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.

Burns Proves Spirit of Youth

Pictured above, from left to right: Award Nominator, Judge Vernon Daniels; Award Recipient, Thomas Burns; and NCJJ Chair, Cassy Rockwell.

Lincoln, NE — The Nebraska Coalition of Juvenile Justice honored Thomas Burns with the 2014 Spirit of Youth Award. Burns was recognized for using his experiences in the Juvenile Justice system to give back to youth involved in the system and to strive towards personal goals.

Burns became involved in the Juvenile Justice system as a teen due to involvement with drugs. He recalls his time in intensive treatment programs, drug court, and probation without bitterness. Judge Vernon Daniels, who nominated Thomas for the award, said in his nomination letter, “[Thomas] regularly tells how grateful he is to his treatment team, probation officer, attorney, and most especially his judge, the Honorable Lawrence Gendler. Thomas reports that they saved him… From their example, he has learned to never give up on others. He often tells me to give that [additional] chance.”

In March, Burns celebrated his fourth year of sobriety. He gives back at his local Chip Night events by celebrating sobriety birthdays and providing mentorship to his peers.

Since completing probation, Thomas has achieved a great deal. He overcame academic setbacks to graduate high school, received an academic transfer degree from Metropolitan Community College (MCC), and enrolled at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. He hopes to pursue a degree in political science, attend law school, and become President of the United States.

While at MCC, Burns won a seat on the Student Advisory Council. His commitment to running a true campaign inspired others to run, resulting in the largest student voting turnout in MCC’s history. He has used these skills to serve on a state candidate’s campaign and wishes to continue exploring politics with an internship in Washington, D.C.

Burns was originally honored at the Nebraska Juvenile Justice Association’s Annual Conference on May 8, but was unable to attend. The NCJJ celebrated him at their public coalition meeting in Lincoln on June 6, 2014.  Upon receiving the award and a $500 scholarship, Burns stated, “Thank you. I’m so grateful and honored to even be considered.”

Nominations are open for this year’s awards

Have you ever wished there was a way to thank a co-worker or your team for all the hard work they do? Or your boss for the leadership he/she provides? Nominate them for this year’s Service to Youth or Leadership Award. If selected, they will be recognized at the awards luncheon on May 8 during the annual conference. Nominate them today at .

Closing Keynote – Brooks Gibbs

A video from the Friday NJJA Conference closing keynote speaker Brooks Gibbs interacting with NJJA Board member Trooper Keith Bell:


NJJA 2013 Annual Conference Registration Now Open

Registration is now open for our May 8-10, 2013 Annual Conference in Kearney. Register online here. Or print out the registration form and mail or fax in. Download the conference brochure and registration form here.

May 8 Pre-Conference Seminar

Eddie Slowikowski—world-class runner, internationally known speaker and author—will be our featured speaker at the May 8 Pre-Conference Seminar in Kearney. Cost of the seminar is included with your NJJA Conference fee; or attend the seminar only for $40.

Seating is limited; registrations will be accepted on a first-come, first-serve basis. Full registration will be available by March 15, 2013. Download the flyer here.

NJJA 2013 Early Bird Conference Information

NJJA announces the line-up of speakers for our 2013 Conference on May 9-10 in Kearney. Full registration will be available by March 15, 2013. The Early Bird flyer can be downloaded here.

The deadline for scholarship and award nominations is April 1, 2013. Poster proposals are also due April 1, 2013.

Opportunities are available for sponsorships and exhibitors for the 2013 conference. If you are interested, please contact Monica Miles-Steffens, Executive Director, at 402-440-0373 or

Save the date for the 2013 NJJA Conference

The 2013 NJJA Conference will be held May 8-10, 2013, at the Kearney Holiday Inn. Mark your calendars now!

Spirit of Youth Award

The Nebraska Crime Commission in collaboration with the Nebraska Coalition for Juvenile Justice Youth Committee is now accepting nominations for their first annual Spirit of Youth Award.

The Spirit of Youth Award recognizes a young adult who has made great strides following involvement with the juvenile justice system; has overcome personal obstacles; and is making significant contributions to society.

Nomination form

Award Deadline Extended

The deadline for the NJJA Evelyn Labode Service to Youth Award, NJJA Leadership Award, and Scholarship Award has been extended to March 31st.  Please see the Awards section to access application and nomination forms.