Advocating for kids in Northeast Florida at the start of 2019

More than sixty child-serving nonprofit staff, board members and volunteers joined together on January 10 to discuss creating a brighter future for the children living in the Northeast Florida community. Attendees left with the necessary skills and knowledge to advocate for kids after listening to experts on politics, policy, message and more.

The morning kicked off with inspirational words from Honorable Mayor Lenny Curry discussing how being a father exemplifies his desire to be a child advocate. He welcomed Joe Peppers, CEO of Kids Hope Alliance, to tell the story of how adults advocating on his behalf were the support beam on his journey to success.

Rena Coughlin, CEO of Nonprofit Center of Northeast Florida, taught Advocacy 101 leading into the panel discussion of Perspectives on Advocacy. WJCT News Director Jessica Palombo moderated the discussion between David Bauerlein from the Florida Times-Union; Ale’ta Turner from Leadership Jacksonville; Lake Ray, a former Florida representative; and Warren A. Jones from Duval County School Board District 5. The panelists provided a discussion on advocacy from the viewpoints of parents, reporters, schools and politicians on necessary actions and messages required for advocacy to be successful.

Attendees then split into groups to listen to one of the following sessions:

Keynote speaker Brandon Rothenberg was incarcerated and tried as an adult at the age of 15. He was faced with the threat of life in prison and suffered with thoughts of taking his life, but advocacy from security guards in the prison helped him turn his story around. While incarcerated he earned his GED, earned several industry certifications and conducted tours of the jail to at-risk youth. Since his early release after serving time for only a few years, he has served as an advocate for at-risk youth, a husband, father and small business owner.

“What are we doing for kids that still have an opportunity and still have a chance at change? Young men and women are our future. Come together and advocate!” – Brandon Rothenberg

The last breakout of the day allowed guests to attend:

In closing, Deirdre Conner, senior director of strategic initiatives and evaluation with the Nonprofit Center of Northeast Florida, led the attendees in a “Head, Heart and Feet” session – allowing reflection on what guests learned and the thoughts, feelings and actions that they will take with them from the training.

The training was put on by the Coalition, as well as several other child-serving organizations, including the Nonprofit Center of Northeast Florida, United Way of Northeast Florida, the Jacksonville Public Education Fund, Kids Hope Alliance, JASMYN and the Florida Nonprofit Alliance.