Registration is now open for the second annual Bright Futures Community Engagement Conference, which is set for Feb. 23-24 at Missouri Southern State University.

The conference is designed to showcase what the Bright Futures organization has done in Joplin as well as give participants the opportunity to share best practices from their own community's Bright Futures network and connect with other groups across the region and the country, said Kim Vann, executive director of Bright Futures USA.

The conference is open to anyone, but it is particularly designed for teachers, principals, superintendents, guidance counselors, school board members, school staff working in the communications and public relations fields, faith-based organizations, business leaders, city officials, social service workers and members of local chambers of commerce.

"It's for anyone who wishes to learn more about how communities can come together to support their schools and children effectively," Vann said. "There's something there for everyone."

Participants will have the opportunity to choose one of seven tracks geared toward their interests or the needs of their area: Community Engagement 101; Lead the Movement; Serving to Learn and Learning to Serve; Bright Futures Framework; Faith-Based Community; Resources at Your Fingertips; and Communication: Bridging the Gap.

This year's keynote speakers will be Carrie Caruthers, a business manager from Harrisonville who serves on the Bright Futures USA board, and Joplin Superintendent C.J. Huff. Approximately 20 other speakers — representing local Bright Futures boards, faith-based communities and school districts — are also scheduled.

Bright Futures was created in Joplin in 2010 by the school district as a way to meet students' basic needs through partnerships with the faith-based, business and social services communities; its overarching goal was to simultaneously tackle poverty and student achievement. It was established as a nonprofit organization separate from the school district in early 2011, and it currently has affiliates in 34 communities in Missouri, Arkansas, Kansas, Oklahoma and Virginia.

Last year's inaugural conference drew about 200 participants over the two-day period, and organizers are trying to bring in 300 participants this year, Vann said. The conference has already attracted its first international registrants this year — two individuals from Canada — and participants from as far away as Virginia, North Carolina and Colorado are also expected, she said.

Online registration

Register for the Bright Futures Community Engagement Conference online at by Jan. 9 for an "early bird" fee of $195 and a free conference T-shirt.

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Emily Younker is the managing editor at the Joplin Globe. Contact: eyounker AT joplinglobe DOT com.