Academic conferences are usually dominated by folks with Ph.D.’s who are old enough to remember where they were when John F. Kennedy was assassinated. And while Jonathan Cohen, the keynote speaker of Wednesday’s “Caring Adults/Caring Environments: What Works in Schools and Beyond,” conference at Fordham’s Lincoln Center campus fit the bill, the panel he followed skewed a bit younger.
Since the focus of the conference was transforming schools into places more conducive to learning, why not include those most likely to be effected by change, namely students and parents? So the morning panel “Families, Schools and Communities: Creating Caring Environments,” which was moderated by New York City Department of Education Mental Health Services director Scott Bloom, featured Mimsie Robinson, pastor of Bethel Gospel Assembly and Shawnette Spence, parent coordinator at the Marie Curie School for Medicine, Nursing and Health Professions.
The inclusion of Kening Ye, a student at Lower East High School in Manhattan and Ebanesha Williams, a student at Prospect High School in Brooklyn lent the conference a bit of youthful energy. Generation divide notwithstanding, participants in the panel—particularly Williams—came to many of the same conclusions of Cohen, who urged educators and parents to take the problem of bullying more seriously and utilize resources freely available to them.