How It All Went Down: 2014 NJJA Conference

NJJA President Mike Renn talks with guests in the vendor area.

By Monica Miles-Steffens

On behalf of the Nebraska Juvenile Justice Association Board, I would like to sincerely thank everyone who came together for the 2014 Annual NJJA Conference!  We can soundly say that this year’s conference was bigger and better than ever, and we owe it all to the hardworking men and women who attend this conference year after year.  It was great to hear from one attendee who said, “Sometimes people leave conferences and they feel drained, but people left this conference ready to implement ideas that they heard and excited about their work.”

There were some new additions to the conference this year including a change in venue, the showing of Kids for Cash right in the main ballroom sponsored by Voices for Children, a tour of the YRTC Kearney, more CEU’s across disciplines, and increased use of technology through Twitter and Facebook.  Please also take the time to check out the NJJA Flickr page for all of the conference photos.

We welcomed nationally known speakers Judge Steve Teske, Sharon Wise and Eddie Slowikowski.  Their presentations were full of information, emotion and inspiration.  We work hard to bring you breakout sessions that highlight the great work happening right here in Nebraska, and this year was no exception.  We heard about state and local reform, trauma, mental health and substance use topics, self care, crossover youth, gangs and more!  One participant said, “There was a good variety of topics…things for the heart and things for the brain.” And of course, we could only bring in such amazing speakers with support from the Children and Family Foundation, Regional Prevention Coalitions I, IV & V and the Sherwood Foundation.

One of the highlights of every conference is recognizing outstanding professionals for their work and leadership.  Joanna Lindberg of Heartland Family Service in Omaha was awarded the Evelyn Labode Service to Youth Award. Treva Haugaard, Executive Director of the Goals Center in Omaha received this year’s Leadership Award, and Giselle Armendariz, a student at UNL was recognized as the NJJA scholarship winner. This year NJJA also recognized the work of Senators Brad Ashford and Bob Krist for their tireless efforts and ongoing support of juvenile justice reform in Nebraska.

And we have to mention our exciting move to the Younes Conference Center. We heard great feedback from the nearly 400 participants and 35 exhibitors. This move was made possible in part by our top sponsors:  Community Based Services Inc., Boy’s Town, UNO Criminal Justice Department, Cedars, KVC, Abraxas and Omni Behavioral Health.

So again, we thank you for your ongoing support and attendance at the NJJA conference.  If you have never been, make sure to mark your calendar for next year.  May 6 – 8th, 2015h we will be back at the Younes Conference Center in Kearney and we are planning some amazing things to celebrate 40 years of NJJA!  We look forward to seeing you there.