Transition and Career Gathering 2021

A Time for Gratitude and Appreciation

Join your colleagues for the 16th Annual Transition & Career Planning Conference.

Thursday, April 29 & Thursday, May 13, 2021
Live Virtual Events via Zoom

We hope you'll be able to attend both days!

Please join us for the 16th Annual Transition and Career Conference. This year's conference, A Time for Gratitude and Appreciation, will feature keynote speaker Luis Ortega from Storytellers for Change.

Our intention is to offer two partial days of gratitude and appreciation for the work school and agency personnel have put into this year of care during a pandemic. We look forward to having you join us for these two half-days of inspiration and engaging collaboration.

As our gift to you, there will be no registration fee to attend this year's conference.

Who should attend?
•    School counselors 
•    College career advisors
•    Teachers 
•    Technical center coordinators 
•    Administrators 
•    Agency professionals working in schools 
•    School-to-work professionals 
•    High school special educators 
•    Vocational rehabilitation counselors
•    Enthusiastic merchants of hope

•    Vermont Student Assistance Corporation 
•    Vermont State GEAR UP
•    Vermont School Counselors Association
•    Vermont VocRehab 
•    The J. Warren & Lois McClure Foundation 
•    Vermont/New Hampshire Career Development Association 

Committee Members
•    Chris Barry, VSAC 
•    Erica Borthwick, VSAC
•    Liam Danaher, VSAC GEAR UP
•    Tara Howe, VocRehab VT
•    Cairsten Keese, U-32 school counselor and VTSCA Representative 
•    Anita Long, VSAC GEAR UP
•    Cathy Printon, VSAC GEAR UP
•    Jessica Smith, VSAC GEAR UP
•    Anna Telensky, VSAC GEAR UP
•    Rich Tulikangas, VocRehab VT

Workshop descriptions are not available on the Eventbrite registration form, so please review them here and choose your workshops before registering.

Thursday, April 29, 10:00 am–11:30 am
  10:00 am

Welcome and agenda

  10:15 am

Keynote presentation: Co-Crafting Empathetic Space with keynote speaker Luis Ortega, Founder and Director, Storytellers for Change

  11:15 am

Closing remarks and schedule for Thursday, May 13


Thursday, May 13, 1:00 pm–4:00 pm
  1:00 pm

Refresher from keynote with Luis Ortega

  1:15 pm

Breakout session I

  2:30 pm


  2:45 pm

Breakout session II

  4:00 pm

Thank you and depart (from sessions)


Workshop descriptions are not available on the Eventbrite registration form, so please review them here and choose your workshops before registering.

Thursday, April 29: Keynote Presentation

Co-Crafting Empathetic Space: Story-Listening, Appreciation & Belonging

Join Luis Ortega, founder and director of Storytellers for Change, as he delivers an engaging and empowering message about the power of storytelling and story-listening to foster empathy, appreciation, and belonging.

In this virtual presentation, through a combination of experiential learning activities and short stories both humorous and heartfelt, Luis invites attendees to explore why and how stories weave connections––to our own callings, to the communities we work with, and to all our surroundings. These connections are at the core of our capacity for empathy and our ability to amplify stories that can inspire action and build an equitable world. Participants will have an understanding of how they can employ story-listening as a mechanism to foster inclusion, practice gratitude, and create more inclusive and equitable learning spaces. This presentation includes an interactive check-in activity that will invite participants to practice storytelling and story-listening through appreciative inquiry.


Luis Ortega (he/him) is a multidisciplinary storyteller, empathy educator, facilitator, and the founder and director of Storytellers for Change. Over the last 14 years, Luis has worked with youth, educators, and organizations to co-design storytelling strategies, projects, and programs to foster empathy, inclusion, and equity across communities. His work and projects have been featured at the Harvard DACA Seminar, HBO’s “Where Do You Exist?” podcast, the Kauffman Foundation Disruptor Speaker Series, and the ArtPlace America Summit. Most recently, Luis was selected as a W. K. Kellogg Foundation’s Community Leadership Network Fellow and has curated the 100 Changemakers Project at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Discovery Center. 

Thursday, May 13: Keynote Refresher

Community Check-in: Story-Listening, Appreciation & Belonging

In this follow up session, Luis Ortega, founder and director of Storytellers for Change, will invite participants to re-engage and check-in with each other through an intentional storytelling and story-listening activity. In this brief virtual presentation, Luis will speak about the art of checking-in with each other and ways in which these practices can foster connection, belonging, and inclusive engagement.

Presenter: Luis Ortega, Founder & Director, Storytellers for Change

Thursday, May 13: Session 1 Concurrent Workshops

An Anti-Harassment Toolkit for the Post-COVID Social Resurgence in Schools

AUDIENCE FOCUS: High School, Adult, and General

The pandemic experience has isolated Vermonters of every age, and a return to public gathering — in school or cultural spaces — will likely occur with a surplus of social energy. The transition to normalcy will be through a danger zone in which grounded, respectful interaction will likely be a neglected skill. The tools for mitigating harassment— whether oriented toward gender, sexual orientation, or identity in any of its forms — will be explained simply and accessibly to educators and agencies. Fundamental skills, including identifying harassment, confronting it productively, sustaining the well-being of victims, and fostering empathy, are the topics of this presentation.

Presenters: James Lockridge, Executive Director, Big Heavy World; Shawna Potter, Co-Founder, Safer Space Program; Craig Mitchell, Community Outreach Coordinator, Big Heavy World

A Book Unlike Me: Challenging Our Learners to Read More Windows


In a fresh new take on one of our existing programs, A Book Unlike Me challenges our students to read books and stories that are different from their own lived experiences. This program asks our students to expand their comfort zones and encourages them to seek out books that tell stories from the perspectives of protagonists that do not look, sound, and/or act like them. In doing this, we are helping these young learners expand the confines of their imagination and break down invisible barriers of the literary world that surrounds them. Leaning into the work of Rudine Sims Bishop, we will define and explore the importance of having a library full of books that offer your students windows into others’ realities, mirrors that may reflect realities similar to their own, and doors to new realities entirely. We will also look at the #OwnVoices movement, led by Corinne Duyvis, which helps our readers find more authentic stories to read. As we encourage and expect our learners to read more books unlike them, they will be more likely to develop empathy and understanding for experiences and realities that are unlike their own. Aside from learning from the work of Bishop and Duyvis, participants will leave this presentation with a blueprint on how to implement this program as well as book suggestions that they might want to add to their own little lending libraries.

Presenter: MaeAnna Edwards, M.S.Ed., Director of Postsecondary Access and Success, Campus Compact for New Hampshire

Crafting Advocacy: How to Share Your Story 

AUDIENCE FOCUS: Middle/High School and Adult

This workshop is designed to help youth & young adults collect their thoughts & feelings on a subject they are passionate about and craft their advocacy story, or message, for making the change that they would like to see in the world. It is inherently about helping young people explore their feelings and face their struggles, and then turn those into a story of empathy and connection for bringing people together to make positive change. Empathy and understanding where others are coming from is at the heart of crafting your advocacy story; both in getting the audience to understand being in the speaker’s shoes, but also in the speaker crafting their message with attention to the interests of the audience. Effective advocacy is about finding shared thoughts and feelings between audience and speaker. This workshop is designed to support anyone in making their case for equity, inclusion, accessibility, etc. or any type of change they see needed in their world. It is about finding common ground with people, developing empathy for the need for change, and then making clear requests for the change they would like to see. This is relevant to diversity in all aspects of race, ethnicity, ability, gender, sexuality, class, intellectual capacity, appearance, etc.

Presenter: Matt Wolf, Youth Voice Coordinator, Vermont Afterschool Inc.

Grounding, Gratitude and Games: Building Success through Relationships

AUDIENCE FOCUS: Middle and High School

Through the structure of an advisory, we will share with participants the importance of self-regulation and understanding the mind-body connection in order to be successful in school, the community and workplace. We are seeing a much higher rate of acuity in our students’ mental health challenges, specifically anxiety. Filling their toolboxes with a variety of strategies that can be easily and quickly accessed multiple times throughout the day can support greater success. Making gratitude a regular part of your and your students’ week can contribute to increased successes, deeper relationships, and a shared vision. Finally, through quick and fun games/challenges, students can build self-confidence and increase the quality of peer/adult relationships. This workshop will provide tangible take-aways for participants to use in promoting self-regulation, anxiety management and improved relationships.

Presenters: Lisa Bilowith, Director, Jean Garvin School; Nicole Doner, Education Director, Jean Garvin School; Haley Short, Out of Group Clinician, Jean Garvin School

Keep Singing 


Music is a powerful outlet for our emotions and a welcome respite to our body and souls. Join this supportive, non-intimidating group environment to explore the musical instrument that lives inside of you - your voice! Learn to sing with the least amount of effort and strain and increase your awareness of how the whole body supports the voice to attain vocal flexibility and strength. Singers will also learn a simple melody or two with possible harmony parts. Due to sound delays, we can’t cohesively sing at the same time, but we can be encouraged by each other’s presence and smiling faces! Jody has been singing on Zoom during the pandemic and has learned ways to make the experience enjoyable and educational. Also, it’s important, now more than ever, to keep singing!

Presenter: Jody Albright, M.M., jazz and blues singer

MyFuture VT: Connecting Vermonters with Career and Education Resources

AUDIENCE FOCUS: Middle/High School, Adult, and General

MyFutureVT provides Vermonters with the necessary information to make informed and empowered decisions about their education and career pathways. This free online tool showcases entrance points to Vermont’s high-pay, high demand jobs, the education and training programs to access these jobs, and provides a comprehensive collection of resources to help support Vermonters along their career and education journey. This session will introduce participants to MyFutureVT and showcase how they can use it with students and job seekers.

Presenters: Tom Cheney, Executive Director, Advance Vermont; Alana Redden, Communications and Project Manager, Advance Vermont

Restorative Yoga


You are invited to take some time to replenish through mindful breathing, gentle restorative poses and deep relaxation. Show gratitude to your body, mind, and spirit for carrying you with strength and grace through the difficulties of the previous year. In this class, Geri Ann will hold space and lead you to temporarily drop the doing and focus on being. Allow yourself to experience deep relaxation and rebalancing in fully supported postures. View this PDF for a list of props.

Presenter: Geri Ann Higgins, Owner/Founder, Fully Present, LLC

Transformational Change: A Conversation Between Colleagues


During this open-discussion workshop, the presenter will share her story of change-making from the seat of a school counselor without the positional power of an administrator or director. Using her narrative as a starting point, participants will be invited to share their stories to explore the following ideas: courageous conversations with students and colleagues, effective strategies for professional learning about privilege and oppression, calling in and calling out, truth telling in social justice education, spending social capitol for change, navigating resistance, making high stakes mistakes, how the skills of a counselor position us to do this work well.

Presenter: Jamilah Vogel, School Counselor and District Equity Committee Chair, St. Albans City School

Using SoulCollage® as a Creative Approach for Creating Personal and Emotional Awareness

AUDIENCE FOCUS: High School, Adult, and General

SoulCollage® is a creative approach to bring about personal and emotional awareness in response to everyday challenges and needs. The methodology behind the SoulCollage® process is to create a deck of collaged cards that represents different aspects of our personality and influencers. These cards are divided into four groups that help in decision making, self-reflection, and promotes positive self-talk when searching for answers. The SoulCollage® process, created by Seena Frost, is a flexible, creative, and inclusive tool that builds a community of self-knowledge. The term SoulCollage® is trademarked to differentiate it from art therapy and other art processes. It is a reflective and creative tool, but it is not in itself a therapy. You do not need to be an artist or have any artistic talent or expertise to create these cards; all you need is an open mind. Materials needed: scissors, glue stick, 8x10 paper, magazines that you enjoy (try to avoid using text-heavy print media such as Time, People, Newsweek, etc.)

Presenters: Karen Anderson-Fignon, M.A.A.T., ATR-BC, LCAT, Founder, EPICS, LLC; Christine Mitchell, M.A.A.T., Middle School Arts Teacher, Northwestern Regional School District No. 7

Thursday, May 13: Session 2 Concurrent Workshops

Broadcasting from the Highest Mountain: Migrating Your Podcast to be Student-focused thereby Giving Students a Voice in How They Virtually Communicate

AUDIENCE FOCUS: Middle/High School, Adult, and General

The current pandemic has created migratory shifts in not only how we interact with students, but also how we interact and communicate with ALL our Career Development stakeholders. For examples of student-focused podcasts, visit Pinkerton Academy's "Top of the Tower". This session will also be repeated at NCDA’s National Conference in late June and will focus on two distinct competencies:

  1. How to create a workforce development, audio-only podcast.
  2. How to migrate that podcast to attract a student-focused audience while making it student-directed. 

Presenters: Doug Cullen, Manager of Career Services, Pinkerton Academy; Donna Smith, Video Technology Faculty, Pinkerton Academy; Julia Mitchell, Director of Communications, Pinkerton Academy; TBA - student(s) offering their testimonials

College & Career Planning Curriculum: Integrating Equitable Opportunities


How do we create equitable learning opportunities for all students that equip them with the tools, experiences, resources, and confidence to plan for life after high school?  Join us as we explore what 9th-12th graders need to understand, know, and do to make their future education and career plan a reality. Using VSAC’s College and Career Curriculum Map as our guide, attendees will engage in conversations and activities that help them think about ways to integrate college and career planning into their school’s practices and systems. They’ll be given concrete examples of how this is being done in some of VT’s schools, and learning activities they can try in their own schools. Participants will walk away with some ideas and tools for integrating college and career planning to ultimately make their school more equitable for all students.

Presenters: Tiffany Tillman, Aspirations Partnership Director, VSAC; Lauren Hood, Aspirations Partnership Coordinator, VSAC

Developing a Positive Sense of Self, Place and Purpose with Arts Integration and Real-World Contexts

AUDIENCE FOCUS: Elementary, Middle, and High School

The arts can support students in understanding their identity and the era in which they live while developing a positive sense of self, place, and purpose. The focus of this workshop will be on designing learning experiences that honor the diverse voices of students while applying their stories and worldview to real-world contexts. This presentation will support teachers from all academic disciplines in integrating elements of choice-based art challenges into any curriculum to teach transferrable skills and application of content. This approach to arts integration will allow students to engage in personally authentic and meaningful learning. The workshop will guide participants through discussions on asset-based and culturally sustaining approaches to instruction by integrating the arts. These concepts are embedded throughout the processes and opportunities that this interdisciplinary approach requires. Students can, therefore, engage in the open-ended, arts-based challenge through their cultural lens. This approach can also use the arts as a tool to support holistic integration of social emotional learning (SEL). SEL competencies align directly with skills used throughout the conceptualization, production, and reflection phases of the creative process. These competencies are especially important to address as we enter new formats of learning following long-term social distancing. Strategies for embedding social awareness, agency, wellness, and social emotional learning via arts integration will be shared throughout this workshop.

Presenters: Kyle Anderson, Arts Specialist, Vermont Agency of Education; Emily Leute, English Language Arts Specialist, Vermont Agency of Education

Empowering Our Adolescents: Through Understanding the Science Behind Them 

AUDIENCE FOCUS: Middle/High School and Adult

This workshop is designed to show the development and needs of the adolescent brain and body so attendees leave with an understanding, appreciation, and (hopefully) deeper acceptance of adolescents and how to capitalize on the skills and talents they have. Similarly, it also explores the impacts of trauma on development and behavior with the intent of building understanding, empathy, and the skills to move forward with folks who have experienced trauma, instead of judgement or frustration. We will focus on building connection through understanding, reconciling trauma through empowerment, and inspiring adolescents to celebrate and lead with their strengths and talents. This workshop will change the way you think of adolescents and approach your work with them. Explore a combination of trauma informed care, knowledge of adolescent brain development, motivational tools, and empowerment practices that, when used together, can fuel the inspiration within our youth and young adults. You will leave with a new powerful set of tools and resources to shift stagnant thought patterns into positive motion and leadership growth.

Presenter: Matt Wolf, Youth Voice Coordinator, Vermont Afterschool Inc.

Simple Stress Reduction Practices


In this workshop, Geri Ann will share a variety of breathing techniques, body holds, and mindful movements to help you feel less stressed more often. The hour will include a blended approach of easy-to-use tools from the world of meditation, yoga, and qigong. There will be seated and standing portions; no equipment is needed except the use of a chair to sit in or a bolster to sit upon. A take-away PDF will be shared after the class with interested attendees.

Presenter: Geri Ann Higgins, Owner/Founder, Fully Present, LLC

Supporting Youth in Effective Career Development

AUDIENCE FOCUS: Middle and High School

How can you help youth figure out what they want to do, without telling them what to do? This workshop will cover what middle and high school students need from adults as they make key life decisions. We will emphasize the importance of listening to youth, keeping an open mind, being conscious of language, using positive messaging, and applying an inclusive approach. In addition, we will invite all attendees to access our free youth career development tools, lesson plans, and classroom activities – which are designed for all students. Participants will learn how to help youth:

  • discover their career interests and learn about clusters of over 900 occupations
  • identify, build, and showcase essential skills
  • navigate their own career paths by matching interests with promising careers, exploring options, and tracking their progress

Presenters: Kathi Terami, Executive Director, Careers CLiC; Lorin Durand, Program Manager, Careers CLiC

The Value and Importance of Personal Relationships


In this presentation, we will reflect on the value and importance of personal relationships as they pertain to our work with students, colleagues, and communities. Do you feel that teaching and supervising is a formal and prescribed process, basically, “I cannot be your buddy”? I was taught not to make friends with my students, or at this point in my life, people I supervise. The type of personal relationship we are talking about in this presentation is not of that nature. What we are speaking of is the act of taking the time to connect with the people around you. Bringing your kindness and heart to the room along with all your other strengths. Taking the time to listen, hear, and reflect with the intention of building a positive relationship, not just to get your work done. The current pandemic has been a challenging time and the importance of personal, kind relationships to maintain wellness has been magnified. Our hope is that this presentation will gently remind attendees of the difference they make in the lives of others that they work with. A difference, that with some simple, mindful attention, can be a positive building block in the lives of others. We hope that this presentation is a gentle reminder of all the wonderful tools you already have, and an inspiration for meaningful additions.

Presenters: Amy Dodge, Lead Outreach Counselor, VSAC GEAR UP; Sara Vargo, Outreach Counselor, VSAC GEAR UP

Weaving Inclusive Language into Everyday Life


Language holds power and, as we go through our everyday lives, we don’t always stop to think about the words we use. This workshop will help participants think about words and phrases used in everyday life that could be more inclusive. In this session, participants will think about language they take for granted, using gender as an example, leave with tools to expand vocabulary to be more inclusive of all identities, and gain introductory skills on how to address mistakes and encourage inclusive language with others.

Presenter: Soren Dews, Talent Search Counselor, VSAC Outreach

Zentangle/Meditative Doodling as a Mindfulness Practice


This workshop will introduce participants to the Zentangle® method of drawing. Participants will create one (possibly two) Zentangle tiles and, throughout the process, will receive information about the history and benefits of the practice. Particular attention will be paid to the benefits of Zentangle as a mindfulness practice that supports the development of non-judgmental awareness, emotional regulation and well-being, fostering a calm state, and supporting the creativity of participants. The instructor will model how to infuse the practice with moments of body and breath awareness. Throughout the session, anecdotal experience is shared as well as opportunities to build the capacity to self-monitor in a safe environment. Materials needed: a pencil, a black fine felt-tip pen, a piece of white paper at least 3x5 inches (preferably something thicker and smooth like cardstock or an index card), and a smudging tool (a Q-tip or finger)

Presenter: Paula Palermo, M.Ed., CZT, Fourth Grade Teacher, Founders Memorial School

Workshop descriptions are not available on the Eventbrite registration form, so please review them here and choose your workshops before registering.

Questions: Email

As our gift to you, there will be no registration fee to attend this year's conference.

Resources will be added after the conference as materials become available from the presenters.