Bright Futures champions: Local participants learn power of one at conference
All it takes is one person or one kind word to brighten a student’s day.
That was just one of the many lessons Berryville Bright Futures champions learned at the Community Engagement Conference (CEC) in Siloam Springs earlier this month. Berryville Bright Futures coordinator Mindy Hicks said she and several site council members were able to attend the conference. The theme this year was “the power of one,” she said.
“They looked at how it only takes one person to make a difference,” Hicks said, “but they also flipped the theme later to show how we can all work together as one to have an even bigger impact.”
The Bright Futures program focuses on using all of the resources in a community to benefit students. Hicks said the conference, which took place from March 1 through March 3, broke down how to accomplish that goal through breakout workshop sessions and seminars.
“Some focused on school leaders and faith-based leaders, like churches,” she said. “There were breakout sessions for new Bright Futures affiliates and experienced affiliates. There was something for everybody.”
Jon Racic, advisory board chair and Souther Heights Youth Minister, said he got to sit on the faith-based leaders panel and answer questions. The breakout session examined how churches can work with Bright Futures to have a positive impact on schools and the community, he said.
“Seeing the Christian community work together despite denominations to help students is one of my favorite parts of this program,” Racic said. “It’s something we’ve been working on in Berryville for a while, and we’re starting to see it happen.”
Tiffany Ball, an employee of Anstaff Bank and a high school site council member, said the breakout session that she took the most away from was the mentoring workshop.
“It was about trying to get mentoring programs up and running. I would like to see those get off the ground in Berryville,” she said. “We might even be able to have older students help mentor younger students. Often, kids are more comfortable talking to other kids than they are talking to adults.”
Ball said she is glad that Anstaff Bank has partnered with Berryville Bright Futures.
“We knew right off the bat that we wanted to be a part of it,” she said. “I think businesses can help in more ways than just throwing money. We have teams of people, and we can get feet on the ground to help out.”
Hicks said conference attendees also got to have a question-and-answer session with filmmaker Amy S. Weber after a screening of her film “A Girl Like Her,” which is about one high school girl bullying another. They also heard from keynote speakers Ashley Rhodes-Counter, an author who writes about her experiences in the foster care system in the books “Three Little Words” and “Three More Words,” and Dr. Ruby Payne, author of “A Framework for Understanding Poverty.”
Hicks said the best part of the conference for her was meeting other Bright Futures affiliates and seeing how they have implemented the program in their districts.
“For me, it was a lot of networking and seeing what other affiliates are doing,” she said. “It was great getting to have conversations with people doing the same things in their communities that we are. We have the same goal, so this conference was a great opportunity to exchange ideas.”
Elementary site council leader and advisory board member Misty Gregory agreed.
“The biggest thing I took away from the conference was being able to talk to schools who have implemented Bright Futures for four to five years,” Gregory said. “We got to see what worked and what didn’t for them. We got to take some great ideas for Berryville with us.”