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Join us for the 2021 Adolescent Health Symposium!

This annual gathering of educators, youth workers, and health and human service professionals brings forward key topics in the areas of health education and adolescent wellness. We are honored to have three renowned keynote presenters, as well as a diverse assortment of breakout sessions,  focused on our three symposium tracks:

  • Track 1: Risk Factors 
  • Track 2: Health Promotion and Protective Factors
  • Track 3: Emerging Health Issues

The Symposium is presented in cooperation with the UW-La Crosse Department of Health Education and Health Promotion and Community Health, UW-La Crosse Continuing Education and Extension and the UW Oshkosh Division of Online and Continuing Education.


9:00-10:15 a.m. Welcome and Keynote Presentation

Developmental Relationships: Creating Connections That Help Youth Thrive
Presented by: James J. Conway, Senior Facilitator, Search Institute

Relationships are too important to leave to chance. Social-emotional development blossoms when caring adults are present in young people’s lives. Building on Search Institute’s long-standing research on Developmental Assets, Conway’s presentation will focus on the Institute’s deepening research on the power of relational connection to promote thriving in the lives of youth. The presentation will introduce the five core components of Search Institute’s new Developmental Relationships Framework as a tool for deepening relational connection within families and across a school community.

10:15-10:30 a.m. Break

10:30-11:30 a.m. Presentation and Interaction Sessions

1. Helping Students Develop Self-Management Practices for Responsible Health Behaviors (Track 1)
Presented by: Meg Whaley, Certified Health Coach, Wellness, Health & Physical Education Educator, Waukesha Public Schools, and Katie Jadin, Appleton Area School District

Managing stress and making responsible personal health choices is difficult for everyone. Especially with a global pandemic, remote learning and social isolation, students are desperate for tools to help them manage these pressures.

In this session, participants will explore the importance of students learning how to assume responsibility for personal health behaviors. Participants will review tools to prepare students to put into practice the skills they need to maintain and improve the health of self and others; and demonstrate behaviors to avoid or reduce health risks to self and others. Using Shaken Baby Syndrome/Abusive Head Trauma preventive education as a vehicle for learning, students are presented with the opportunity to understand the consequences of negative behaviors.

Learning outcomes:

  • Increase awareness of student behaviors to avoid or reduce with serious consequences;
  • Access tools and specific strategies to teach students to adopt healthy practices;
  • Understand the collaboration between Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction and the Shaken Baby Association that is helping communities across the state create safe and supportive environments for students to practices healthy behaviors.

2. Engaging Families: A Relationship-Based Approach (Track 2)
Presented by: James J. Conway, Senior Facilitator, Search Institute

Too much of today’s conversation about families is about what’s wrong with them: failures and problems, vulnerabilities, and stresses, or whether certain types of families are better than others. While the challenges and chances facing families are real, a strength-based approach to engaging families can have a powerful impact in helping them to not only cope but to thrive. Based on Search Institute research, this workshop will introduce a strength- and relationship-based approach that reframes family engagement and suggests new strategies for reaching the families we seek to serve.

Learning outcomes:

  • Discover new Search Institute research on why families matter for youth development;
  • Recognize key strengths in America’s diverse families;
  • Explore obstacles to engaging families and practical ways to address them;
  • Identify specific strategies for working with families from a strength- and relationship-based orientation.

3. Positive Mental Health in a Pandemic (Track 3)
Presented by: Sandra Cox, Director, Counseling Center, University of Wisconsin Oshkosh

One of the silver linings of the current challenges we are going through is that people are paying more attention to their mental health. These difficult times have encouraged everyone to learn to cope in positive ways. This workshop will provide insight into how this time of collective suffering may create greater resilience, compassion towards others and ourselves, seeing the good and a focus on what is truly meaningful in our lives. Experiences will be provided in the workshop that focus on these areas.

11:30-11:45 a.m. Break

11:45 a.m.-12:45 p.m. Deborah Tackmann Recognition

Deborah Tackmann
Recognition, Reflections and Future Insights

Deborah Tackmann’s career objectives have been as follows:

  1. To empower students with the knowledge and skills they need to choose healthy, safe and respectful lifestyle behaviors which have direct impact the quality of their lives.
  2. To motivate, teach and inspire professionals with the knowledge and skills necessary to create, develop and implement exemplary and comprehensive health education and wellness programs into their personal, family or professional lives.

After 45 years of dedicated service to her students and community, we will take this hour to thank Deb for a job well done. She has been a tireless advocate for the well-being of our children and an inspiration to educators nationwide. Deb has also been a supporter of the Adolescent Health Symposium for many years. There will be opportunities for Deb to share insights and stories from her experiences in the classroom, as well as opportunities for questions from participants. Feel free to partake in your lunch as you engage in this special tribute to a truly devoted and exemplary teacher and respected health promotion ambassador.

12:45-1:00 p.m. Break

1:00-2:00 p.m. Presentation and Interaction Sessions

4. Using Motivational Interviewing to Enhance Teen Wellness (Track 1)
Presented by: Holly Hughes Stoner, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Co-Director of Samaritan Family Wellness Foundation 

During this presentation, you will learn more about an interpersonal style being used around the world to enhance change–Motivational Interviewing (MI)–that has grown out of the addiction and health care fields. This important process can also easily be used with teens in the classroom and in small groups to enhance their well-being. You will receive handouts about MI.

Learning outcomes:

  • Better understand Motivational Interviewing;
  • Come away with ideas of how to use MI with teens.

5. Wisconsin Children’s Mental Health Resource Navigator: Introducing an Online Tool (Track 2)
Presented by: Kristine Alaniz, Maternal and Child Health Programs Manager, Wisconsin Women’s Health Foundation

Navigating mental health resources can be a challenging and confusing undertaking. The Well Badger Resource Center (WBRC) is thrilled to introduce a new tool to help families and professionals in this process. WBRC is Wisconsin’s health information and referral service for women and families. The Wisconsin Children’s Mental Health Resource Navigator is an online resource tool that collects information about a family and generates a customized, downloadable list of steps, messages, and resources that match the family’s needs. This session will include a demonstration, as well as tricks and tips for navigating resources.

Learning outcomes:

  • Increased familiarity with Well Badger Resource Center’s services for children and youth with special health care needs;
  • Opportunity to demonstrate the online Children’s Mental Health Resource Navigator;
  • Access to tips and tricks for navigating Children’s Mental Health Resources in Wisconsin.

6. The Power of Profiles: Developing a Deep Understanding of Self (Track 3)
Presented by: Johnna Noll, District Administrator, Norris School District

Participants will learn how the Norris School District builds leaders at all levels by utilizing Learner Profiles with personal plans, pathways and corresponding competency frameworks with young and professional learners to optimize learning opportunities that meet each learner’s needs. The process helps learners and leaders develop a deep understanding of self, while increasing engagement, confidence, and efficacy in learning.

Learning outcomes:

  • Explore the importance of self-awareness in learner engagement;
  • Understand how the profile creates a process for building trusting relationships, expanding networks, constant reflection and growth as learners of all ages and organizations of all types reflect and constantly evolve to achieve their next best place.

2:00-2:15 p.m. Break

2:15-3:15 p.m. Presentation and Interaction Sessions

7. Bridging the Gap: Transition from Pediatric to Adult Health Care (Track 1)
Presented by: Tim Markle, Southern Regional Center Director, Waisman Center, and Elizabeth Guthrie-Moss, Coordinator, Youth Health Transition Initiative, University of Wisconsin-Madison

For teens with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities or complex care conditions, succeeding at life goes beyond soft skills and technical skills. They have the additional challenge of transitioning to the adult system of health care. This transition involves understanding their health profile and being able to communicate about their health issues and needs. Learners in this session will explore the steps that start at age 12 and can continue until age 26 to full transition in health care. We will explore the challenges of disclosure, the importance of self-health awareness, and advocating for self-health with employers and teachers. You will also be introduced to tools and resources to help teens build their self-health awareness that leads to a successful transition.

Learning outcomes:

  • Define youth health care transition and why it matters;
  • Explore tools and resources to help young adults increase in self-health awareness;
  • Discuss disclosure and advocating for self-health with employers and educators.

8. From “If” to “How”: Working with “I Can’t” or “I Won’t” (Track 2)
Presented by: Melinda Marasch, Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Aspire Training & Consulting, and Dana Dorn, Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Director, Clinicare Corporation/Milwaukee Academy

Adolescence is a time of remarkable opportunity. We are often challenged in our work with youth because of inertia (or lack of it), individuation, brain development, hormone surges, developmental history, and more. We must ensure all youth have the knowledge and support needed to experiment, explore, and discover. Adolescents are a force for good in our communities and society now, and as they transition into adulthood. This workshop builds on these beliefs with ideas on how to maximize opportunities with youth to help guide them from “I can’t” or “I won’t” closer to “I can” or “I will.” We will provide opportunities to contemplate your own adolescent scenario, and plan your own next steps.

Learning outcomes:

  • Conceptualize a continuum from “I can’t” or “I won’t” to “I can” or “I will” for a youth scenario;
  • Apply concepts and/or approaches to a youth scenario;
  • Plan how to apply concepts and/or approaches in day-to-day work with youth.

9. Yoga, Meditation & Mindfulness (Track 3)
Presented by: Tara Lere, Teacher, Mesabi East High School, Aurora, Minnesota

Participants will experience deep breathing, beginning yoga, meditation and visualization practices, and mindfulness techniques you can use within your classroom and in your personal life. This will be a hands-on workshop.

Learning outcomes:

  • Learn deep breathing techniques, beginner yoga poses, and mindfulness techniques to use in a classroom for all ages;
  • Gain an awareness of the benefits of yoga and meditation;
  • Learn how attitude towards these activities can benefit all people, of all ages;
  • Develop ideas in how to apply these techniques within your classroom/discipline.

3:15-3:30 p.m. Break

3:30-4:30 p.m. Presentation and Interaction Sessions

10. Suicide Prevention during a Pandemic: Working in a matrix (Track 1)
Presented by: Jax Anderson, MA, LPC, A Beautiful Journey, LLC, and Renae Swanson, Ph.D., LPC, NCC, University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, Integrity Counseling, LLC

This workshop has been developed to assist you to identify suicide signs and symptoms in a virtual environment. We are currently living in a crisis of isolation. None of us have worked/parented through global pandemic. Everything we do is different. These times are unpresented. There is no outline or template for navigating our work with teens in a virtual world. We want to help! The audience will review the neurological development of the teen brain. For teens this is devastating. Anderson and Swanson will identify common signs and symptoms of teens in crisis, protective factors, resiliency building, and creative coping skills all in a low contact or virtual environment.

Learning outcomes:

  • Discuss developmental and neurological impact of being in pandemic isolation;
  • Identify warning signs of suicidality and teens in crisis;
  • Discuss strategies for identifying protective factors in teens in a low contact or virtual environment;
  • Demonstrate techniques to assist teens in building resiliency;
  • Identify creative coping skills and activities that can be used in your sessions.

11. Empowering Adolescent Patients: A PATCH for Providers Workshop (Track 2)
Presented by: Angela Gelatt, Site Coordinator, and Brogan Zochert, Co-Coordinator, Wisconsin Alliance For Women’s Health / PATCH

Learn how to better serve adolescents…from THEIR perspective! The PATCH for Providers Workshop is a one-of-a-kind experience offering health care professionals the opportunity to engage with today’s youth in a new way. With the support of their PATCH Site Coordinator, trained PATCH Teen Educators from Wisconsin’s Coulee Region will share their authentic insights into the concerns, preferences and realities that impact the health care experiences of today’s youth.

Providers and Teens Communicating for Health (PATCH) Program is an innovative, youth-driven program working to ensure all young people receive high-quality, youth-friendly services in their community. Our PATCH for Providers Workshop has been developed for a wide range of health care professionals, including nurses, doctors, clinicians, medical students or residents, therapists, counselors, pharmacists, social workers, and any other front-end or support staff. This will be a fun, interactive learning environment!

Learning outcomes:

  • Understand adolescents’ concerns, attitudes, and preferences in health care settings;
  • Explore ways to provide high quality, youth-friendly health care services;
  • Acquire confidence and skills to build relationships and communicate effectively with teens.

12. Resilience Inward and Out for our Educators: Helping our youth not just bounce back, but thrive (Track 3)
Presented by: Barb Bigalke, Executive Director, and
Aaron Wanserski, Video Gaming Outreach Director, Center for Suicide Awareness

The Center for Suicide Awareness staff are certified FBI National Academy resiliency-trained. There are four domains in a person’s life that capture how they relate to others and themselves. Being healthy across the four domains is what will lead to a more resilient individual:

  • Mental – the ability to effectively manage with unique mental stressors and challenges
  • Physical – the ability to adopt and sustain healthy behaviors needed to enhance health and wellbeing
  • Social – the ability to engage in healthy social networks that promote overall happiness
  • Spiritual – the ability to strengthen a set of beliefs, principles, or values that sustain an individual’s sense of purpose

This training builds resilience and advances those who are already self-resilient. Resilient people are not as negatively impacted by hostile events, and when they do experience an adverse event, they recover faster and are more likely to experience post-event growth. No one is born resilient, rather they learn and flourish from life experiences.


8:15-9:30 a.m. Keynote Presentation

In Search of Balance: Rediscovering Interaction During Times of Disconnection
Presented by: Ryan McKelley, LP, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse

It is well established that one of the key protective factors in adolescent well-being is connectedness. Recent findings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted that youth connectedness reduces risky health behaviors like substance use and violence by as much as 66%. Yet we are facing challenging societal changes and pandemic safety measures that leave much of our connection mediated through technology. This keynote presentation will explore the role of social ties on brain development, summarize the research on social media use in youth, and provide strategies to develop and maintain deeper connections in adolescence during times of disconnection.

Learning outcomes:

  • Summarize key findings from the science of social connection and mental health;
  • Identify the positives and potential pitfalls of social media use;
  • Describe several practices to help develop practices of connection in adolescents.

9:30-9:45 a.m. Break

9:45-10:45 a.m. Presentation and Interaction Sessions

13. ANTs: How to take control of the picnic inside your head (Track 1)
Presented by: Mary Wentland, Health Education/Adapted Physical Education/At-Risk Instructor, Lakeland Union High School, Minocqua, Wisconsin

Please join me in discussing Dr. Amen’s work on automatic negative thoughts (ANTs). Learn how to identify ANTs, and how to apply a specific anteater to dissolve the automatic negative thought. Meet Captain Snout, and discover other ways to change your thought processes and your brain.

Learning outcomes:

  • Identify Dr. Amen’s work on negative thoughts;
  • Distinguish between the different types of ANTs and identify ways to counteract those negative thoughts;
  • Present material learned/viewed as a lesson to future classes.

14. Deepening Connections in the Lives of Our Adolescents (Track 2)
Presented by: Ryan McKelley, LP, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse

Building on information from the keynote presentation, this breakout session will explore more closely some of the tips for building in casual vs. planned connecting with adolescents. Also included is a discussion about how socialization can result in gender differences in communication and connection. Lastly, we will address the problem that unlimited access to technology also limits our relationships. Participants will learn several interventions and strategies that can be used with adolescents to deepen connections at home, school, or in community settings.

Learning outcomes:

  • Identify specific ideas for casual vs. planned connecting;
  • Describe the costs and benefits to limiting access to technology;
  • Demonstrate techniques to help adolescents and adults in their lives create more authentic connections.

15. Building Youth Resilience Through Brain Science (Track 3)
Presented by: Kathleen Wesolowski, Brighter Futures Initiative Program Coordinator, CW Solutions, LLC, and Kathryn Draper, Learn and Empower Oneself Program Coordinator, CW Solutions, LLC

The 2019 Wisconsin Youth Risk Behavior Survey Data reported that 49% of youth were affected by anxiety and 28.5% were affected by depression. Mental health is more important now than ever, especially with youth whose brains are continuing to develop. Research has shown that there is improved mental health and well-being in youth who have strong resiliency skills. This interactive session will explore youth brain development as it relates to mental health and substance use. Participants will also learn about how Wood County, Wisconsin, has used this knowledge to teach youth resilience skills through the LEO (Learn & Empower Oneself) Program.

With a foundational teaching of youth brain development, participants will confidently be able to advocate for and assist youth in navigating everyday challenges. Our lower brain, also known as the survival brain, dominates our day-to-day life. Participants will discover the fundamentals of the lower brain versus the higher brain, in addition to stress and anxiety reducing practices for themselves and the individuals they serve. When we create environments that empower youth to explore their brain and the various responses it has, we empower youth to thrive and be resilient.

Learning outcomes:

  • Review brief overview of youth brain development, including a foundational understanding of the survival (lower) brain and the rationale thinking (higher) brain;
  • Develop an understanding of how the increase in youth anxiety, depression, and mental illness impacts their development and ability to interact with the world around them;
  • Experience an overview of the LEO (Learn & Empower Oneself) Program, which is operated in Wood County and uses brain science to develop resilience skills in youth;
  • Review some of the specific tools used for skill development with the youth.

10:45-11:00 a.m. Break

11:00 a.m.-Noon Presentation and Interaction Sessions

16. Repeat Session: ANTs: How to take control of the picnic inside your head (Track 1)
Presented by: Mary Wentland, Health Education/Adapted Physical Education/At-Risk Instructor, Lakeland Union High School, Minocqua, Wisconsin

Please join me in discussing Dr. Amen’s work on automatic negative thoughts (ANTs). Learn how to identify ANTs, and how to apply a specific anteater to dissolve the automatic negative thought. Meet Captain Snout, and discover other ways to change your thought processes and your brain.

Learning outcomes:

  • Identify Dr. Amen’s work on negative thoughts;
  • Distinguish between the different types of ANTs and identify ways to counteract those negative thoughts;
  • Present material learned/viewed as a lesson to future classes.

17. A Critical Evaluation of the Health Education Curriculum of a Rural Wisconsin School District: Process, Findings, Recommendations for Improvement, and Lessons Learned (Track 2)
Presented by: Paula Cody, MD, MPH, Medical Director of Adolescent Medicine, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, and Trevor Gauthier, University of Wisconsin Medical Student

Participants will walk through the process of performing an evaluation of the health education curriculum of a rural school district in Wisconsin. There will be a discussion of different guidelines for health education at both the national and state levels, as well as an overview of the health education requirements in the State of Wisconsin. Highlights from the evaluation of the curriculum and the recommendations put forth for improvement will be shared, many of which have applicability to health education programs in other districts. The presentation will conclude with a discussion of the conclusions drawn from the evaluation process and the interaction with the health education program of this district.

Learning outcomes:

  • List different sources of governmental and organizational guidance for the development and improvement of health education programs;
  • Describe the process of performing a critical evaluation of a health education curriculum;
  • List resources available to districts to develop and improve health education programs and promote student wellness;
  • Gain an understanding of Wisconsin laws relating to health education;
  • Appreciate the importance of gathering community and school-wide input into the development of a health education program;
  • Describe several methods schools can take to improve their health education curricula and overcome the many barriers toward implementation of a quality health education program.

18. Wisconsin Drug Trends (Track 3)
Presented by: Nick Place, Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) Instructor/Police Officer

While most Americans have found a “new normal” in a COVID-19 world, drug use has remained the one constant that has not changed. This session will cover Wisconsin’s most likely drugs of abuse that threaten adolescent health.

Learning outcome:

  • Participants will have a better understanding of current Wisconsin drug trends and will be better able to recognize indicators of drug use in adolescents.