- by Mount Saint Mary College

The 23rd Annual Making Healthful Decisions Conference, “Tools for Growing Resilience for Schools, Health and Human Services, and the Community,” recently gave area professionals training and new ideas for creating a better community.

The conference was co-organized by Mount Saint Mary College, Cornell Cooperative Extension Orange County, Orange County New York, Maternal-Infant Services Network (MiSN), Orange County Parenting Coalition, Orange-Ulster BOCES, and Warwick Valley Community Center. It was sponsored by Garnet Health Medical Center and NYS Parenting Education Partnership.

Over the course of the virtual, two-day event, presenters discussed current research regarding fostering social and emotional development, as well as building resilience in individuals, families, and communities. Resilience can combat the impact of stress caused by adverse childhood events, helping to prevent a host of potential medical, mental health, or substance abuse disorders. 

Steve Neuhaus, Orange County Executive and 1996 Mount alumnus, welcomed the attendees of the virtual conference. “Forgiveness and strength,” said Neuhaus, are a “powerful message.” He added, “Building a better and stronger community, and understanding why things happen and how we can prevent [tragedy and childhood trauma] is critical.”

The event’s keynote speaker, Scarlett Lewis, founded the Jesse Lewis Choose Love Movement after her son was killed during the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy in December 2012. She became an advocate for social and emotional learning to help teach children how to manage emotions, feel connected, and have healthy relationships.

“I have learned so much through my own personal tragedy, and probably the most important lesson is that we are all the same in the want and need to love and be loved,” she said. “You can choose love as a thoughtful response in any situation, circumstance, or interaction. When you choose love, you are empowered and you take your own personal power back.”

 Workshops at the conference included the Growing Tools for Resilience Panel Discussion, hosted by Darcie Miller, Commissioner at the Orange County Department of Social Services, and the Department of Mental Health; Tools for Communities, hosted by Love Udih Kumuyi, assistant dean at Cornell University; and Tools for Health and Human Services, hosted by Tamaé Memole, director of Program Development at Prevent Child Abuse New York.

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