Anyone who’s been to the TNOYS annual conference knows it’s full of energizing, eye-opening presentations and lots of great opportunities to connect with colleagues from across the state. Who can forget the dancing (and singing) along with closing keynote Nina Rodriguez last year?
But for our 33rd year of the event, coming up August 9-12, we’re changing things up – take a look at a few new features of this year’s conference:
Location, location, location
After holding the conference in Central and South Texas for the past few years, TNOYS decided to move this year’s event to Houston. Why? We all know Houston is the biggest city in Texas (and one of the biggest in the country), and there is a lot of work going on there in the youth services field. In fact, almost a quarter of our members are located in Houston or surrounding areas. We wanted to make it easier for some of those individuals to attend, and also give our members from across the state the opportunity to see what’s going on in this important area for our state’s youth.
Youth engagement in action
TNOYS tries to practice what it preaches, so involving youth in our efforts is always a priority for fulfilling our commitment to youth engagement. What better place to do that than at our biggest annual event, this conference? So, for the first time, we’re inviting youth and families to join us, with a special track just for them. We’ll also offer opportunities for all attendees to get to know the youth and families who will be there, through events such as a welcome reception. Among the attendees will be 25 youth in foster care, whose trip is being sponsored by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. Having them and the other youth and families there will provide a great learning opportunity for all attendees and it underscores the conference theme that we’re all “Stronger Together.”
FREE conference pre-institutes
This year, we’re again offering pre-institutes on August 9, the day before the full conference officially kicks off. But what’s different this year is that they’re free of charge. And they’re not just open to conference attendees, anyone who is interested is welcome to attend. So for those of you who are located in the Houston area but aren’t able to make the conference, you’ll still have the opportunity to participate in one of our two pre-institutes. This year, the topics are “Ending Youth Homelessness in Texas: Youth Count Texas! Findings, Recommendations, and Planning Together” and “Leading the Change from Control to Collaboration.” Read more about them and register to attend here.
While we’re introducing some new features at this year’s conference, we’re still committed to bringing back other features that have been popular for many years. Some things you can expect to see return this year include:
A mix of fun and learning
We always want our conference to be a valuable time for those in youth services to learn and enhance their skills, but we also know the importance of keeping a four-day event fun and engaging. As in past years, we’ll accomplish that through a variety of speakers and workshops that offer interactive opportunities, sharing of new, eye-opening perspectives, and receptions where people can connect and unwind. And this year, our closing keynote promises to be particularly interesting, with a lesson in how hip-hop inspires youth from nationally recognized break dancer and youth success speaker, Patrick “Pac Man” Perez.
Affinity groups to encourage collaboration
You’ll see in this year’s agenda that we’re bringing back “affinity group” sessions. Affinity groups are a concept we’ve been using at more of our training and events recently – they’re an opportunity to bring people together who may work in different capacities but have interests in the same issues. For example, we conducted an affinity group session at our recent trauma-informed care symposium, and had small groups made up of everyone from administrators to policymakers to those working directly with youth work together to address issues of importance to them. As one of the symposium attendees said, “it was nice to hear what people in other sectors are doing.” Expect the conference affinity group session to be a great opportunity to learn and share about how issues are being handled across the youth services field.
Updates from DFPS Executives
As in the past, this year’s conference will offer direct access to, and updates from, executives from the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. The executives will share the latest information about their work and the state of youth and families in Texas, and will offer time for questions and answers from the audience. We’re grateful to the agency for their support of our event and their willingness to share their time and perspective with the group in attendance.
Of course, this is just a glimpse of what you can expect from the conference – visit our site to see the full agenda. And if you haven’t yet, register to attend the conference, as well as our free pre-institutes. We hope to see you there!