The NAREN Conference: At-risk Students and Education

As you may know, Lakeside has a significant presence in the field of alternative education. We actually provide programs at many levels for about 35 school districts and serve many of the typical at-risk students in our region. There is a substantial de-emphasis on the needs of these students who are at high risk for drop-out or drug use, who lack of a promising future or are subject to some extremely difficult life circumstances.

NAREN: helping at-risk students to a brighter future

NAREN Conference 2014 focused on brain-based learning for at-risk students.
NAREN Conference 2014 focused on brain-based learning for at-risk students.

Many professionals are extremely committed to this population of students. They are underpaid and overworked but very focused on helping these students to overcome major obstacles in their lives in order to find success in school, in their personal lives, and their communities. The National At-Risk Education Network (NAREN) is an organization that support those who are working with these types of students.

Today, I was fortunate enough to attend the NAREN national conference.

I was struck by the numbers of individuals from all kinds of alternative education programs all over the country who were deeply committed to the mission of caring for at-risk students.

I was equally impressed by the emphasis on two important aspects of working with these students. One is the power of relationships. Whether we are parenting, counseling or educating, our kids need good relationships in order to grow, learn, develop and thrive. Without that personal validation, affirmation and love there will be little hope for a healthy life.

A second area that I was impressed with was the emphasis on brain development. Frank Kros took us on a journey through a simulation of the brain showing each part as an introduction to Brain-Based Learning.

It is absolutely essential to understand the parts, processes and development of the brain.

This knowledge is absolutely essential to understand how students learn and how they best can understand their world.

We are so blessed to have this knowledge and opportunity to learn. Whether you are a parent, a friend or an educator, this information can make a huge difference in how students have the chance to succeed.

Particularly with at-risk students (who have had a number of life and/or traumatic issues), this knowledge is even more significant, since there have already been significant brain issues requiring special attention in how we help them learn and grow. I was impressed by how many professionals are combining relational skills and brain-based knowledge. They use these new ways to work with students who have needs that cannot be met in traditional environments.

By creating intentional and unique environments where learning can be maximized relationally and with creative intervention, we can make a significant impact in the lives of our students.

I was very encouraged to hear that these interventions are being taught in programs all over the country. My congratulations and appreciation go to the staff and Board Members of NAREN. Thank you for helping the helpers of some very special kids.

Gerry Vassar, President/CEO, Lakeside Educational Network

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