Erin Condon (she/her/hers) is a Program Assistant at the PbS Learning Institute.
Nashville Extends a Southern Welcome to PbS Folks
On Thursday, Aug. 12, 2021, more than 50 of our juvenile justice colleagues from across the country met in Nashville, Tennessee to kick off the annual three-day PbS Agency Coordinators Training (ACT). PbS Executive Director Kim Godfrey-Lovett and PbS Deputy Director Akin Fadeyi were delighted to greet guests at the door of the Welcome Reception at the Omni Hotel, before surrendering the microphone to Davidson County’s own Mr. Antonio Bratcher. The Facility Director at Youth Opportunity Investments, LLC, Mr. Bratcher hosted the event with authentic Southern hospitality. While the chicken-and-waffle bar was a close runner-up, the best part of the night was witnessing old friends and new faces come together in-person for the first time since the 2019 PbS ACT in Boston, Massachusetts.
Early Friday morning – only a few hours after the countless rock, country and blues bars scattered across the city’s Lower Broadway district gave their last call – PbS staff, coaches and coordinators reconvened at Music City Center for breakfast and training. Dr. Jennifer Pealer, an Associate Professor in the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology at East Tennessee State University, presented research about how working with families of young offenders can reduce the likelihood of reoffending by 20-52%. She emphasized the value of engaging loved ones and the critical importance of involving primary caregivers in juvenile justice programs. The morning concluded with a question-and-answer session with Stephen, a young man who formerly resided in a PbS participating facility. Employed full-time and, as of recently, a homeowner, Stephen spoke to Kim about the challenges he faced during reentry, as well as the keys to his success – two of which happened to be the Scholarship and Reentry awards that he earned from the PbS Education and Employment Foundation.
Over the course of the afternoon, the dialogue continued to focus on family engagement and effective approaches for successful reentry. PbS Coach Al Lick and Casey Traynor (North Dakota) led a discussion on family readiness. Next, a panel of Agency Coordinators that was moderated by PbS Coach Al Lick and Nancy Carter (Massachusetts) took the stage. Each of the panelists - Ginny Anderson (Kentucky), Kira Bishop (Alaska), Omar Jamil (Illinois) and Patricia Nunez (Connecticut) – shared a family engagement strategy that had succeeded in their programs. Later, Jakki Alexander (Illinois) spoke about the impact of staff-youth relationships on the strategy to reduce restraints.
Following hours of collaborative efforts, Agency Coordinators and guests headed back to the Omni Hotel for the much awaited PbS Awards Night dinner. Among those recognized and celebrated were the 2020 and 2021 PbS Barbara-Allen Hagen Award Winners; youths and staff who earned one of the 2021 PbS Education and Employment Foundation Employment Matching, Scholarship or Reentry Awards; and the 2021 Kids Got Talent finalists. The undisputed star of the evening was the opening and closing performer – Tim of Green Hill School in Chehalis, WA, the Solo Winner of the 2021 PbS Kids Got Talent contest. Tim’s original songs – sung in Spanish and accompanied by guitar playing – elicited a standing ovation from the crowd, witnessed by his biggest fan seated in the front row – his mom!
Back at Music City Center on Saturday, attendees were split into groups for the final training session. Guided by a PbS coach and staff member, each group was tasked with creating a facility improvement plan in response to an imaginary scenario. As the ACT drew to a close, everyone reflected on the learnings of the sessions and there were many positive takeaways. With new contacts, ideas, knowledge and refreshed perspectives on reform strategies, the attendees bade their goodbyes to Music City, U.S.A.
See you next year in New Orleans, y’all!