TNOYS’ 39th Annual Conference:  Bringing Youth-Serving Systems to New Heights


TNOYS hosted our 39th Annual Conference for Services to Youth and Families both in-person in Houston as well as virtually last month. We were so excited to see how enthusiastically the 500+ attendees embraced this year’s theme of “Rise to Your Potential.” Inspired by a variety of expert speakers and interactive workshops, attendees of all ages and backgrounds worked together to challenge perceptions, bring their skills to new heights, and build the future of youth and family services in Texas.

The event kicked off with our virtual day on Wednesday, May 11. Along with 14 dynamic workshops, we were excited to welcome writer and activist Clint Smith as the day’s keynote speaker. His powerful keynote spoke to how history impacts current and future generations and the need to be mindful of history when building change today.

The in-person portion of our conference commenced on Monday, May 25 with three day-long, in-depth pre-conference institutes on Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI®): Practical Applications, Introduction to Youth Thrive™, and Introduction to Motivational Interviewing.

The full conference kicked off on Tuesday, May 26 with a warm welcome from our CEO, Fedora Galasso, and an engaging keynote session by writer and advocate Marlon Peterson. He shared his wisdom and lived experience, creating an inspiring start to our event. Youth and professionals then attended separate workshop tracks with information tailored to their unique needs. Youth learned valuable skills such as financial planning and applying to college. 

Professionals participated in their choice of workshops on important topics such as employing youth with lived experience, identifying the signs of trafficking among youth, and supporting youth in getting their identification documents. The day closed out with both youth and professionals attending a special panel discussion featuring members of our YALC (Young Adult Leadership Council). They spoke on the importance of youth voice as a catalyst for systems change.

For the staff here at TNOYS, one of the highlights of our Annual Conference is getting to present annual member awards to deserving youth services professionals and organizations within our network. TNOYS was excited to host members at a very special reception Tuesday evening for a chance to network, learn about new opportunities, and of course recognize the hard work and achievements of our members!

CEO Fedora Galasso began with an overview of TNOYS’ projects, including our efforts to develop a new and improved mission statement. Fedora then presented awards to several dedicated youth-serving professionals: Esperanza Bedolla with LifeWorks; Andrea Evetts with All Things Made New; Eric Hood with Promise House; Nicholas Labo with All Things Made new; and LaNisha Bell with Upbring. 

We also recognized two programs for their innovative work in youth services: Bob’s House of Hope at Ranch Hands Rescue, and the SOAR to Success Program at Our Friends Place. We are incredibly grateful to these organizations and providers who work tirelessly to improve outcomes for youth and young adults!

The second full day of the conference opened first with a statement from Fedora as she led a moment of silence for victims of the tragic shooting in Uvalde. 

Next, Grammy Award-winning performance artist SaulPaul shared his talents and lived experience with attendees. The day then continued with workshop sessions open to both youth and professionals on topics such as the state of LGBTQ+ equality in Texas, self-care for professionals, and using the arts to connect with youth. TNOYS Young Adult Leadership Council (YALC) members led several sessions where they shared their own perspectives as young leaders who have lived expertise in systems. 

A luncheon followed, with a special graduation ceremony for TNOYS YALC members. Attendees shared a few words of encouragement to these youth and young adults as they continue their leadership journeys.

The third and last day of the conference opened with one final set of workshops, which covered topics such as college resources for students with foster care experience, trauma, and incorporating DEI into marketing and communications. Our closing keynote session was with Malika Whitley, a phenomenal arts curator and activist, who shared the value of arts education for youth who have experienced trauma.

We at TNOYS were thrilled to see participation from professionals across the full continuum of youth-serving systems. Attendees from different backgrounds came together to build skills, collaborate across systems, and explore important topics — such as equity and inclusion— that were central to this year’s agenda. We hope that each and every attendee left the conference feeling empowered and inspired to “Rise to [their] Potential!”

More event highlights are available in our Facebook photo album.

We at TNOYS would like to thank our sponsors and exhibitors as this event could not be a huge success without them. We hope to see you all at next year’s event!

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