Title

"We Getting L.I.T.!" - Crossing The Bridge to Mental Healthiness

First Presenter's Institution

W.I.L.D. Program/Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens

Second Presenter's Institution

N/A

Third Presenter's Institution

N/A

Fourth Presenter's Institution

N/A

Fifth Presenter's Institution

N/A

Location

Session 3 (Sloane)

Strand #1

Social & Emotional Skills

Strand #2

Mental & Physical Health

Relevance

The proposed session relates to conference strands II. and IV. The session will focus on cultural diversity, life skills, positive identity, emotional intelligence, and multicultural education. When teens have access to the resources necessary to align with and gain an understanding of these essentials, they begin to refine and leverage these skills in unexpected areas thus intensifying and personalizing their motives towards mental and physical healthiness and communal success.

Brief Program Description

Reinforced by the results of an award-winning community enhancement program for teens, this session will share the unique multicultural educational literacy strategy used to explore and fortify an important part of a teen’s journey towards mental and physical healthiness or the area between recognizing the need for a wellness plan and accepting it. This session benefits all students.

Summary

With adolescence being that period of time where pivotal physical, mental, social and emotional changes are occurring in young people, it is also the time that many mental health challenges also presenting themselves. During this time, our community’s youth can find themselves in increasing in high risk settings without the necessary resources to navigate these situations. As academic data and mental health research has proven that step between recognizing a mental health challenge and accepting the most effective wellness program is crucial towards to longevity of healthiness. This is time after the parental involvement and before the mental health professional. We refer to those mentors and guides who support and elevate the successful migration through this time as The Bridge. This presentation will explore the role of The Bridge and share an effective strategy on how to support the journey through mental health challenges or the successful circumvention and prevention of those challenges. Uniquely using literacy as a catalyst for mental and physical health and wellness, the magnet for multicultural education, and the adhesive that fuses and keeps these factors synonymous, through my work within the multi-year, multi-level, award-winning W.I.L.D. Program, we have seen a significant increase in the successful completion of wellness programs and overall normalizing of mental health conversation within the students involved. We Getting L.I.T.! (Literacy Interpretation Training) is a resource that was created for educators, but written in the voice of and taught by students. It provides a better understanding or introduction to emotional intelligence, academic motivation and leadership, cultural diversity, sex education and empathy, teen advocacy, identity development and affirmation, and social resilience and intervention.

Evidence

The yearly increase of student involvement and community engagement are evident on programmatic evaluations, retention and academic success. Many students who have participated in a We Getting L.I.T.! session have reported or showed increase levels of trust in interpersonal relationships, effective transition into wellness programs or treatment, improved truancy, higher test scores or course grades, and even attained global recognition for their personal missions to change the stigma around mental health and diversity. We continue to modify and evolve this strategy and capture the indirect effectiveness.

Format

Individual Presentation

Biographical Sketch

While having an innate passion for wildlife, Christopher Conner’s talent for teaching has consistently led him down various paths of education and communications. Before joining the Community Education Division at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, Christopher served in several different capacities around the country from pre – school and high school teacher for the Maricopa County and Memphis City Schools districts to data and communications specialist for Verizon and loan advisor for Regions Bank.

However, in 2012, Christopher ventured into conservation education and back to his home state of Mississippi to lead the Outreach Division of Education at the Jackson Zoo. There, Christopher began his personal to champion cultural representation and professional campaign to reimagine the face of environmental literacy. Inevitably, this movement has taken Christopher all over the nation to several other globally accredited zoos and aquariums.

Currently, Christopher serves as the W.I.L.D. (Wildlife Immersion and Leadership Development) Program Coordinator for the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens. The W.I.L.D. Program is the City of Jacksonville and Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens’ innovative approach to youth engagement, community advocacy, environmental literacy, and cultural representation and awareness. The program, grant-funded by the Kids Hope Alliance, was developed to address the community’s need for out-of-school-time engagement, mentorship, jobs, and leadership opportunities for culturally diverse teens in targeted Jacksonville areas. These areas, statistically, have the lowest household incomes, little to no higher educational attainment and above average crime rates.

Through his work within the W.I.L.D. Program, Christopher has helped the African American and Hispanic teens involved collect over a quarter million dollars in college scholarships, gained global recognition for their work in mental health awareness, cultural diversity, youth advocacy and led the program to award-winning heights like earning the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) 2017 Significant Achievement in Diversity Award. Christopher is also a 2018 Hightower Leadership Fellow which is one of the highest honors a young community leader can receive in the city of Jacksonville, Florida. Christopher holds a B.A. in English and Sociolinguistics from Tougaloo College.

Keyword Descriptors

Mental, Health, Literacy, Leadership, Bridge, Success, Innovation

Presentation Year

March 2019

Start Date

3-4-2019 3:00 PM

End Date

3-4-2019 4:14 PM

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Mar 4th, 3:00 PM Mar 4th, 4:14 PM

"We Getting L.I.T.!" - Crossing The Bridge to Mental Healthiness

Session 3 (Sloane)

Reinforced by the results of an award-winning community enhancement program for teens, this session will share the unique multicultural educational literacy strategy used to explore and fortify an important part of a teen’s journey towards mental and physical healthiness or the area between recognizing the need for a wellness plan and accepting it. This session benefits all students.