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Walla Walla Valley PACEs Connection (WA)

Beyond Paper Tigers


By now, many of us in the ACEs movement have seen, or at least heard of, the documentary film, Paper Tigers. The film captures the lives of students, teachers, and administrators at Lincoln High School, and ultimately the entire community of Walla Walla, WA. I saw the movie for the second time this week, and was reminded of the spirit of collaboration and unconditional love that is ever present throughout the film. The entire school community -- administrators, teachers, health professionals, and of course the students, -- all contributed to the journey we watched unfold in the film. So it is no surprise that the community of Walla Walla, and surrounding partners in Eastern Washington, have organized a statewide conference building upon this spirit of collaboration and unconditional love.

Beyond Paper Tigers, A Trauma-Informed Care Conference, will take place June 28-29, 2016, at Whitman College in Walla Walla, WA. The event features several local experts including Jim Sporleder, former principal of Lincoln High; Teri Barila, co-founder and CEO of the Children’s Resilience Initiative (CRI); Brook Bouchey, former Lincoln High intervention specialist; Sergio Hernandez, retired educator, superintendent, and CRI logistics expert; and Rick Griffin, executive director of Jubilee Leadership Academy.

I had a chance to speak with Teri Barila and Rick Griffin to learn more about the conference and the impetus behind Beyond Paper Tigers.

“We have seen such an encouraging response to the approach we take with our materials, particularly the emphasis on building adult skills and capabilities to then affect child/client/student outcomes,” says Barila.

She is quick to credit colleague Rick Griffin: “Rick had a lot of energy behind the idea.” He understood there was a need to build upon this momentum and “broaden our outreach with our training materials we have created, and hopefully attract folks to come to us since we can't get out to every request coming in," she says.  

Griffin adds: “Many individuals who have viewed the film are looking for answers to dealing with the impact of ACEs. Hosting this conference will help to educate participants to the importance of making the paradigm shift from fear-based approaches to love-based approaches.”

They hope to attract attendees from across the state and from various sectors, including parents, educators, clinicians, other mental health providers, law enforcement, and others. Griffin adds he hopes “anyone who desires to be more effective with trauma-impacted individuals will attend.”

“The journey toward resilience goes beyond ‘just’ knowing what the ACE Study tells us,” says Barila. “It is how to implement a new understanding of ourselves and our relationship to others and how we make that a community of practice.”

Barila imagines that a community of practice focuses on “HOW to be in relationships; HOW to be love-based rather than fear-based in all we do.” She goes on to reference Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, focusing on a true understanding of the second tier, safety, and what that might look like, “to move to love, and then self-actualization.”

 To that theme, the conference website states, “This conference will provide concrete strategies that operationalize what brain science tells us will be most effective.” The conference is striving to move past what the science says, and focus on what to do about what the science says, and what that might look like in practice for entire communities.

Conference sessions include information for administrators who are interested in implementing a trauma-informed approach at their school, the latest in brain science, triggers and emotional regulation, a screening of Jamie Redford’s follow up film, Resilience, and much more. The full conference schedule and registration information can be found here.


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