Catalyst conference returns

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By The Staff

A free catalyst conference is Saturday at high school and is sponsored by KEYS, TAPP and HOPE’s Hands.

Did you know that each year, nearly 28 percent of all youth under the age of 21 use alcohol? Or did you know that nearly 20 percent of youth aged 12 to 17 received mental health services in the past year? 

Did you realize that these two factors are related? More than 35 percent of youth who experienced a major depressive episode in the past year have also used an illicit drug such as alcohol in that time frame.

Over the past two years, HOPE’s Hands, a community collaborative in Owen County, has created a system of care addresses substance abuse and mental health issues that keep our kids from being successful. 

We’ve learned that educating our residents to create transformation in community norms is making a real difference for our children, youth and their families.

“There’s an old saying that knowledge is power,” said Patti Clark, chairman of Hope’s Hands and coordinator of the Owen County Teen Alcohol Prevention Project (TAPP). “That is so true. Without knowledge you can’t begin to tackle the problems and issues that plague our families and keep them from being healthy.”

On Saturday, HOPE’s Hands will continue its efforts of educating Owen County with a free community education conference designed to promote the physical, spiritual and emotional health of the community’s residents and to equip them to become catalysts of change. 

This is the second year the group has sponsored this event. Residents of surrounding communities are  invited to attend, understanding that county lines are not fences and the problems we are seeing neither start nor stop here.

“The people of Owen County want the very best for our children and youth,” said Tony Watkins, co-chair of Owen County TAPP and regional coordinator for KEYS. “Every survey, from the Owen 2020 visioning survey to the MAPP survey just completed by the Three Rivers Health Department, confirms that we want Owen County to be a place that provides our young folk a good education, spiritual foundation, and recreational opportunities. Owen County has been fortunate to receive considerable amount of support through the KEYS and the TAPP grants over the past three years. These grants have not only helped establish services to our community but have also allowed us to educate the community through events such as the Catalyst conference.” 

Sponsored by Kentuckians Encouraging Youth to Succeed (KEYS) and TAPP as well as Hope’s Hands, the conference will feature two national speakers, Jason Illian and Jeff Yalden.  Illian is the author of “Undressed: The Naked Truth about Love, Sex and Dating,” and “MySpace MyKids: A Parent’s Guide to Protecting their Kids and Navigating MySpace.com.” Illian is also the current CEO of God Tube.  He will speak during the 10 a.m. opening keynote session. 

Yalden is an award-wining youth motivational speaker, teen author and MTV MADE teen life coach. He is the most requested youth speaker in the world today. He draws upon his experiences as a teen who was considered “just plain dumb.” He suffered from depression, a stutter, a twitch, bad acne and a learning disability. But after a series of ups and downs, made he the decision that he would take control of his life. Yalden will speak at 5 p.m., during the evening keynote session.

In between these two speakers are about 25 other speakers who will provide information on a variety of topics — From “How to Avoid Marrying a Jerk or Jerkette” to “Dying to Get Online” to “Whatever.” 

“The topics and the speakers are sure to hit home with those in the audience,” Clark said. “We tried to consider a variety of topics as well as delivery styles to meet the needs of those attending.”

Representative of nearly 40 youth and family service agencies and organizations will also be in attendance providing information about their services.

The KEYS project is a grant-funded initiative that places a team of mental health professionals in the schools to address emotional issues that students might have. Across Northern Kentucky, there are teams in Carroll, Grant, Pendleton and Owen counties, as well as in Covington. Owen has two teams, one at the high school and one at the middle school.

“The KEYS program has been an integral part of the success of the Freshman Center at Owen County High School,” said Joy Roberts, freshman center support person. “KEYS provides support and services for the young people with emotional and behavioral issues. I have students in the Freshman Center who cannot focus on academic issues because of the unhappiness and dissatisfaction with school as the result of social issues or home issues that prevent concentration in the classroom.”

TAPP is also a grant-funded project that has spent the last two years addressing underage drinking in the community. In addition to increasing awareness about the issue and consequences of underage drinking, the project has worked hard to provide alternative events and leadership opportunities for students to give them an alternative to drinking.

“We can’t just tell them to say ‘no,’” Watkins said. “We must equip them to understand what the dangers of underage drinking are and then give them alternatives – socially, emotionally and intellectually – to not thinking that alcohol is the answer to all the problems and issues in their lives.”

Together, these two programs have provided leadership training to students, offered service opportunities in the community and beyond and provided support in ways students may not have felt they had before,” he added.

“That’s why it’s a natural for us to team up for this conference,” Watkins said. “Emotional health issues and drug and alcohol use are often interconnected. To address one, we must address the other as well as all the other issues that come alongside a student and derail their success.”

The Catalyst of Hope conference begins at 10 a.m., with registration opening at 9 a.m. at the Owen County High School. It is open to students in grades K-12 as well as their parents, family members, community leaders and service providers. Lunch and dinner will be provided but registration is necessary. Call 484-8539 with the names of those attending, their grade levels (for students), address and phone number.

Sessions have been planned for children (grades K-5), youth (6-12) and adults with several workshops offered in each time slot.  In fact, about half of those who have registered are children and youth. 

“Over the last few days, we’ve had entire families register together,” Clark added. “That’s very enlightening, in this age when we hear that the family is on the decline, to see families coming together, choosing as a unit to be more informed and better educated about the issues that are facing them.”

It’s not too late to be a part of the conference.

“We have more than 300 people currently registered, but have room for more,” Clark added.  “We’d love to have 500 people in attendance at the conference. The speakers are top notch and it’s a great opportunity to participate in a quality conference right here at home. In addition, those attending will have a chance to interact with others who might be encountering similar issues in their lives.” 

But more importantly, Clark added, is the idea that it only takes one person to change a life. 

“One day, while doing research online, I ran across a quote that really touched me and made me think about the things I do – or don’t – everyday,” she said. The quote reads: ‘I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.’ That’s what this conference is about, doing what each of us can do to change the lives, to create real transformation for those with whom we interact on a daily basis.”

“Anyone who has a genuine desire to learn how they can make a difference in the lives of our children needs to attend Catalyst,” Watkins added.

Workshop Topic Titles

Pharming – Off Label Use of Prescriptions

Dying to Get Online

Making Collaboration Work

Paying for College 101

Rebuilding the Wall

Taking the Risk Out of Being a Teen

Think Before You Post


Sometimes Life Stinks

Yes I Can


Being Empowered to Change a Life

Family Wellness

It’s OK to Be a Parent

Learn Zumba

The View’s Great From up Here

Your Map to College

Taking the Risk Out of Being a Kid

Postive Youth Development

Effective Partnering for Parents and Professionals

You Too Can Collaborate

How to Avoid Marrying a Jerk or Jerkette

It’s OK to Say No

How to Handle Your Future

Be Your Own Best Advocate

LEAP (Love Embraces All People)