April 8-9, 2024
Sheraton Framingham Hotel & Conference Center
1657 Worcester Road
Framingham, MA 01701

Massachusetts School Counselor Association logo

April 8-9, 2024
Sheraton Framingham Hotel & Conference Center
1657 Worcester Road
Framingham, MA 01701

Massachusetts School Counselor Association Conference April 8-9, 2024, header
Massachusetts School Counselor Association Conference April 8-9, 2024, header
Massachusetts School Counselor Association Conference April 8-9, 2024, header

Breakout Sessions

Breakout Sessions

We look forward to having you join us at the Massachusetts School Counselor Association Conference!

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

9:30 a.m. – 10:20 a.m. Breakout Session #1

Counselors in the Classroom

Lead Presenter: Giselle Rojas

Join us for an interactive workshop exploring best practices for school counselors to facilitate curriculum directly in the classroom. Whether you’re looking to start facilitating curriculum or improve your current practices, this workshop will provide the foundation to get you started. You’ll leave with the knowledge and tools to begin implementing curriculum lessons that support students’ academic, career, and personal/social development. 

Engaging Students, PK-3rd Grade, in Learning Through Play

Lead Presenter: Kelly Meehan-Rooney 

In this workshop, presenters from both DESE and school districts around the Commonwealth will discuss playful learning as an instructional strategy for engaging students, PK-3rd grade, in learning across content areas. Participants will become familiar with the research base connecting literacy, math, science, and social-emotional outcomes to playful learning. Lastly, elementary principals will offer their experiences in leading this work.

Finding Hope: Mallory’s Mental Health Journey and the Role of Schools 

Lead Presenter: Mallory Gothelf

Join young adult speaker Mallory as she shares her mental health journey and the role of school personnel. Despite being bubbly and outgoing, she privately struggled with intense anxiety, depression, OCD, disordered eating, and suicide ideation. She would do anything to get relief from her emotional distress. School personnel were crucial to her experience – both in helpful and not-so-helpful ways. Today, Mallory shares her story at school.

Guiding Students to Securing a Post-Secondary Plan 

Lead Presenter: Jennifer Bento

Students have evolving skills, talents, interests, and favorite subjects. As educators how do we support and guide students to make choices that will lead them to a career path they find satisfying and sustaining? Join a panel including Alicia Linsey, Andover HS, Cicily Shaw, Thayer Academy, Helen Rouse, Northeast Metro Tech, and Mike Janicki, Old Rochester Regional HS to hear how they engage students, help to develop a plan & keep them on track for graduation.

Her Struggle is Real: Tackling the Mental Health Crisis Among Adolescent Girls 

Lead Presenter: Shekyra DeCree

Today’s girls face academic pressure, peer pressure, parental pressure, and pressure to look, act, and perform perfectly. Based on data from the most recent 2011–2021 CDC Youth Risk Behavior Survey and ground-breaking ROX research, this workshop will explore how girls’ complex lived experiences affect their mental health. The session will also explore cultural considerations in providing culturally informed care and support that affirms diverse populations of girls. Participants will learn how to help girls develop communication skills and provide support to help build resilience.

Fostering an Inclusive Climate

Lead Presenter: Lisa Koenecke

You’ve worked hard to develop a strong service culture at your organization. Yet without an inclusive climate, both your consumers and your team may feel like this isn’t the right place for them. So how does your climate influence your culture? How do you bridge any gaps in your climate to become more inclusive? And who sets the climate in your organization? Through a series of discussions and activities, participants will:

Define an inclusive climate
Understand how microaggressions deter inclusion
Examine the critical role of leadership in setting your climate
Explore the dynamics of inclusive climates
Assess the inclusiveness of your company’s climate

10:40 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. Breakout Session #2

Comfort Dogs in Schools

Lead Presenter: Derek Harrington

Community Resource Dogs, or Comfort Dogs, are one of the growing programs being utilized by communities across Massachusetts. Local School Resource Officers and school counselors will outline the development of their Community Resource Dog program. Attendees will learn about the training and finances that are needed to start a program, including local grant opportunities.

Connect 4! Creating Connections between Students, Schools, Families, & Community

Lead Presenter: Danette Jewell

Family and community partnership is a crucial part of establishing a positive school climate. Join us as we explore ways to strengthen connections between schools and their stakeholders to collectively support students. Let’s share and discuss activity and project ideas and create plans to engage our unique school communities.

Connect with State Leaders

Lead Presenter: Juliette Coatsworth

Advocating for our students can feel like second nature; advocating for ourselves can feel intimidating. Take this time to connect with a panel of legislators and other state leaders on the topics most important to you and your school community. As a result of joining this session, you will learn tips and tricks to advocating and developing connections with key state representatives in support of your advocacy efforts.

Setup For Success: Supporting Students to and Through Post-Secondary 

Lead Presenter: Ariel Perry

We will be discussing the academic successes and difficulties black and brown students are facing after graduating high school and what factors could mitigate some of these challenges. Using data from the Boston Prep Persistence Project as a framework, we will discuss postsecondary persistence trends across all the different college and career pathways. We will discuss relevant practices and provide practical tools that educators can implement.

System Builders: Cultivating School-Based Mental Health Leaders

Lead Presenter: John Crocker

This session will introduce the School Mental Health Leadership Institute, a multi-agency, statewide effort to cultivate leaders who are prepared to drive change within their school or district, leading to long-term positive impacts on student well-being. The Institute helps district- and school-based staff grow their capacity to act as both clinical mental health leaders and change agents for building a comprehensive school mental health system.

Trauma Informed School Counseling 

Lead Presenter: Kristen Lazzaro

“Trauma” is a word that gets thrown around often in schools: “It was traumatic experience for the school,” “My child is experiencing trauma when they walk through the door,” “They were traumatized by that teacher.” So, what is trauma? Merrimack College adjunct faculty members, Dr. Kristen Lazzaro and Dr. John Steere, will lead an activity based discussion on the important role of school counselors in creating a safe, supportive school culture.

Is a College Degree the ONLY Ticket to Success?

Lead Presenter: Jerry Ellner, Universal Technical Institute

For years we have been telling students to go to college to get a great career. In fact, we are pushing students into college at a 70% clip. However, almost 70% of careers available today do not require a college degree. Skilled trades are in high demand and can provide students with a great career and great pay! Come join Jerry Ellner to learn what those careers are and how you can reach more of your students. You will also learn how to get industry involved in your schools and how to get more buy-in with parents. See what UTI is doing to get girls involved in STEM careers. Finally, learn how students can make school more affordable to avoid debt after graduation.

Counteracting Unconscious Bias

Lead Presenter: Lisa Koenecke

A full thirty-five percent of our business interactions involve an assumption as to whether a consumer would qualify for a product simply by their appearance. In this session, we will define privilege, explore barriers, and dissect a case study to understand how to counteract our unconscious biases. We’ll open participants’ eyes to:

Identify the dimensions of diversity that matter most in organizations and why
Recognize unconscious bias and how it affects the way that people perceive, evaluate, and react to others; and
Identify interventions that will help override errors in judgment and decision making

1:00 p.m. – 1:50 p.m. Breakout Session #3

Disordered Eating: A Clinician and Youth Share How Counselors Can Help

Lead Presenter: Judith Halperin

Designed for the unique role of school counselors, join Dr. Judith Halperin and young adult speaker Mallory Gothelf for an engaging workshop about disordered eating featuring both clinical expertise and lived experience. They will provide a framework to understand disordered eating and body dysmorphia in youth, the role of emotional distress and co-occurring disorders, and treatment options with a focus on empowering families.

Effectively Supporting Youth with Anxiety-Related School Refusal

Lead Presenter: Kathryn Boger

This talk covers key strategies that school counselors can employ in working with students who are refusing school due to anxiety in order to help them get back in the school building and into the classroom. Topics covered include assessment and early identification, school refusal formulation, re-entry planning, graduated exposure, progress monitoring, and tips for working with families.

English Learner Students and Access to High Level Coursework

Lead Presenter: Lauren Pupecki

The presenter conducted a qualitative research study on MA High School Counselors’ perceptions of English Learner (EL) student access and enrollment in higher-level coursework. This presentation will discuss the findings of this research and include ways for counselors to begin to increase access and enrollment of ELs in higher-level courses, such as AP, PLTW, Honors, and Early College.

Enhancing College & Career Readiness Programming with SchooLinks

Lead Presenter: Sarah Whipp

Join us for an insightful session on how SchooLinks, the cutting-edge college and career readiness platform, can be a catalyst for transformative change management in school districts. In this session, we will delve into the ways SchooLinks supports and enhances workflows, ultimately leading to greater efficiency and equity in preparing students for postsecondary success.

Getting Real, Actionable College Data: What Counselors Need to Know

Lead Presenter: Tim Poynton

The Common Data Set (CDS) initiative is a voluntary program many colleges participate in; when they do, valuable insight is provided to students and families in the college choice process. CDS information for all Massachusetts colleges that participated over the past two years will be presented, and the file made available to attendees. Information related to class size, wait-list metrics, admission considerations, and much more will be shared!

Panic at the MASCA

Lead Presenter: Kaitlyn Robichaud

Panic. What does it look like? What does it feel like? What can you do about it? Panic is a big part of the mental health crisis we are facing right now. It doesn’t follow the rules. It looks and feels different for everyone. It’s complicated. Come and put yourself in your students’ shoes. Experience the simulation of a panic attack, how it makes you think and feel, and different strategies on how to work through it.

2:05 p.m. – 2:55 p.m. Breakout Session #4

Counseling In an Age of Cancel Culture

Lead Presenter: Melinda Cripps

In this session, we’ll discuss strategies to support students struggling with friendships, social exclusion, and low distress tolerance that can exacerbate anxiety and depression. We’ll workshop real-world scenarios, share best practices, and provide information to help counselors guide students through uncomfortable social situations in healthy ways that foster growth.

Counseling in the City: Navigating Challenges, Empowering Change

Lead Presenter: Shelby Boisvert

This workshop will explore the unique challenges and opportunities in urban school counseling. Participants will leave with a knowledge of the contextual factors affecting urban youth, as well as practical strategies to help students thrive academically, socially, and emotionally. Counselors will be empowered to evaluate their programs, challenge inequities, and collaborate to promote success in urban schools.

Early Psychosis: Symptoms, Identification, and Treatment

Lead Presenter: Emily Gagen

This session will review common symptoms of psychosis in adolescents and young adults, explore how to ask and talk about these experiences, and identify some common screening strategies that may help with this process. We will review specialized treatment approaches for early psychosis and discuss a new referral and triage program (Massachusetts Psychosis Access and Triage Hub, or M-PATH) that can help to connect families to these resources.

MASCA: What do all of Those Letters Really Mean and What Can it do for Me?

Lead Presenter: Bob Bardwell

Are you a MASCA member and wonder what we do for our members? Do you belong to MASCA just for the discount registration at the conference? How do you fit in? Do you want to ask a question? In this session you will hear from MASCA leaders who will share the mission of MASCA, advantages of membership, and how to get involved either locally or at the state level. MASCA is better because of you. Come find out what we do and how to be more active.

School Counseling Program Evaluation: A New MASCA Initiative

Lead Presenter: Cynthia Jackson

In a first for state-level associations, MASCA facilitated a school counseling program evaluation last year. Join us as the committee shares how the pilot evaluation process was designed and implemented, and how the school counseling department moved forward based on committee recommendations. This is a can’t-miss session for anyone interested in their school participating in a peer-led evaluation or in joining the program evaluation committee.

The One Hour MARC Jr. – Can it be Done?

Lead Presenter: David Elsner

The MA Model suggests using a Massachusetts Report Card Jr (MARC Jr) as a way to communicate about your school counseling program and demonstrate how you are helping students. It can seem complicated, but your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to draft a MARC Jr for your program in one hour….seem impossible?…..(We know in many ways you’ve done much more in less time). Give it a try!

Using Tech to Support a Comprehensive Counseling Program

Lead Presenter: Brenda Pena

Chelsea PS began looking for additional resources to help with students’ mental health. By leveraging technology, Chelsea has been able to redesign the way they can support students, even outside typical school hours. Re-imagining tools, systems, and processes has allowed them to make changes to their classroom management plans, quiet spaces, the way they deal with crisis situations, and the way mental health is viewed at their school locations.



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