development throughout their framework. Participants then divided into groups focused on different facets of college readiness, and brainstormed goals, and the activities that would lead them to achieve them.

Explore their Program Creation Process.

➔ Youth-Adult Partnership in Action: Student-Led Improvement Projects

Organizations all over strive to create true partnerships with the youth in their programs. Last year, various Network organizations elected to enroll both staff and students into the Elevating Youth Voice program, which gave young people the tools and vocabulary to share their ideas and opinions, and offered space for adults to listen and collaborate with them. In this session, participants will learn about the journey students led to implement their ideas, side by side with their adult partners.

Are youth at your organization included in decision-making and collaboration?

Co-Creating our Path Forward

Breakout Groups:

Before leaving for the day, we gathered around action and split into breakout groups to plan a path ahead.

Panel Speakers:

Place-Based Systems Change, Removing Barriers to Equitable Outcomes

Abe Fernandez

VP, Collective Impact, Children’s Aid Society
Director, National Center for Community Schools

Julie Nelson

Senior Vice President
Race Forward

Sheri Brady

Associate Director, Strategic Partnerships
Forum for Community Solutions at the Aspen Institute

We started out the day talking about structural racism with our keynote address, which Julie demonstrated has led to systems doing exactly what they are designed to do: prevent people of color from succeeding in our society.

This was followed by a series of breakout sessions where members shared how using improvement cycles to improve practices is yielding results for students. These are practices that help students feel they belong, practices that empower youth to take charge of their lives, practices that sensitize adults to their own mindsets and behaviors when interacting with one another and with the youth and families they serve. Members are tracking the impact of these practices on engagement, attendance and other leading indicators of student success.

This panel focused on how communities — some in other geographies, some in other sectors — are addressing policies, processes and systems that impede equity.

Sponsored by:

Gina Darnaud
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