Keynote Speaker: Donna Jackson Nakazawa

Donna Jackson Nakazawa is an award-winning science journalist, author of seven books, and an internationally-recognized speaker whose work explores the intersection of neurobiology and human emotion. Her latest book, Girls on the Brink: Helping Our Daughters Thrive in an Era of Increased Anxiety, Depression, and Social Media, was named one of the best health books of 2022 by The Washington Post and Mashable. Donna’s other books include The Angel and the Assassin: The Tiny Brain Cell That Changed the Course of Medicine, named one of the best books of 2020 by Wired magazine, Childhood Disrupted, a finalist for the Books for a Better Life Award, and The Last Best Cure. Her writing has appeared in Wired, The Boston Globe, Stat, The Washington Post and Health Affairs. She has appeared on The Today Show and NPR and is a regular speaker at universities, including the Harvard Division of Science Library Series, UCLA Health, Rutgers University, Johns Hopkins, Learning & the Brain, Children’s Hospital Association, and the University of Arizona. Donna is also the creator and founder of the narrative writing-to-heal programs, Breaking Free From Trauma, and Your Healing Narrativewhich help participants to create a new, powerful, inner healing narrative that calms the body, brain, and nervous system.

Keynote Speaker: Rev. Paul Abernathy

Father Paul Abernathy is an Orthodox Christian priest and the founding CEO of the Neighborhood Resilience Project. Since 2011, Fr. Paul has labored with his community to address Community Trauma with Trauma Informed Community Development, a framework that facilitates the transformation of trauma affected communities to resilient, healing, and healthy communities where people can benefit from opportunities and realize their potential. Under Fr. Paul’s leadership, innovative, trauma-informed, grass-roots strategies have been developed and implemented to address acute, historical, transgenerational and complex trauma on a community level. Community groups from across the nation have worked with Fr. Paul to be trained in the Trauma-Informed Community Development framework.

He has a B.A. in International Studies from Wheeling Jesuit University, and holds a Master in Public and International Affairs from the University of Pittsburgh. He also holds a Master of Divinity from St. Tikhon’s Orthodox Theological Seminary and was selected for Harvard Business School’s Young American Leaders Program. A former Non-Commissioned Officer in the U.S. Army, Father Paul is also a combat veteran of the Iraq War.

In addition to his work with the organization, Fr. Paul is and has been a member of multiple community, state, and national boards and has received numerous community awards.

Fr. Paul is the pastor of St. Moses the Black Orthodox Church, an author, and a husband and father of two children.

Breakout Session Speakers

Melissa Arvin

Melissa Arvin is the Family Violence Resource Attorney at the Indiana Office of Court Services for the Indiana Supreme Court and assists Indiana courts with training and projects related to family violence issues, including community collaborations with state and local groups advocating for survivors of violence. Melissa left the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office in 2020 after nearly 20 years as a prosecutor. As a prosecutor, Melissa handled cases related to domestic violence, sexual violence and child abuse and has conducted extensive trainings on those subjects for attorneys, judges and other stakeholders.

Heidi Augsburger, LMHC

Heidi Augsburger is a mental health therapist, researcher, and adjunct professor passionate about driving academic, professional, and personal growth. She leverages her decade-long experience in the field to provide comprehensive insights while encouraging peer-to-peer learning to enhance student outcomes. In addition, Heidi is the owner of Resilient Hope LLC, a company that incorporates the use of nature into mental health and wellness, and self-care. Heidi completed her Masters’s in Mental Health Counseling at Huntington University and is currently in the Doctoral Program in General Psychology, focusing on Performance Psychology at Grand Canyon University. Her expertise includes relationship trauma, grief, trauma, and attachment. With solid communication and interpersonal skills and being a sensitive, empathetic, and attentive listener, Heidi is committed to fostering a dynamic and stimulating learning environment for her students, clients, and the general public. 

Carol Dahlen, PsyD

Dr. Carol Dahlen is the Clinical Mental Health Counselor and Behavioral Consultant for the Merrillville High School. Dr. Dahlen holds certifications in trauma, Social & Emotional Learning (SEL), Restorative Practices (discipline through non-punitive measures), and The Virtues Project™ (character development). In addition, Dr. Dahlen has served as an independent consultant addressing topics of diversity, inclusion, and trauma. She is a member of several committees within the school district. Dr. Dahlen co-facilitates the school district’s educational diversity & inclusion workshops and leads the professional development presentations for the school district’s staff on trauma, trauma-informed practices, and SEL. She also assists with Merrillville’s Alternative School Program in the role of Behavioral Consultant and Therapeutic Counselor. Dr. Carol Dahlen holds a doctorate in psychology from California Southern University. 

Ryan Elinkowski

Ryan Elinkowski began his involvement with the St. Jude House in 2008 and has been the Executive Director since 2018.

An experienced social services manager who excels in the areas of operations management, programming, strategic planning, yet his most admirable leadership traits are those of compassion, love, understanding and genuine relationship building.

Previously, Elinkowski served as Director at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Northwest Indiana in Cedar Lake, Indiana. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree In Human Development and Family Studies from Purdue University with a concentration in Child and Family Services. He lives happily and humbly, in Northwest Indiana, with his wife, two daughters and two dogs.

Eve Escalante, LCSW

Eve Escalante, LCSW is a Clinical Social Worker and Manager of Program Innovation with Social Work and Community Health at Rush University Medical Center. In her role, Eve provides oversight of expansion of evidence-based care models into communities with significant social needs, participates in trauma-informed transformation efforts, and provides direct clinical care. Eve has experience in providing care to adults, older adults and caregivers with chronic disease, disability and/or terminal illness. She also has experience in providing clinical supervision in individual and group formats. She received her BSW from Loyola University Chicago in 2005 and her MSW from Loyola University Chicago in 2007.

Katie O’Malley

Katie O’Malley is a Career Coach and Workplace Consultant with fifteen (15) years of professional experience serving the nonprofit, corporate and education sectors. Across these workplaces, Katie noticed her strengths and values consistently steered her toward the support and development of others. In 2012, Katie translated this observation into action, earning a Master’s Degree in Counseling and Board Certification in Coaching. Since 2018, Katie has worked alongside more than 200 clients as the Founder and Principal Coach of (en)Courage Coaching. Founded with the noble mission of providing exceptional, financially accessible coaching services to Chicago area professionals, (en)Courage Coaching has grown to support individuals and businesses from coast to coast, as well as in the United Kingdom. Coaching clients in the design of authentic career paths, effective leadership practices, and courageous workplace cultures is in the DNA of (en)Courage Coaching. By leveraging a mix of evidence-based practices from the fields of counseling, organizational development, and leadership education, Katie equips her clients with customized strategies to meet their individual needs and aspirational goals. Prior to opening the doors of (en)Courage Coaching, Katie served as a leadership coach and course instructor to MBA and graduate students at Chicago Booth, The University of Texas at Austin, and DePaul University. Recently featured in Fast Company and Thrive Global, Katie’s research and writing supports both sides of the workplace equation, encouraging employers and employees to remember, “We’re all in this work-thing together.” 

Brenda Phillips

Brenda Phillips is the CEO and founder of multiple organizations including WeCare Do You?, Ms. WeCare & Associates & Binspired Collections LLC. Brenda is a certified teenage life coach expert, youth development specialist, 4x community leader award recipient, highly requested and recommended speaker, performer, school district education consultant and much more. With over 9 years of experience, Brenda has had the privilege of impacting over 60,000 youth across the world. She influences students to connect to their why through their education and passion, while influencing educators to connect with their students, using life experiences and research-based strategies, teaching SEL skills and trauma informed techniques. Her mission is to empower youth all around the world to be the change by finding their gifts & passions.

Anna Schoon

Anna Schoon is an experienced nonprofit leader who builds lasting relationships with clients, team members, and communities. She excels at innovation – envisioning and executing solutions for organizational and community problems. Anna believes psychological safety and belonging are necessary for addressing challenges that organizations and communities face.

In her role as Vice President of Planning and Business Development at CoAction, Anna serves as a trusted advisor to C-level leaders and key stakeholders.  During her tenure, she has conducted community needs assessments, facilitated strategic planning processes, and implemented numerous new initiatives to achieve organizational goals. 

Anna is a Certified Fundraising Executive, an Outward Mindset Facilitator, and a Certified Trainer in Results Oriented Management and Accountability. Anna holds a master’s degree in social justice from Loyola University Chicago and is a member of Alpha Sigma Nu, the honor society of Jesuit universities. She was the recipient of the Robert O. Zdenek Staff Member of the Year Award in 2022, Rock Star of the Year Award from Lake Area United Way in 2019, and a fellowship with Common Good in 2018.

Andrea Sherwin

Andrea Sherwin serves as President and CEO of Mental Health America of Northwest Indiana (MHA). Andrea joined the organization in 2018 with over 26 years of experience in corporate marketing, strategic planning, management, sales and service, expansion planning, and managing teams. Prior to her appointment as President and CEO, Andrea served on the Board of Directors for MHA for four and a half years, where she co-led the development of the organization’s mission statement, served as chairperson for the organization’s marketing committee, and successfully volunteered her time to develop, launch, and maintain MHA’s social media presence for its first year of growth. She is a Strosacker Early Childhood Fellow, is certified in Mental Health First Aid, and has recently served as a board member for 219 Health Clinic and a member of the former United Way of Northwest Indiana mental health support group committee. Currently, she serves on the Purdue Northwest College of Humanities, Education, and Social Sciences (CHESS) Advisory Board, as well as Ivy Tech’s Human Services Advisory Board. In 2014, Sherwin was honored as the Influential Woman of the Year in Marketing & Media by the Northwest Indiana Influential Women Association. She is a graduate of Indiana University Bloomington and also holds a certificate of graduation from the School of Bank Marketing in Financial Marketing Management. In addition to her current and prior board work in Northwest Indiana, Andrea’s community involvement has included serving on the Northwest Indiana Business Quarterly Editorial Board, various community-based marketing committees, and serving as a volunteer art instructor for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Northwest Indiana early in her career. Andrea is a free-lance photographer in her “spare time” and is also proud mom to her 26-year old son, a graduate of Valparaiso University and teacher of English Language Arts in Munster, IN, and her 22-year old daughter, a graduate of Eastern Illinois University and new Clinical Laboratory Scientist, living and working in Chicago, IL.

Elaine Spicer

Elaine received her Masters Degree from IUPUI and has worked in the field of Social Work for the past 35 years.  She worked as a therapist in private practice for the past 10 years after working for agencies and schools, in Tippecanoe County and NW Indiana.   She has worked with foster and adoptive families for many of those years.  Elaine learned about trauma and its effects on the brain and behavior, 8 or so years ago.  Around the same time, she learned about the ACEs study and the work of Dr. Robert Anda and Dr. Vincent Felitti. It has profoundly affected the way that Elaine sees people, in general, and views behavior of both children and adults.  Elaine believes strongly that being trauma-informed is NOT enough. We must be trauma sensitive and trauma responsive if we are to truly help children, adults, and families.  Elaine recently formed the Institute for Community and Family Resilience, a non-profit with the mission to provide education, training, consultation and support to the systems (e.g. education, law enforcement, juvenile justice, courts, health, and local government) that serve adults, families and children in our community.

Kelly Vates

Kelly Vates is the Founder and Executive Director of Fair Haven Rape Crisis Center. Born and raised in Lake County, Indiana, she serves as the Co-Chair of the Lake County Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) for six years. In April of 2020, Kelly was recognized as “Adult Victim Advocate of the year” by the Indiana Coalition Against Sexual Assault and Human Trafficking. And, most recently, Kelly was recognized for her life’s work and commitment to serving victims/survivors of sexual assault in Northwest Indiana and received the 2022 Community Leader of the Year Awarded by the Influential Women group of Northwest Indiana.
Kelly is a recovery veteran, visionary, published author & national presenter on sexual trauma. She has a passion for people as well as dogs and is a Certified TDI Handler for Fair Haven’s Certified Therapy Dog- Aspen.
Kelly has a strong background in both management and entrepreneurship and serves her Heavenly Father with her whole heart.

Kelly, along with Aspen and her husband Joe of thirty-five years, reside in Northwest Indiana. Both enjoy the empty nest and spend their time traveling to different states visiting their three adult children along with their spouses and nine grandchildren.

Kelly is a Survivor, Thriver & Overcomer of sexual violence and exploitation and has dedicated her life to the education and prevention of sexual violence & exploitation. It is her way of taking the pain of her past and transforming it into a blessing. In 2001, after several appearances on national television, her story, “Shattered Innocence” was published by Evergreen Press. Her encouragement to other Survivors: “There is life without pain! The journey toward healing begins with one small step.”