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A First-Time Attendee at the 2016 ASCA Annual Meeting

We came. We saw. We handed out 700 brain-shaped stress balls…and made lots of new friends. recently attended the 2016 American School Counselor Association’s (ASCA) Annual Meeting from July 9-12, 2016, in New Orleans to spread the word about exciting new content we’re developing for our Ask, Listen, Learn program. This program is designed to help teachers and parents start conversations with their 9 to 12 year-old kids, and inspire them to say “YES” to a healthy lifestyle and “NO” to underage drinking. School counselors are a critical part of these conversations – they play a key role in the academic and emotional development of their students, and they provide a crucial link between parents and teachers.

Thanks to the efforts of Educational Advisory Board member Erin O’Malley, we held a discussion group on the morning of Monday, July 11 with seventeen school counselors from around the country. The topic of discussion was a series of animated videos and lesson plans we’re creating for Ask, Listen, Learn that explain how alcohol affects a developing pre-teen brain. The group provided invaluable feedback to help us refine content to better serve the school counselor community.

We also connected directly with attendees at the exhibit hall booth. In just two and a half days, we met hundreds of school counselors, heard what challenges they were facing, and guided them toward resources that would provide solutions. We also had plenty of Ask, Listen, Learn brain stress balls (700 to be exact) to help them replenish their office supplies.

Focus group for Ask, Listen, Learn programs.

When we had time to get away from the booth, we also attended several education sessions. Hot topics included mindfulness, the value of social-emotional learning, and positive psychology. While most sessions were intended as professional development workshops for counselors, we too were able to gain some great information that will be key in the continued development of our educational programs.

As a first-time ASCA attendee, I felt immediately welcomed in the community. My fellow attendees were extremely inviting and had indispensable advice to offer. Though I’m not a counselor, I’m a proud ASCA member. I felt invigorated and ready to get back to work when the conference was over. I’m already looking forward to July 8-11, 2017 when ASCA is in Denver, CO!

In the meantime, keep an eye on for new content in fall 2016. We’ll have the new animated video series that I referenced earlier, along with lesson plans and supplemental content to help implement Ask, Listen, Learn in your school.

Brian Kirkland joined the team in April 2016, and is responsible for’s educational programs. He spent the previous ten years working with the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) and the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) designing content for annual conferences, Laser Tag symposia (he’s not making that one up), and everything else in between.

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