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Hours: Mon-Fri: 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.
After hours by appointment only

Speakers

Learn more about all of the speakers presenting at the 2023 Speaking of Children Luncheon & Conference.

Keynote Luncheon Speaker

Gaelin Elmore

Former pro-football player, Gaelin Elmore, endured a childhood of trauma, abuse, neglect, and homelessness. Today, Gaelin works with people who want to help children overcome trauma and unleash their potential. He believes the key to unleashing potential is found in a desire we all have; the desire to belong. Read more…

Plenary Speakers

Patrick C. Friman, Ph.D.

Dr. Friman is the current Vice President of Behavioral Health at Boys Town and a Clinical Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Nebraska School of Medicine. Read more…

 

 

Susan Kennedy

Susan leads the Outreach, Training, and Prevention Teams at the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. Read more…

 

 

Tanisha Lewis

Tanisha spent over 10 years working with at risk family and youth. She believes in the power of relationships helping to heal the soul. Read more…

 

Breakout Session Speakers

Lieutenant Tara Ackerson

Lt Ackerson is a 15-year veteran of the Omaha Police Department and currently oversees the Child Abuse, Child Sexual Assault, Missing Persons, and Sex Trafficking Units. Read more…

 

 

Sandy Andres, LIMHP

Sandy Andres, MS, LIMHP is a licensed independent mental health therapist for Perceptions and has been in the field for 11 years. Read more…

 

 

Tina Bigdeli

Tina Bigdeli is the Outreach Program Manager for the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC). Read more…

 

 

Investigator Anna Brewer

Anna Brewer is a retired FBI Special Agent who established and managed three FBI child exploitation task forces in both Nevada and Nebraska. Read more…

 

 

Dr. Scott Butler

Scott Butler, Ed.D., LMHP, is currently the Director of the Project Harmony Training Institute and formerly spent thirty-three years in K-12 education. Read more…

 

 

Dr. Abby L. Carbaugh

Dr. Carbaugh is the Data Administrator for Douglas County’s Juvenile Justice Initiative. Read more…

 

 

Javier Castellote, MA

Javier Castellote is the Trauma-Informed Initiatives Program Manager at Project Harmony and has worked with families across cultures and training professionals for 12 years. Read more…

 

 

Amy Cirian, LMHP

Amy Cirian has more than 8 years of child welfare experience and is currently the Forensic Interview Program Manager at Project Harmony. Read more…

 

 

Lana Connor

Lana Connor has been with the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services for 15 years and currently supervises the Child Advocacy Coordination Team. Read more…

 

 

FAE Michael Davenport

Michael Davenport is a Youth Fire Intervention Specialist with Omaha Fire Department working with youth fire setters since 2016. Read more…

 

 

Alexis Dickerson

Alexis Dickerson is a licensed mental health therapist at Project Harmony, working with youth who have experienced neglect, physical and sexual abuse, and trafficking. Read more…

 

 

Ashley Farrens MSN, MBA, RN

Ashley Farrens is the Violence Intervention Program Supervisor for Encompass Omaha, Nebraska’s only hospital-based violence intervention program. Read more…

 

 

Sidney Frye II

Sidney Frye II is the owner and principal consultant of Mind Shifts Consulting LLC and a highly sought-after mental health and racial equity speaker. Read more…

 

 

Jeremy Fricke

As Vice President of Mission Advancement at Tri-Faith Initiative, Jeremy Fricke has led, taught, and developed a variety of educational programs. Read more…

 

 

Machaela Hackendahl

Machaela Hackendahl is a Licensed Independent Mental Health Practitioner and the Director of Multi-Disciplinary Teams at Project Harmony. Read more…

 

 

Katie Hansen

Katie Hansen is currently the Director of Anti-Trafficking and Missing Youth Services at Project Harmony. Read more…

 

 

Susan Devan Harness

Susan Devan Harness is a member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, a cultural anthropologist, and the multiple award-winning author. Read more…

 

 

Kim Hawekotte, J.D.

Kim Hawekotte’s professional background includes working in the field of child welfare and juvenile services for over 30 years. Read more…

 

 

Jake Hedden

Jake Hedden has worked at the BraveBe Child Advocacy Center in Lincoln, Nebraska for the last 6 years. Read more…

 

 

Ashley Hicks

Ashley Hicks is the Director of the Intervention and Assessment Program at Boys Town, serving at-risk youth who need immediate placement. Read more…

 

 

Camas Holder

Camas Holder is the Community Prevention Administrator for the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Children and Family Services. Read more…

 

 

Detective Lisa Horton

Detective Lisa Horton is a 15-year veteran of the Omaha Police Department that includes 10 years with the Special Victims Unit. Read more…

 

 

Candias Jones

Candias (Candi) Jones is the Executive Vice President of Human Resources at Community Health Development Partners. Read more…

 

 

Julie Kenniston, MSW, LISW

Julie Kenniston is a Program Manager for the National Criminal Justice Training Center of Fox Valley Technical College. Read more…

 

 

Detective Shannon Knuth

Detective Knuth is an eight-year veteran of the Omaha Police Department and is currently assigned to the Special Investigations Section. Read more…

 

 

Abby Kossow

Abby Kossow is the Program Director for Project Reset, a mentoring program for justice involved individuals. Read more…

 

 

Amanda Kuszak, MSW, PLMHP

Amanda Kuszak is a Bilingual Forensic Interviewer at Project Harmony and has completed over 900 forensic interviews. Read more…

 

 

Dr. Stephen Lazoritz

Stephen Lazoritz, M.D. is the Chief Medical Officer for the Omaha Military Entrance Processing Station and Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Creighton University. Read more…

 

 

Dr. Kraig J. Lofquist

Dr. Kraig Lofquist is currently serving as the Executive Director of Nebraska’s Educational Service Unit Coordinating Council. Read more…

 

 

Amanda McNeil

Amanda McNeil is an Outreach Case Manager for YouTurn, working with individuals involved in sex trafficking, domestic-intimate partner violence, gang violence and sexual violence. Read more…

 

 

Dr. Ferial Pearson

Dr. Pearson founded the Secret Kindness Agents Project and is an Assistant Professor of Teacher Education at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Read more…

 

 

Detective Dave Peifer

David C. Peifer spent nearly 4 years of service as the Special Agent in Charge of the Bureau of Special Investigations – Child Predator Unit. Read more…

 

 

Dr. Megan Pendley, LICSW

Megan Pendley, DSW, LICSW is an Assistant Professor of Social Work in the Graduate Social Work Department at Nebraska Wesleyan University. Read more…

 

 

Mary Pinker

Mary Pinker joined Nebraska Children and Families Foundation in 2016 and is responsible for integrating the statewide Community Response Initiatives. Read more…

 

 

Jose Rojas

Jose Rojas is a Bilingual Family Advocate at Project Harmony and works to ensure the needs of minority groups are highlighted in social services. Read more…

 

 

Colleen Roth, LMHP

Colleen Roth is the Senior Director of Response Services at Project Harmony where she provides oversight over all child abuse and neglect response services. Read more…

 

 

Sergeant. Brett Schrage

Sgt. Brett Schrage is the sergeant of the Missing Persons unit at Omaha Police Department, overseeing adult and juvenile missing person investigations as well as trafficking cases. Read more…

 

 

Detective Jeff Shelbourn

Detective Jeff Shelbourn is a 15-year veteran of the Omaha Police Department that includes 8 years with the Special Victims Unit. Read more…

 

 

Donna L. Stewart, Ph.D.

Dr. Stewart is a licensed psychologist with clinical experience in Juvenile Justice, Behavioral Pediatrics and Psychological Assessment Services. Read more…

 

 

Sharon Stoolman, MD

Dr. Stoolman is a pediatrician, mom, foster mom and native Omahan hoping to inspire conversations and new perspectives. Read more…

 

 

Elizabeth Straham

Elizabeth Straham is a MDT Coordinator at Project Harmony and is one of the coordinators for the Impact from Infancy Program. Read more…

 

 

Bobbi Taylor

Bobbi Taylor is a consultant that supports authentic lived experience engagement locally and nationally. Read more…

 

 

Jessica Tippery, MSN, APRN-NP, CPNP-PC, SANE-A, SANE-P

Jessica Tippery is a board-certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner and the Medical Program Manager at Project Harmony. Read more…

 

 

Joni Watke, J.D.

Joni Watke has been an attorney in private practice and a professional speaker since 1996. Joni is also the co-founder of Academy LGBTQ. Read more…

 

 

Aubrey Yost

Aubrey Yost worked 8 years as a Child Advocate at BraveBe Child Advocacy Center in Lincoln, NE and is now the Anti-Trafficking and Exploitation Specialist. Read more…

We wish to thank you for your hospitality and the wonderful program and tour of Project Harmony. We are so fortunate to have an organization acting on the behalf of our children with such outstanding enthusiasm and dedication.

- Rotary Club of Omaha Northwest

Thank you so much for coming to Children’s and speaking to our staff. Your talk on “Understanding Poverty” was excellent, and I could see “wheels turning” as some staff members commented on simple ways their interactions might make a difference for children and parents.

- Patty Carrell, CMSW

I have felt that my input has been highly valued and respected when it comes to doing my job, and that is something that speaks volumes to the working environment here at Project Harmony.

- Brenda Jewell

We began collaborating with the Project Harmony through their Connections program last year, and we’ve continued the partnership. Connections represents an extremely valuable partnership and an opportunity to provide our students with a bridge to mental health services.

- Papillion La Vista Community Schools

Our experience and partnership with Project Harmony/Connections has been fantastic! It is a comfort knowing we have a partner who can connect our students and families with the appropriate resources in times of crisis or trauma.

- Millard Public Schools

This shadowing experience actually made me very interested in this field. One aspect that helped me narrow my choice of careers is the environment that Project Harmony had. It was very upbeat, cheerful and bright.

- UNMC High School Alliance Program – Student Journal

We would like to take this opportunity to thank Project Harmony for planning and delivering professional development to our 70 counselors, social workers and community counselors. We feel fortunate to have such a valuable resource in our community to partner with.

- Millard Public Schools

You have a top rate program – really national quality. I’m totally impressed.

- Lisa Fontes

At our last D2 Center Board meeting, I was describing the training and professional development we provide for our staff. At the top of the list was Project Harmony. Please know that you are providing an invaluable service to nonprofits in our community.

- Greg Emmel

Congratulations on the great media coverage of your Stewards class at Project Harmony on WOWT. You did a great job articulating the importance of prevention, and Susan was amazing too. Thank you so much for your partnership and all the important work you are doing.

- Cindy McElhinney – Darkness to Light

Just wanted to know that you made a difference in my life, and I will be using that momentum to make a difference in the lives of others. You are truly a rock star and a role model for me. Thank you for a new life I’m getting the chance to live.

- Anonymous

Many children through my caseload have received a backpack generously donated to the Project Harmony Triage Center. I have witnessed many faces light up when given the opportunity to pick out a new backpack, and I am very grateful for the generosity of the Junior League.

- DHHS – Children & Family Services

I have never felt as valued at other organizations like I do at Project Harmony. I really feel that the culture of a working environment is incredibly important. If an employee feels respected, valued and supported, that person will likely give more to fulfill the mission.

- Javier Castellote

Nick and Javier were great teachers and role players. It gave us an opportunity to see how someone in that situation would have reacted to our questions. They did a great job at showing us the difference between sympathy and empathy.

- Anonymous

I was able to shadow Mr. Nick Zadina. He was in charge of dealing with abused kids and help them. I am thankful to know all the information I learned during shadowing because it was eye opening.

- UNMC High School Alliance Program – Student Journal

The experience at Project Harmony was a deepening reminder of empathy that will be vital in my career as a nurse. I felt my perspective was widened on how others think, especially when discussing the assumptions we make.

- Anonymous

I didn’t know how many people work at Project Harmony, so I drew a lot to show how much Project Harmony means to me!

- Project Harmony Client

As difficult as a removal is on a child, the backpack they receive at Project Harmony provides a sense of belonging and hope. It truly is amazing something that seems so simple can change the perspective and shine light on these children.

- DHHS – Children & Family Services

Great leadership for a wonderful cause with outstanding long-term goals. Keep on doing all the good you do.

- Bill & Jean O’Conner

Project Harmony is the reason I started my journey in college. I just finished my associates and I'm going for my bachelors now in Child Protection and Juvenile Justice. Y'all helped my daughter back in early 2013 and I knew what I wanted to do with my life — help children.

- LaLa Ann

A young lady who works in our field told me that she loved what we do here at Project Harmony — she had been to Project Harmony seven years ago for a forensic interview. She said her positive experience was the biggest reason she is doing the work that she is today.

- Trainee

I found out that my foster son is going to have a forensic interview here at Project Harmony soon. It’s been interesting being on the other side of things and feeling so reassured that the child I care so deeply about is in very caring and capable hands.

- Jessica Kroeker

Nick demonstrated how one person could impact a huge group of student nurses by just attending his presentation. He gave me the reason, the courage to act, and the knowledge how to save victims that I will face in my future nursing career.

- Anonymous

I recently attended the Testifying Training course. Since that class I have been subpoenaed three times, and I had to testify at each hearing. Without this class I would have been less than prepared and too nervous to be credible. Thank you so much!

- Jenny Lewis

You are part of the solution.

The cycle of abuse does not have to continue, but we can’t end it alone. Anyone has the power to be someone who makes our community a safe place for all children.

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