Conference Dates: 11/6/20 - 11/07/20

Our speakers are for YOU! 

We have purposefully designed a conference with multiple keynote speakers to reach all specialties within our diverse organization.  We have found nationally known, leaders in their fields, heroes, and practitioners who are ready to inspire you, share the most current research or provide you with new tools to use in your own setting.  Here are some highlights: 

Keynote Speaker: Leigh Bagwell - “Surviving and Thriving as Counselors

Breakout Session 1: "Understanding Suicide: Developing a plan to work with clients experiencing suicidal ideation" - Kris Loft
Breakout Session 2:  "Cultural Competency: A catch phrase or an embedded practice?" - Eva M. Gibson, Jessica A. Fripp, Cecily R. Moore, Derrick L. Shepard 

Breakout Session 3:  "How to Thrive and Not Just Survive as a Virtual School Counselor" - Kelby Garner and Adrienne McNew
Breakout Session 4: "Ethics Workshop: Allyship vs. Accompliceship - Our Ethical Duty as Counselors" - David Ford

See the Full Conference Schedule Here

Conference Registration is Open.  Click here


Leight Bagwell, MS, Ed.S    

Keynote session: “Surviving and Thriving as Counselors

Leigh Bagwell most recently served as the Director of School Counseling Services at the Tennessee Department of Education. She has led transformational work in school counseling throughout the state through the revision of the school counseling model and standards, the creation of a regional peer support network, and the launch of a dedicated communications channel for counselors, supervisors, and administrators. As a school counseling leader, her mission is to provide school counselors with the training and resources needed to deliver high quality, student-driven, data-informed comprehensive school counseling programs to all students. She believes counselors and school leaders need to work together more deliberately. This collaboration is critical to ensure that all students have access to the opportunities and supports they need to successfully move through their elementary, secondary, and postsecondary education into their chosen career.

In addition to her work in Tennessee, Leigh has shared her experiences and knowledge with school counselors and school counseling leaders across the country as well as working with the American School Counselor Association. After teaching school counseling graduate students at Middle Tennessee State University, Leigh was inspired to pursue counselor education. She is currently working on her doctorate in Counselor Education and Supervision at the University of Tennessee. Leigh is also the author of the book 15-Minute Focus – ANXIETY: Worry, Stress, and Fear



Kris Loft, LMFT  

Keynote session: "Understanding Suicide: Developing a plan to work with clients experiencing suicidal ideation"

For the past 15 years, Kirs has enjoyed working with youth in a ministry setting, where he developed and implemented a relational ministry to youth and their families. It was these connections, celebrating the good, and walking with them in the bad, that showed him what a privilege it is to journey with a family. This led him to explore ways to better connect with people and shifted his focus to complete a master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy at Trevecca Nazarene University.  He is passionate about working with individuals and families with a wide range of emotional and behavioral issues that include anxiety, depression, grief, perfectionism, relational issues, divorce adjustment, suicidal ideation, and more.

Eva M. Gibson, Ed.D., Jessica A. Fripp, Ph.D., Cecily R. Moore, M.S., Derrick L. Shepard, M.A.

Keynote session: "Cultural competency: A catch phrase or an embedded practice?"

In recent years, the counseling profession has placed an emphasis on knowledge, awareness, and skills in an effort to promote cultural competent counseling. While we may profess to embrace diversity, it is unknown to what degree counselors actually “walk the walk”. Alarmingly, a large number of counselors self-report competency in this area, but are unaware of the Multicultural and Social Justice Counseling Competencies and have not attended a multicultural training in years (Greene, 2019). This presentation will examine tools for cultural competency self-assessments, address counseling interventions to align with clients’ cultural background, and present relevant applications for the Multicultural and Social Justice Counseling Competencies.

Dr. Eva M. Gibson is currently an Assistant Professor at Austin Peay State University. Prior to becoming a counselor educator, she served eleven years in the public school system as a licensed school counselor. During this time, Dr. Gibson worked with diverse students and families and now leads workshops and trainings on advocacy and cultural competency. Her research areas include school counseling, social justice, and advocacy.


Dr. Jessica A. Fripp is currently an Assistant Professor at Austin Peay State University. Prior to becoming a counselor educator, Dr. Fripp served as a mental health counselor for the past ten years, where her primary population included low income communities, where engagement to treatment was lacking. Dr. Fripp’s training, development, and scholarship efforts include strategies to increase counseling engagement through identifying cultural factors that prevent Black people from seeking services.



Cecily Moore, LPC-MHSP is currently a doctoral student at the University of the Cumberlands studying Counselor Education and Supervision. Cecily currently owns Cope and Wit Counseling. Cope and Wit Counseling exists to provide online counseling to women of color in Tennessee, Florida, and Kentucky. Cecily's training, development, and scholarship efforts include strategies to increase counseling engagement for Strong Black Women that lack self-care and access to culturally competent mental health services.


Derrick L. Shepard is currently a doctoral candidate in the Counselor Education program at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. In additional to his doctoral studies, Mr. Shepard is an Assistant Director in the Academic Success Center helping high potential students reach their academic and career goals. Mr. Shepard has cultural competency presentation experience at the local, regional, and national level.



Dr. Kelby Garner and Adrienne McNew   

Keynote session: "How to Thrive and Not Just Survive as a Virtual School Counselor" 

Dr. Kelby House Garner is a native of Brownsville, Tennessee, and resident of Nashville, Tennessee, since 1998. Dr. Garner currently serves as the Executive Principal for MNPS Virtual School. Dr. Garner is a proven educational leader with a specialized talent in professional development, teacher training, and retention, as well as student success and engagement.

Upon graduating from John Overton High School, Dr. Garner enrolled at Tennessee State University, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology. For several years, Garner served as an adult case manager at Mental Health Cooperative. Her caseload consisted of adults with severe and persistent mental illness. After serving this fragile population, Dr. Garner enrolled in graduate school at Tennessee State University to become a professional school counselor. Garner felt that she could serve in a preventative manner, helping students learn coping strategies to help with the ambiguity of life. Dr. Garner served as a Professional School Counselor in Cheatham County Schools, at Kingston Springs Elementary before joining MNPS Virtual School.

Later, Dr. Kelby House Garner enrolled at Carson-Newman University to expand her knowledge of instructional leadership. Here, Garner studied educational leadership, earning both an Educational Specialist and a Doctor of Education Degree. Dr. Garner has served many roles over the years as a Professional School Counselor, Dean of Student Affairs, Dean of Instruction, Assistant Principal, and finally Executive Principal at MNPS Virtual School. Dr. Garner also serves as an Adjunct Professor at Tennessee State University and Trevecca Nazarene University.


Mrs. Adrienne McNew is a South Carolina native who attended the College of Charleston for her undergraduate degree in Psychology. Adrienne went on to earn her Master of Education Degree in Secondary School Counseling at The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina. Adrienne moved to Nashville in 2011 and thoroughly enjoys living in Music City, USA! McNew is ready to assist students in all areas of development, and she thoroughly enjoys helping students reach their full potential. Whether students are planning their post-secondary goals or just need a listening ear, they can count on Mrs. McNew. Adrienne looks forward to every opportunity to support learners, parents, and the surrounding community. While being an advocate for youth is her passion, she also enjoys spending time with her husband and friends, walking her dogs, and overseeing the Nashville Alumni Chapter of her alma mater, the College of Charleston. 


David J. Ford, Jr. Ph.D., LPC, NCC, ACS   

Keynote session: "Allyship vs. Accompliceship: Our Ethical Duty as Counselors"

This presentation provides counselors in various levels of development and in various areas the tools to truly advocate for Black clients and communities. Advocacy is woven into the ACA Code of Ethics and the Multicultural and Social Justice Counseling Competencies. The presenter posits that being an accomplice is an anti-racist strategy and will improve our level of advocacy for communities experiencing racism. The presenter will discuss allyship and how it is grounded in white privilege and white fragility. The presenter will discuss how counselors can move from being an ally to being an accomplice and will ground the process in the Multicultural and Social Justice Counseling Competencies (Ratts, Singh, Nassar-McMillan, Butler, & McCullough, 2015) and the ACA Advocacy Competencies (Toporek & Daniels, 2018). The presenter will provide implications for counseling, teaching, and supervision.

Dr. Ford hails from North Carolina originally. He is a Licensed Counselor in North Carolina, Virginia, and New Jersey. He is Board-Certified Counselor and an Approved Clinical Supervisor. He began his career in Student Affairs and has ten years of counseling experience. He has eight years collegiate teaching experience and has taught undergraduate Human Services courses, graduate counseling courses, and doctoral counselor education courses. He has taught face-to-face and online. He has experience working in addictions facilities, community agencies, and in college counseling centers. His scholarly and advocacy interests are Black men in higher education (especially those at PWIs), Black Greek-letter Organizations, Queer and Trans people of color, HIV/AIDS, and the intersection of religion/spirituality and sexual orientation. Currently, he is the President-elect of the New Jersey Counseling Association, is on the planning committee for the National Cross-Cultural Counseling and Education Conference for Action, Research, and Change, and is on the Board of Directors for the LGBTQ Scholars of Color Network. He is a classically-trained pianist and is a proud, active, and financial member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc.


Pre-Conference: Thursday, November 5th,  5:30 pm - 7:00 pm CST


Sponsored by Belmont University


Keynote session: "Historical Trauma, Microaggressions, and Social Justice:  Implications for Practice with  Practical Applications"


Police brutality and other negative racial experiences have become more apparent in which people of color, specifically African Americans are subjected to. Thus, it is important for clinicians and similar professionals to be knowledgeable of the adverse impact it has on these populations’ mental health, and be able to implement practices that may serve to protect their clients. This webinar will present on the Power and Control Wheel of Historical Trauma of individuals from marginalized groups, Microaggressions, and Social Justice Advocacy to protect the mental health of clients who experience race-based trauma and stress. This webinar will provide useful information from the individual presenters followed by a brief panel discussion that will highlight the ACA Code of Ethics. Additional resources will be provided.

Dr. Layla J. Bonner

Layla J. Bonner, Ph.D, LMFT, NCC is an Assistant Professor in the Master of Arts degree program in Mental Health Counseling at Belmont University. She earned her doctorate in Clinical Counseling, Teaching, & Supervision from Trevecca Nazarene University in 2018. She is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Tennessee and a Nationally Certified Counselor. In her private practice, Dr. Bonner works primarily with individuals and couples and also supervises post-master’s counselors toward full licensure. She is a Clinical Fellow and an Approved Supervisor with the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. Dr. Bonner is currently serving as the Human Rights Chairperson with the Tennessee Counseling Association. She has presented at multiple conferences hosted by professional organizations such as the Southern Association for Counselor Educators and Supervisors through the American Counseling Association, The International Association of Marriage and Family Counselors, and the Black Mental Health Symposium. She has publications in the area of group work with African American students, career counseling with ethnical diverse groups, and strategies for faculty of color who teach at predominantly White institutions. Dr. Bonner has engaged in public speaking and served on panels to discuss the topics of Race Based Trauma, African American mental health, and Microaggressions.

Dr. Gerald Pennie

Dr. Gerald Pennie is a Licensed Professional Counselor in the state of Texas and is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Counseling and Psychology at Texas A&M University-Central Texas. Dr. Pennie also serves as the Chief Strategy Officer of Impact Communications LLC, a communications consulting firm that focuses on addressing public speaking anxiety and speech communications training. His clinical background includes working with children, adolescents, adults, and families within the P-12 public school environment and in private counseling settings. Dr. Pennie is active in the counseling profession. He has served on as a member of the Program Review and Research Committees of the Texas Counseling Association. He is a member of the American Counseling Association (ACA), the American School Counseling Association (ASCA), the Texas Counseling Association (TCA), the Texas School Counseling Association (TSCA), and Texas Association of Humanistic Education and Development (TAHEAD). Dr. Pennie has presented numerous times at conferences at the local, state, and national levels. He has co-authored a book chapter and articles relating to the topics of wellness, adolescent development, and group counseling. Dr. Pennie has served on multiple panels relating to multicultural approaches to mental health, diversity, and fostering stronger communities. Dr. Pennie current research agenda focuses on Collaboration among counseling specialties, Healthy intrapersonal and interpersonal relationships in childhood and adolescence, and Goal Striving Stress Among First Generation College Students.

Dr. Gimel Rogers

Gimel Rogers, Psy.D., ABPP is a licensed psychologist and is Board Certified in Clinical Psychology from the American Board of Professional Psychology. With over 10 years of clinical, professional speaking, and training experience she is the owner of F.I.R.E. Igniting Lives and founder of One Temple Fitness. She is a Custody Evaluator of the Professional Clinical and Forensic Services department at the Institute on Violence, Abuse, and Trauma (IVAT). She earned her doctorate from Pepperdine University and has provided trauma-focused care with clients from the Children of the Night Program, the Ventura Youth Correctional Facility, FCI Terminal Island, and community programs serving survivors of intimate partner violence. Dr. Rogers presently works with survivors who are recovering from emotional, physical, and sexual abuse. She utilizes an array of therapeutic interventions with an emphasis on cognitive-behavioral therapy. Additionally, she assists clients who are involved in criminal, family, and civil cases involving a broad range of forensic issues. Having published in the areas of culture, coping, spirituality, and trauma, she is an adjunct professor at Pepperdine University and Point Loma Nazarene University. Her inaugural book is the “21-Day Relationship Healing Devotional and Journal” a poetry-based devotional that promotes restoration through reflection. She is also the content developer of the Historical Trauma Power and Control wheel.


Conference Registration is Open.  Click here