Members of Western New York’s early childhood community gathered together to discuss mental health and resilience in young children during a full-day summit on Oct. 22, 2022, hosted by Niagara University’s Levesque Institute for Civic Engagement.

Nearly 150 participants, including school and Head Start administrators and teachers, social workers and counselors, and individuals from community organizations serving young children and families, heard from industry experts and participated in breakout sessions that were focused on best practices for supporting children and their families, as well as the importance of maintaining their own self-health as they addressed the needs of the children they serve.

“Mental health impacts the overall development and well-being of children, so it is important that we address their emotional, psychological, and social needs in order for them to thrive, especially during the critical window of early childhood,” said Dr. Karen Kwandrans, associate vice president for Strategic & External Relations at Niagara University.

Dr. Tamar Jacobson, an early childhood development and education consultant, was the featured speaker at the summit. She is the former director of the University at Buffalo Child Care Center and currently serves on the consulting editors panel for the National Association for the Education of Young Children. She is the recipient of the 2003 Director of the Year Award from the National Coalition of Campus Children’s Centers, the 2013 National Association for Early Childhood Teacher Educators Outstanding Early Childhood Teacher Educator Award, and is a former fellow in the Child Trauma Academy. Dr. Jacobson is author of “Confronting Our Discomfort: Clearing the Way for Anti-Bias,” “Don’t Get So Upset! Help Young Children Manage Their Feelings by Understanding Your Own,” and “Everyone Needs Attention: Helping Young Children Thrive.”

Other presenters included Anthony Toombs Sr., a trauma counselor and senior playmaker guide for The Life is Good Playmakers, a nonprofit organization that spreads the power of optimism to help kids heal; and Charles Clark, a motivational speaker, author, expert in mindset and mental health, and founder of the What Matters Foundation, an organization that has impacted more than 30,000 student-athletes through scholarships and events.

The summit was funded by the Peter and Elizabeth Tower Foundation.

Niagara University’s Levesque Institute serves as a convener for models of collective impact to address the critical needs of Niagara Falls and the greater community with community partners. The institute’s four pillars include revitalization, community outreach, health and wellness, and early childhood.



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