ncsss logo

Student Mental Wellness Summit 2021

Tackling student mental wellness together 1


March 25-26, 2021

The Student Mental Wellness Summit 2021 will be hosted virtually. 

Register Now


Thursday, March 25


10:00 a.m. Introduction and Welcome to the Summit  Todd Mann
10:15 a.m.

Keynote Address: The Science and Psychology of the Adolescent Brain

Dr. Steinberg will talk about what is really going on developmentally with the brains of high school students.

Dr. Laurence Steinberg of Temple University
11:00 a.m.

Continuing Developmental Psychology

Dr. Subotnik will present differences between STEM and non-STEM students under pressure.


Dr. Rena Subotnik, Associate ED, Education Directorate Director, Center for Psychology in Schools and Education; American Psychological Association
11:45 a.m.  Break  
12:00 p.m. 

Intervention Strategies

Learn the best practices and have resources to take back and implement in schools and classrooms that include professional development modules and strategies that cover topics including empathy, trauma, bullying, and building relationships with students.

Sanford National University speakers Ms. Jakotora Tjoutuku and Mr. Richie Ressel present the Inspire Program and Harmony Program 
12:45 p.m.  Lunch Speaker

Teaching Interrupted: Leveraging SEL to Support School Community Wellness Now and After the Pandemic
Dr. Christina Cipriano, Assistant Professor at the Yale University Child Study Center and the Director of Research at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence
2:00 p.m.  Panel Discussion

Secondary STEM school leaders presenting current perceptions, challenges, early intervention actions in place, and expressed needs.

 Dr. Ann Bonitatibus, Principal of Thomas Jefferson HS

Dr. Germain McConnell, Executive Director of Mississippi School for Math and Science

Dr. Kristi Pope Key, Director of Academic Services for the Louisiana School for Math, Science, and the Arts

Mr. Sean Dolcy, Assistant Principal of High School for Math, Science and Engineering

2:45 p.m. 

Student Panel: Students from NCSSS member schools to present on successes and barriers in schools 


3:45 p.m. Break  
4:00 p.m.

Breakout Sessions

Sharing of Best Intervention Practices – groups form in the same way as Breakout 1 to discuss what they have in place and what they see are areas of improvement for interventions and preventive measures in the realm of mental wellness.

4:45 p.m.


Summarize the day’s events and introduce next day topics




Friday, March 26


10:00 a.m. Welcome to Day 2 Todd Mann
10:10 a.m. STEM Mental Wellness Research 

NCSSS and IMSA conducted a survey to gather information regarding how NCSSS member schools handle carious aspects of student mental wellness and mental illness as well as the resources and programming available to address concerns in these areas.

Download The 2020 NCSSS Student Mental Health Survey: A Synopsis

Dr. Hannah Anderson and Dr. Amber Pareja of IMSA debut new research
11:00 a.m. Panel 2: It Takes a Village: Community unification is needed to solve this epidemic across our schools

Dr. Kathleen Minke (ED of the National Association of School Psychologists)

Dr. Ashley Finley (Senior Advisor to the President of the Association of American Colleges and Universities)

Donna Mazyck, MS, RN, NCSN, CAE, FNASN (Executive Director, National Association of School Nurses)

12:00 p.m. Breakout: Strategies for Building the Pledge – cross-sections from the first two breakout groups come together to brainstorm short-term and long-term strategies for building the Pledge.

What are the areas we need to put on the pledge? Strategies that all can sign up for, for early identification and intervention as well as long-term execution.

12:45 p.m. Wrap-up: Executive Summary of pledge ideas written during the Summit, announcement of next steps and follow-up materials to be send to attendees.  







Hannah R. Anderson

Hannah R. Anderson is the Institutional Research Associate at the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy, a residential high school for academically talented students. She received her doctorate in Evaluation and Measurement (2020) from Kent State University, where she also served as a graduate research assistant. A former instructor of mathematics, Dr. Anderson earned her B.A. in Mathematics with Teacher Certification (2011) and her M.A. in Mathematics (2012) from Eastern Illinois University. Her research interests include educational assessment, teacher preparation, and STEM education with technical areas of interest in factor analysis and item response theory. From her role as a graduate research assistant to her current position as a research associate, Dr. Anderson has contributed to research publications and presentations across a variety of topics.


Dr. Ann N. Bonitatibus

Dr. Ann N. Bonitatibus currently serves as principal of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (TJHSST) in Alexandria, VA. As a STEM leader, Ann promotes robust, integrated and vibrant curriculum designs. Since entering TJHSST in 2017, Ann has focused on students’ mental health and wellness with natural extensions related to student workload and academic expectations. She emphasizes to her community how students are more than a GPA and that her faculty and staff serve as a GPS, a guide that helps students reach their destination regardless of the path they choose.

Prior to leading TJHSST, Ann served as superintendent for the Conejo Valley Unified School District (CVUSD) in California. This assignment followed several years in school-based administrator roles in Frederick County, Maryland, along with central office positions including director of high schools, associate superintendent of secondary schools, and Chief Operating Officer. Nearly every department under her leadership earned state or national recognition.

After graduating from the Indiana University of Pennsylvania with a Bachelor of Science in communications education, Ann was an English and Mathematics high school teacher. During this time, she also earned a Master of Science in administration and supervision from McDaniel College. In 2013, she earned a Doctor of Education in organizational leadership from the University of Pennsylvania. Along with her professional experience, Ann has served on multiple local and regional boards, holds a number of professional affiliations and industry certifications, and has been recognized for her innovations in numerous education publications. With more than 30 years of experience in the public school sector, Ann has established herself as a dedicated and reflective professional noted for her commitment as a responsive and inclusive public leader.

In her free time, Ann enjoys concerts, travelling, hiking, playing clarinet and spending time with her sisters. Born and raised in western Pennsylvania, she is also an avid fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

 Cipriano 1

Christina Cipriano, Ph.D.

Christina Cipriano, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor at the Yale Child Study Center and Director of Research at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence (YCEI). Dr. Cipriano’s research focuses on the systematic examination of social and emotional learning (SEL) to promote pathways to optimal developmental outcomes for traditionally marginalized student and teacher populations. Chris received her Ph.D. in Applied Developmental and Educational Psychology from Boston College and her Ed.M. from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Chris is a Jack Kent Cooke Scholar and the mother of four beautiful children who inspire her each day to take the moon and make it shine for everyone. Follow her @drchriscip


Sean Dolcy

Sean Dolcy has worked in the field of education for the last 16 years. Throughout his professional career, he has served as a math teacher, tutor, data specialist, assistant principal, member of the nationally recognized STEM board NCSSS, content writer for assessments and curriculum and volunteered with GED programs in New York City. His experiences range from team management, emotional and academic counseling, directing programs and experiencing knowledge first hand as a student in two masters programs and professional developments in and outside of the city of New York

He currently oversees building operations and focuses on STEM instruction and Student Wellness at a top performing high school - The High School for Math Science and Engineering at City College. His vision is seeing that all students have access to great education and successful planning for their future. Sean has spent his entire educational career working in schools of underserved populations or with programs focusing on achievement for underrepresented students. In his current position this often involves seeking untapped talent of rising young adults. He believes STEM education and awareness can open opportunities for students of all backgrounds and is more important in this age of advancing technology than ever. Emotional awareness in a rapidly evolving world fueled daily with social media is an area of concern that Sean often addresses in best educator practices when working with gifted teenagers. As such he has worked on coordinating a partnership with mental health services for student stress and anxiety located within the school building and works with his wellness team to consistently revisit student needs and address the challenging obstacles they face.

He has coordinated and supervised engineering, science, math, and computer-based programs that expand students’ learning environments. Recently his work centers on organizational reframing to meet remote capacity objectives and spearheading directing transitions to Virtual Learning Environments. He strongly believes that leading is done best through practice. While overseeing the direction of the building operations and its teachers, he also teaches AP Caclulus and Film.

As an educational administrator, Sean Dolcy’s primary objectives seek to expand curriculum and meet the unforeseen demands of tomorrow. He believes this is done through STEM, Wellness and acknowledging the importance of self-care.


Dr. Ashley Finley

Dr. Ashley Finley is the Senior Advisor to the President and Vice President of Strategic Planning and Partnerships for the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U). She was previously the senior director of assessment and research at AAC&U and also national evaluator for the Bringing Theory to Practice Project. Most recently she served as the associate vice president for academic affairs & dean of the Dominican Experience at Dominican University of California, where she implemented a comprehensive framework for student learning and success centered around high-impact practices, including holistic advising and ePortfolios.

Dr. Finley’s research and campus consultations focus on connecting best practices for program implementation, assessment design, and equity with institutional outcomes for student success and strategic planning. A significant component of this work at the campus and national levels has focused on the connection of students’ personal development (such as resilience, belonging, identity, and sense of purpose) with their learning and civic engagement. She has published a number of articles, book chapters, and monographs, including Assessing Underserved Students’ Engagement in High-impact Practices (with co-author Tia McNair), Civic Learning and Teaching; Assessing Underserved Students’ Engagement in High-Impact Practices; and “Well-Being: An Essential Outcome for Higher Education.”

Prior to beginning her national work, Dr. Finley was a faculty member in the department of sociology at Dickinson College. She received a BA from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and an MA and PhD, both in sociology, from the University of Iowa.

Areas of Expertise:
Advocacy for liberal education, Strategic planning for implementation of high-impact practices and outcomes assessment, Community engagement, Student well-being and intrapersonal development

 Speaker Headshots 1

Jason Flowers

Jason Flowers is in his seventeenth year as an AP US History teacher at The Liberal Arts and Science Academy in Austin, Texas. He has served as the coach for the LASA Quiz Bowl and History Bowl teams for the last thirteen years, leading those teams to four quiz bowl national championships and two National History Bowl championships since 2013. Jason is also the team leader and head coach for Team USA for the International Geography Olympiad and serves on the International Board of the iGeo competition. He holds a B.A. in History from Louisiana State University, and a M.Ed. in Secondary Social Studies Education from the University of North Texas.

As a humanities teacher at a STEM high school, Jason is interested in finding new ways of integrating technology, research methods and project-based learning principles into the social studies classroom, and in furthering cooperation and partnerships between traditional STEM disciplines and the humanities. In addition to teaching and coaching academic competitions, Jason enjoys travel and cooking dishes from his native South Louisiana. He lives in Austin with his partner Meagan and their cats Moxie and Muffin.

 Speaker Donna Mazyck

Donna Mazyck, MS, RN, NCSN, CAE, FNASN

Since 2011, Donna Mazyck has been executive director of the National Association of School Nurses (NASN). While in undergraduate school, Ms. Mazyck determined a nursing degree would be foundational in her plan to return to her community to help individuals and groups become healthier in a variety of ways. She has been a nurse in community settings for most of her career. She worked as a school nurse in high school and alternative school settings. For 13 years at the Maryland State Department of Education, Ms. Mazyck provided consultation and leadership to local school health services and school-based health center programs. In that role, she worked with stakeholders in the development of school health policies and regulations. Ms. Mazyck also led and participated in interprofessional reviews of student services teams and provided technical assistance to Maryland school districts and schools. She holds current certifications in school nursing, counseling, and as an association executive. Donna prioritizes leading staff and collaborating with organizations to optimize student health, safety, and learning.


Dr. Germain McConnell

Dr. Germain McConnell currently serves as Executive Director for the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science (MSMS) where he has served for over 9 years, the first 2 years as Director for Academic Affairs. In addition to strengthening the curriculum for MSMS, Dr. McConnell has focused on promoting STEM education throughout Mississippi. Under his leadership, MSMS has consistently been identified as one of the top public high schools in the nation, ranking as high as #6 in 2019 and 2020, according to Niche. In addition, the Niche has ranked MSMS faculty #1 in the nation for four consecutive years. MSMS is a proud member of the National Consortium for Secondary STEM Schools (NCSSS), and Dr. McConnell currently serves as President.

Dr. McConnell began his career as a Secondary Mathematics teacher at Rosa Fort High School in Tunica County, MS, which had been taken over by the state prior to his arrival. After two years at Rosa Fort High School, Dr. McConnell worked in higher education, spending 11 years at the University of Mississippi in the School of Education. He served at different times as Assistant Dean, Assistant Professor, Director of Field Experiences, Director of Undergraduate Advising, and Co-Director of the Mississippi Teacher Corps program. Dr. McConnell spent a significant amount of time in recruitment and preparation of teachers at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

Dr. McConnell was born and raised in Meridian, MS. He holds a B.S. in Electrical Engineering, M.A. in Curriculum and Instruction, and a Ph.D. in K-12 Educational Leadership, all from the University of Mississippi.

Dr. McConnell has been deeply involved in his community, serving as a member of Rotary-Columbus and on the Advisory Boards of Cadence Bank, the MUW Life Enrichment Program, Lowndes Young leaders, and the Chamber of Commerce Education Committee. He has also served on the Board of Directors for the Columbus-Lowndes Chamber of Commerce and currently is the President of the Board of Directors for Golden Triangle Tennis. Dr. McConnell has a deep passion for helping develop current and future leaders and is involved with leadership activities for Lowndes Young Leaders.


Kathleen Minke, PhD, NCSP

Kathleen Minke, PhD, NCSP is Executive Director of the National Association of School Psychologists. She holds degrees in school psychology from James Madison University (MEd, 1982; EdS, 1984) and Indiana University, (PhD, 1991). She is a licensed psychologist in Maryland and has experience as a school psychology practitioner in Indiana and Virginia. From1991 through 2018, she was a professor in the school psychology program at the University of Delaware. She has published multiple articles and chapters on family-school collaboration, parent-teacher relationships, and professional issues in school psychology.

 Speaker Pareja

Amber Pareja

Amber Stitziel Pareja joined the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy (IMSA) as the Executive Director of the Office of Institutional Research (OIR) in September of 2016. Dr. Pareja earned her B.A. in sociology from Wesleyan University and her M.A. and Ph.D. in human development and social policy from Northwestern University. Prior to joining IMSA, Dr. Pareja was a Senior Research Analyst at the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research and previously was a bilingual (Spanish-English) third grade teacher in Compton, California as part of Teach for America. Her research interests include STEM and gifted education, data-informed decision-making in educational organizations, school leadership, and principal preparation.

 Speaker Luke Perry

Luke Perry

Selected Leadership Achievements:

Lead a world-class, advanced and accelerated, competitive STEM high school program for students from 16 school districts across 3 counties with a 100% graduation rate, 100% college acceptance rate, and more than $5,000,000 in scholarships and grants awarded to students annually.

Interim oversight of Cereal City Science – an NGSS certified K-8 science curriculum business.

Increased participating school districts within the BCAMSC organization.

Increased student access and enrollment through concentrated equitable practices both in recruitment, assessment, and retention.

Increased student internship opportunities to develop a STEM pipeline of local talent returning to local businesses

Chaired the middle school mergers focusing on teacher redistribution, increased student enrollment, balance of services and programming, and resource management planning.

Implemented initial STEM middle school model for Northwestern STEM Middle School.

Led districtwide initiatives regarding literacy, data analysis and conferencing, and instructional coaching.

 Kristi 1

Dr. Kristi Pope Key

Dr. Kristi Pope Key is the Director of Academic Services at The Louisiana School for Math, Science, and the Arts, Louisiana's publicly chartered, residential high school for gifted and high-achieving high school students. Before joining the leadership team at LSMSA, she served as a Division Chair of Humanities and taught English courses at Newberry College in South Carolina while maintaining a research agenda in the areas of Southern Literature, Women's Writing, and Popular Culture. As LSMSA's chief academic officer, Dr. Key is responsible for faculty development, curriculum concerns, and academic policies. She has been a member of the NCSSS Board of Directors since 2016 and is currently serving as secretary on the Board's Executive Committee.

 Speaker Ressel

Richie Ressel

Richie Ressel, Director, Office of Teaching and Learning has a background in K-12 education as a classroom teacher, language development specialist, and central office administrator for the Glendale School District in Arizona. Richie also co-founded the nonprofit HEROES For Students, which provides guest speakers to students both for the in-school and out-of-school settings. The program focused on workforce development skills including leadership, innovation, perseverance, and teamwork. After working with Harmony and Inspire in Arizona both as a client and later as a trainer, Richie joined the leadership team at National University System where he now serves as the Director of the Office of Teaching & Learning.


Laurence Steinberg, Ph.D.

Laurence Steinberg, Ph.D., the Distinguished University Professor and Laura H. Carnell Professor of Psychology at Temple University, is one of the world’s leading experts on adolescence. His research has focused on a range of topics, including adolescent brain and psychological development, risk-taking and decision-making, family and peer relationships, juvenile justice, and school achievement. He is former President of the Division of Developmental Psychology of the American Psychological Association and of the Society for Research on Adolescence. Dr. Steinberg was a member of the National Academies’ Board on Children, Youth, and Families, and chaired the Academies’ Committee on the Science of Adolescence. He is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association, the Association for Psychological Science, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Dr. Steinberg is the author or co-author of more than 450 articles and essays on development during the teenage years, and the author, co-author, or editor of 17 books, including Age of Opportunity: Lessons From the New Science of Adolescence, You and Your Adolescent, The 10 Basic Principles of Good Parenting, and Adolescence, the leading college textbook on the subject. He has also written for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post, and is a frequent guest on NPR.


Rena F. Subotnik PhD

Rena F. Subotnik PhD is Director of the Center for Psychology in Schools and Education at the American Psychological Association. The Center promotes high quality application of psychology to programs and policies for schools and education. One of the Center’s missions is to generate public awareness, advocacy, clinical applications, and cutting-edge research ideas that enhance the achievement and performance of children and adolescents with gifts and talents in all domains. She has been supported in this work by the National Science Foundation, the American Psychological Foundation, and the Association for Psychological Science, the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation, and the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation. Before she came to the American Psychological Association, Dr. Subotnik was a Professor of Educational Psychology at Hunter College in New York City, and Research Coordinator for the Hunter College Campus Schools (K-12 laboratory school for 1600 gifted children).

She is co-author (with Paula Olszewski-Kubilius and Frank Worrell) of The Talent Gap: The U.S. is Neglecting its Most Promising Science Students (Scientific American), Nurturing the Young Genius: Renewing our Commitment to Gifted Education is Key to a More Innovative, Productive and Culturally Rich Society (Scientific American), A Developmental View of Mentoring Talented Students in Academic and Nonacademic Domains (in Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences), Rethinking Giftedness and Gifted Education: A Proposed Direction Forward Based on Psychological Science (in Psychological Science in the Public Interest), Gifted Students (Annual Review of Psychology), and co-editor with Paula Olszewski, Kubilius and Frank Worrell) The Psychology of High Performance: Developing Human Potential Into Domain-Specific Talent, and Talent Development as a Framework for Gifted Education, (with Bruce Thompson) Methodologies for Conducting Research on Giftedness, (with Frances Horowitz and Dona Matthews) Developing Giftedness and Talent Across the Life Span all published by the American Psychological Association.

 Speaker Harmony

Jakotora Tjoutuku

Jakotora Tjoutuku serves as an Implementation Specialist for the Sanford Harmony Social Emotional Learning Program. She is based in Brooklyn, NY and is responsible for the training and implementation of the program in schools, and out of school time organizations in the Northeast. Jako's educational experience includes being an educational consultant for various educational companies, and over 10 years of classroom teaching at the elementary level for the New York City Department of Education.

Home  |  About  |  Membership |  Publications  |  Events  |  Resources  |  Jobs 
Sponsors  |  Partners   |  Contact
Latest News   |    Policy   |   Site Map

Copyright © 2020 NCSSS  All Rights Reserved