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Summit focuses on students experiencing trauma

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State schools Superintendent Joy Hofmeister speaks during the "It Starts Here" summit hosted by The Oklahoma State Department of Education at the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City on Tuesday. The summit hosted featured experts in childhood trauma and healing. [Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman]

State schools Superintendent Joy Hofmeister speaks during the "It Starts Here" summit hosted by The Oklahoma State Department of Education at the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City on Tuesday. The summit hosted featured experts in childhood trauma and healing. [Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman]

When Casey Gwinn met 11-year-old Alex at a camp for children who have experienced trauma, the young boy was filled with rage.

Alex, who was exposed to violence and abuse from a young age, charged at another camper who made a remark that triggered him. Gwinn restrained him, holding him for close to an hour until he had calmed. The whole time, as Alex was threatening Gwinn and enraged at him, Gwinn responded with words that were loving and nonjudgmental.

Gwinn, who is president and co-founder of the Alliance for HOPE International, shared Alex's story with a group of Oklahoma educators Tuesday to demonstrate the importance of understanding how trauma can impact children and how hope can help mitigate the effects and give students a path to a brighter future.

Hope, he said, is the mindset that drives resilient behavior. It is what helps people to move forward in life and set goals and pursue them.

Alex continued coming to the camp and receiving mentoring. Eventually he became a camp counselor, and now he's helping other children who have been impacted by trauma and going to college where he belongs, Gwinn said.

"That's the journey, but you've got to magnify that unfortunately not times 10 kids, but times hundreds of thousands of kids that are in that category, which requires a complete rebuild of the educational system to turn it into trauma-informed education," Gwinn said. "There's lots of kids that teachers are giving hope to, but the toughest kids are hard for teachers to get to if they don't know what to do with them or how to deal with them."

More than 800 administrators, educators, counselors and others, primarily from high-need and high-enrollment school districts, attended an Oklahoma Department of Education summit on Tuesday that focused on childhood trauma and healing.

The summit was designed to help educators gain a better understanding of childhood trauma and develop tools they can use in their schools and communities to mitigate the impact of childhood trauma. Some common forms of childhood trauma are abuse, domestic violence, neglect and poverty.

State schools Superintendent Joy Hofmeister said children in Oklahoma suffer more adverse childhood experiences than almost anywhere else in the country.

One of the greatest predictors of adult quality of life is childhood quality of life, Hofmeister said. She said research has shown that every student who survives trauma and emerges as a successful adult can point to one common variable — a caring adult who believed in them.

Educators once dealt with misbehavior from an authoritarian perspective, but the punishment seldom reduced the problematic behavior, she said.

When people are misbehaving in apparently self-destructive ways, it's time to stop asking what's wrong with them and to start asking what happened to them, Hofmeister said.

"This approach can be transformative," she said. "It provides a classroom foundation of connection, trust, safety."

Related Photos
<p>Keynote speaker and Alliance for HOPE International president Casey Gwinn speaks during the "It Starts Here" summit hosted by The Oklahoma State Department of Education at the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City on Tuesday. The summit hosted featured experts in childhood trauma and healing. [Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman]</p>

Keynote speaker and Alliance for HOPE International president Casey Gwinn speaks during the "It Starts Here" summit hosted by The Oklahoma State Department of Education at the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City on Tuesday. The summit hosted featured experts in childhood trauma and healing....

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-bd7ad3063bdd055c6f3ec966105d5dae.jpg" alt="Photo - Keynote speaker and Alliance for HOPE International president Casey Gwinn speaks during the "It Starts Here" summit hosted by The Oklahoma State Department of Education at the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City on Tuesday. The summit hosted featured experts in childhood trauma and healing. [Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman] " title=" Keynote speaker and Alliance for HOPE International president Casey Gwinn speaks during the "It Starts Here" summit hosted by The Oklahoma State Department of Education at the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City on Tuesday. The summit hosted featured experts in childhood trauma and healing. [Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> Keynote speaker and Alliance for HOPE International president Casey Gwinn speaks during the "It Starts Here" summit hosted by The Oklahoma State Department of Education at the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City on Tuesday. The summit hosted featured experts in childhood trauma and healing. [Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-d3f171a4bd999bb664529b6a55008bea.jpg" alt="Photo - State schools Superintendent Joy Hofmeister speaks during the "It Starts Here" summit hosted by The Oklahoma State Department of Education at the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City on Tuesday. The summit hosted featured experts in childhood trauma and healing. [Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman] " title=" State schools Superintendent Joy Hofmeister speaks during the "It Starts Here" summit hosted by The Oklahoma State Department of Education at the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City on Tuesday. The summit hosted featured experts in childhood trauma and healing. [Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> State schools Superintendent Joy Hofmeister speaks during the "It Starts Here" summit hosted by The Oklahoma State Department of Education at the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City on Tuesday. The summit hosted featured experts in childhood trauma and healing. [Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-a356060338a6377b343822afd7c76089.jpg" alt="Photo - State schools Superintendent Joy Hofmeister speaks during the "It Starts Here" summit hosted by The Oklahoma State Department of Education at the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City on Tuesday. The summit hosted featured experts in childhood trauma and healing. [Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman] " title=" State schools Superintendent Joy Hofmeister speaks during the "It Starts Here" summit hosted by The Oklahoma State Department of Education at the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City on Tuesday. The summit hosted featured experts in childhood trauma and healing. [Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> State schools Superintendent Joy Hofmeister speaks during the "It Starts Here" summit hosted by The Oklahoma State Department of Education at the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City on Tuesday. The summit hosted featured experts in childhood trauma and healing. [Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure>
Darla Slipke

Darla Slipke is an enterprise reporter for The Oklahoman. She is a native of Bristol, Conn., and a graduate of the University of Kansas. Slipke worked for newspapers in Kansas, Connecticut,... Read more ›

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