School Mental Health Summit

Emerging Stronger and More Resilient: Learning from the COVID-19 Crisis

August 31 – September 1, 2021 (Online)


Our powerhouse of speakers will inspire you with ideas and strategies you
can apply to your work.

(Please scroll down to explore this page for Speaker details.)

Ashanti Branch

Ashanti Branch, M.Ed.

Founding Executive Director
The Ever Forward Club

Ashanti Branch, raised by a single mother on welfare in Oakland, went on to study engineering at California Polytechnic – San Luis Obispo. A Civil Engineer in his first career, Ashanti found his passion for teaching while tutoring struggling students. In 2004, as a first year teacher, Ashanti started The Ever Forward Club to provide a support group for African American and Latino males, who were not achieving to the level of their potential. The Ever Forward Club has helped 100% of its members graduate high school.  Branch is on a mission to change the way that students interact with their education and the way schools interact with students.

After being featured in The Mask You Live In documentary, and Fellowships at the Stanford d.school, Campaign for Black Male Achievement, and The Gratitude Network, Ashanti has launched the #MillionMaskMovement to connect people all over the world in a self-reflective experience that helps people visualize and realize, “I am not alone.”

Taking Off the Mask: Showing Up as Your Authentic Self:  Tuesday@ 1:15 pm ET


Barre Burch

Berre Burch, Ph.D.

Clinical Director, Children’s Bureau of New Orleans

Berre Burch, Ph.D., is a school psychologist who has spent her career providing direct clinical services and systems-level consultation and support to address issues of childhood trauma. She is currently the clinical director at the Children’s Bureau of New Orleans, a non-profit mental health agency that serves children and youth by partnering with schools and other youth-serving organizations to embed and deliver trauma-informed care in community-based settings. Dr. Burch earned her doctorate at Tulane University with a specialization in Trauma-Informed School Psychology and completed her clinical internship with the National Center for School Mental Health at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore, MD. She is a graduate of Hendrix College.

Trauma Informed Approaches for School Mental Health Providers: Tuesday @ 10:00 am ET


Jen Francisco

Jen Francisco, M.Ed.

Training and Consulting Specialist, Devereux Center for Effective Schools

Jen Francisco, M.Ed., is a Training and Consulting Specialist with the Devereux Center for Effective Schools. She earned an M.Ed. in Educational and Counseling Psychology from West Chester University, is a certified school counselor in Pennsylvania, and is also a board certified behavior analyst. Mrs. Francisco is currently involved in several projects that aim to develop, implement and maintain school-wide behavioral support systems in a variety of settings. Her research interests include sustainability of multi-tiered systems of support, supporting and enhancing data-based decision making process across settings and interventions, and providing supports to teachers and educational staff in implementing and maintaining behavioral interventions.

Self-Regulation and Positive Outcomes With Emotion Regulation: The Power Program:  Wednesday @ 10:30 am ET


Jessica Gonzalez

Jessica Gonzalez, MSW

School Mental Health Coordinator for the Mental Health Technology Transfer Center (MHTTC) Network Coordinating Office (NCO)

Jessica Gonzalez, MSW, is the School Mental Health Coordinator for the Mental Health Technology Transfer Center (MHTTC) Network Coordinating Office (NCO) at Stanford University School of Medicine. Jessica is coordinating the work of 12 centers that provide training and technical assistance to the mental health and school mental health workforce to increase the use of evidence-based mental health prevention, treatment, and recovery support services for students across the United States. Jessica has worked in the community as a social worker providing mental health services in school and outpatient clinic settings to children and adolescents of diverse socioeconomic, cultural and ethnic backgrounds. In addition, she has experience in project management support and coordination for research and evaluation in the areas of early childhood learning and development, special education, post-secondary education attainment, and delivery of school mental health services. Jessica has also worked for numerous high school and college programs in the Bay Area seeking to improve educational outcomes for first-generation, low-income students of color.

Classroom Wise Promotion: Wednesday @ 10:30 am ET


Meredith Gray

Meredith Gray

2nd Grade Teacher

Meredith Gray is a second grade teacher at Franklin Elementary School. She is a member of the School-wide Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (SWPBIS) leadership team where she is partly responsible for developing the school-wide framework and training her peers. Through this work, she has helped to improve the overall culture and climate of the school, honed her problem-solving skills by learning to prioritize and provide concrete steps to solve issues, and motivate her peers to implement the program successfully. Miss Gray is currently enrolled in a 3 part SEL certification program through Rutgers University. These courses allow Miss Gray to learn about the research behind SEL and Character Education as well as pedagogy. The last part of the course will be a 15 week practicum where she will be paired with a mentor to work on fully integrating SEL and character education within her classroom and school community.

Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Champions Pave the Way!  Elevating Teacher Leaders to Support Sustainable SEL: Tuesday @ 2:45 pm ET


Sabih Hasan

Sabih Hasan


Sabih Hasan is a rising senior at Carteret High School who is looking forward to a strong career in the medical field. In his free time, Sabih promotes the necessity of mental health resources to youth in his position as an Empower Somerset Youth Advisory Board member. Sabih also loves to be a part of his school’s Performing Arts and Choir Leadership Council, where he holds three leadership roles. He was the winner of the Respecting The Roundabout SADD & National Road Safety Foundation nationwide contest, and is currently awaiting the President’s Volunteer Service award.

Youth with You: Mental Health Through the Eyes of Teens: Tuesday @ 9:00 am ET


Kathleen Hooban

Kathleen Hooban

1st Grade Teacher

Mrs. Hooban is a 1st grade bilingual teacher at Franklin School where she was named this year’s teacher of the year. She has been recognized as a teacher leader among Franklin’s school community as a positive behavior intervention and supports (PBIS) Champion Teacher who embodies SEL practices in her classroom and is leading the charge in shaping a sustainable SEL program within Franklin School through staff development, working on the SWPBIS system, and developing and hosting parent workshops. Mrs. Hooban is currently enrolled in a 3 part SEL certification program through Rutgers University. Through this coursework she is developing her understanding of the theory that underpins social emotional learning and character development (SECD) as well as pedagogy. The last piece of coursework Mrs. Hooban will complete at Rutgers involves a 15 week practicum where she will work to apply all the learning to her classroom and school.

Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Champions Pave the Way!  Elevating Teacher Leaders to Support Sustainable SEL: Tuesday @ 2:45 pm ET


Jasmine Langomas

Jasmin Langomas


Jasmin Langomas is a rising senior at Carteret High School who strives to eliminate the stigma around mental health. Her career goal is to become a Talent Agent as she loves utilizing her business skills and desire to help others achieve greatness. During her free time, Jasmin loves to advocate against toxic masculinity with her involvement in A Call to Men, and against destructive decisions with her position in the SADD Student Leadership Council. Jasmin is a recent graduate from the New Jersey Governor’s School in the Sciences summer program and a winner of the 2021 National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Video Challenge.

Youth with You: Mental Health Through the Eyes of Teens:  Tuesday @ 9:00 am ET


Steve Mazza

Steve Mazza, Ph.D.

Clinical Psychologist

Steve Mazza, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist and faculty member at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC). Dr. Mazza has extensive experience training parents, teachers, and summer camp administrators how to interact most effectively with children. Dr. Mazza received his B.S. in elementary education from Skidmore College, his M.A. in developmental psychology from Columbia University, and his Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Hofstra University. Dr. Mazza is the developer of the Brave START protocol for treating early childhood disorders and is the coordinator of the ABC Early Childhood Program at CUMC. He has appeared on SiriusXM “Doctor Radio” and has written articles published in Camping Magazine and the Journal of Rational-Emotive & Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Dr. Mazza is also the founder and executive director of Play It Forward, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that helps musicians raise money for charities (www.PlayItForward.com).

Teaching Through Transitions: Back to School and Back to Basics: Wednesday @ 12:15 pm ET


Paige Miller

Paige Miller

3rd Grade Teacher

Paige Miller is a 3rd grade teacher at Franklin School. She plays a leadership role on the SEL team and supports the School-wide Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports system at Franklin. She has worked to support the development of the vision of the school’s culture and climate. She has worked diligently to implement SEL practices within her own classroom while supporting staff in the building to create and sustain a universal PBIS system. Ms. Miller is currently enrolled in a 3 course SEL certification through Rutgers University. Through this course work, she is developing her knowledge, pedagogy, and practices about Social Emotional Learning and Character Development. The last part of the coursework is a 15 week practicum in which Ms. Miller will apply her knowledge in the classroom setting.

Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Champions Pave the Way!  Elevating Teacher Leaders to Support Sustainable SEL: Tuesday @ 2:45 pm ET


Kristy Ritvalsky

Kristy Ritvalsky, MPH

Senior Training and Consultation Specialist 
Northeast & Caribbean Mental Health Technology Transfer Center (MHTTC)

Kristy Ritvalsky, MPH, is the Sr. Training and Consultation Specialist for the Northeast & Caribbean Mental Health Technology Transfer Center (MHTTC).   Ms. Ritvalsky joined the Northeast and Caribbean MHTTC team in 2020 as a Senior School-based Training and Consultation Specialist. Before joining the MHTTC, she supported school teams with training and technical assistance in the areas of social-emotional learning (SEL), school mental health, and positive behavior interventions and supports. She brings more than 15 years of experience implementing and maintaining evidence-based practices in a variety of settings that involve direct and indirect consultation services. Ms. Ritvalsky is passionate about improving the educational and social outcomes for urban communities. She has worked extensively in Philadelphia, PA, and Newark, NJ within schools as well as partnering with many community and faith-based organizations to align school-wide behavioral and mental health efforts with the local community.

Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Champions Pave the Way!  Elevating Teacher Leaders to Support Sustainable SEL: Tuesday @ 2:45 pm ET


Laura Rutherford

Laura E. Rutherford, Ph.D.

Consulting and Research Psychologist and Assistant Director of Training – Internship, Devereux Center for Effective Schools

Laura Rutherford, Ph.D., is a Consulting and Research Psychologist at the Devereux Center for Effective Schools. She earned her Ph.D. in School Psychology from Lehigh University and is a certified school psychologist in Pennsylvania. Her professional experience has included providing training, assessment, and consultation services to teachers, parents, and multi-disciplinary teams in both school and home settings. Dr. Rutherford is currently working on several projects to develop capacity for universal, targeted, and individualized support systems in urban schools. Her research interests include assessment and intervention of social skills, providing supports to schools for children with externalizing disorders, and parent management training.

Self-Regulation and Positive Outcomes With Emotion Regulation: The Power Program:  Wednesday @ 10:30 am ET


David Schonfeld

David Schonfeld, MD

Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrician

David Schonfeld, MD, is a developmental-behavioral pediatrician in General Pediatrics at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and director of the National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement (NCSCB). He holds a joint appointment at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.

Schonfeld has authored more than 100 scholarly articles, book chapters and books and has given more than 800 presentations on the topics of pediatric bereavement and crisis. He has provided consultation and training on school crisis and pediatric bereavement in the aftermath of a number of school crisis events and disasters within the United States and abroad, including school and community shootings in Newtown, Connecticut; Marysville, Washington; Aurora, Colorado, Chardon, Ohio; and Townville, South Carolina; flooding from hurricanes Sandy in New York and New Jersey, and many others. He has also conducted school-based research (funded by NICHD, NIMH, NIDA, the Maternal and Child Health Bureau, William T. Grant Foundation and other foundations) involving children’s understanding of and adjustment to serious illness and death, as well as school-based interventions to promote adjustment and risk prevention.

Helping My Grieving Student:  When COVID Loss Comes Into the School: Wednesday @ 1:45 pm ET


Siddharth Vecham

Siddharth Vecham


Siddharth Vecham, who goes by Sid, is a rising senior from Montgomery High School. Sid has been an active member of Somerset’s Youth Advisory Board and also fundraises for groups combating the opioid crisis. He also founded PillCura, a company that produces a regulated pill dispenser aimed at preventing drug misuse and abuse. Sid’s personal goal is to work more with his local community on issues such as racial inequality, mental health, and the opioid crisis.

Youth with You: Mental Health Through the Eyes of Teens:   Tuesday @ 9:00 am ET


Sherri Wilson

Sherri Wilson

Director of Engagement & State Partnerships

Sherri Wilson is a nationally recognized expert and consultant in family engagement. Currently, she serves as the Director of Engagement and State Partnerships at the National Association for Family, School, and Community Engagement (NAFSCE). Formerly, she served as the Director of Consultative Services at Scholastic providing training and professional development to education professionals across the US. Prior to that, she served at the Senior Manager of Family Engagement at the National PTA. During her time at the National PTA, Sherri oversaw the implementation of the National PTA Standards for Family School Partnerships and led the Urban Family Engagement Initiative. She was the staff lead and primary author of the Family Reading Experience, Powered by Kindle. She provided training, information, and support to National PTA staff as well as state and local members related to family engagement and the implementation of the National PTA Standards for Family School Partnerships. Ms. Wilson was the Co-founder of the Alabama Parent Education Center and served as Alabama PIRC Director for over fourteen years. She has served on a wide variety of national, state, an d local boards and committees and was a founding board member for NAFSCE.

The Secret Sauce for Building Successful Home School Partnerships: Wednesday @ 9:00 am ET


Imad Zaheer

Imad Zaheer, Ph.D

Pediatric School Psychologist
Assistant Professor of Psychology at St. John’s University
Co-founder of Nurturing Environments Institute (NEI)

Imad Zaheer, Ph.D., is a pediatric school psychologist and has worked on numerous projects in clinics, hospitals, and public and alternative school settings that involve direct and indirect (consultation) services across individual, group (classrooms) and systems level. His areas of interest are in developing assessments and interventions for children with emotional and behavioral challenges and creating comprehensive school-based prevention programs by integrating school mental health (SMH), social emotional learning (SEL) and school-wide positive behavioral interventions and supports (SW-PBIS). For his work in these areas, Dr. Zaheer was awarded the Council for Exceptional Children’s (CEC) Professional Performance Award in 2019.

Dr. Zaheer is the co-founder of the Nurturing Environments Institute (NEI).

Comprehensive School Mental Health: Addressing Elevated Stress to Trauma in Schools: Tuesday @ 11:30 pm ET

Brittany Zakszeski

Brittany Zakszeski, Ph.D. 

Consulting and Research Psychologist, Devereux Center for Effective Schools

Brittany Zakszeski, Ph.D., is a Training and Consulting Specialist at the Devereux Center for Effective Schools. She earned her Ph.D. in school psychology from Lehigh University and is a licensed psychologist (PA), certified school psychologist (PA), and board-certified behavior analyst–doctoral level. Currently, she is partnered with urban and alternative schools to develop systems to support behavior, learning, and mental health. Dr. Zakszeski’s professional and research interests center around applying implementation science and organizational behavior management to understand and promote schools’ adoption and sustained use of evidence-based practices within multi-tiered systems of support. She is particularly invested in augmenting systems-level prevention and intervention efforts and in supporting staff serving students with or at risk for developing emotional and behavioral disorders

Self-Regulation and Positive Outcomes With Emotion Regulation: The Power Program:  Wednesday @ 10:30 am am ET


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