2018 Reaching the Wounded Student Conference

Keynote Speakers

Dr. Joe Hendershott
Founder and President of HOPE 4 The Wounded, LLC

For Joe & Dardi Hendershott, Hope 4 The Wounded is not a career. It’s a life calling. And seemingly to their astonishment, it’s becoming a national movement.

Joe has an extensive background working firsthand with at-risk and wounded youth as a teacher and administrator in traditional, alternative, and correctional education settings. He has been a high school assistant principal, head principal, alternative school principal, and a principal at The Village Network.

In 2006, he co-founded Hope 4 The Wounded, Inc. with his wife, Dardi. He has been a featured presenter at international and national conferences and has conducted staff training/professional development on understanding and working with wounded students, leadership, emotional literacy, empathy, esteem, inclusive communities, and other topics relevant to today’s educational climate.

Joe has written two acclaimed books, Reaching the Wounded Student (Eye on Education, 2008) and 7 Ways to Transform the Lives of Wounded Students (Routledge/Taylor & Francis, 2016).

He is a keynote speaker at conferences across the United States. He also offers consultant services and professional development training for schools in person and through an online certificate program. Everything is focused on trauma-informed practices that lead to HOPE for the wounded student.

Dr. Rajni Shankar-Brown
Internationally Recognized Scholar in Diversity and Inclusion, Stetson University

Rajni Shankar-Brown is an associate professor and the Jessie Ball duPont chair of social justice education. She is also the director of Graduate Education Programs, co-coordinator of the M.Ed. program and a member of the Nina B. Hollis Institute for Educational Reform. She is a passionate teacher-scholar and internationally known expert on poverty and homelessness.
As a dedicated educational leader, she has facilitated workshops for thousands of educators and presented around the globe. She has published in leading journals and received numerous awards for her innovative leadership and ongoing community engagement. Prior to her work at Stetson University, Shankar-Brown served as a language arts teacher in high poverty schools in the United States and overseas, a literacy facilitator and the middle level education graduate program coordinator at UNC Wilmington. Shankar-Brown had the honor of receiving Stetson University’s 2014 Hand Community Impact Award and UNC Wilmington’s 2013 Inclusive Excellence Award for her teaching, service and scholarship efforts towards social equity, diversity and inclusion.
She is actively involved with several professional education organizations at the international, national, state and local levels. She is the founder and executive director of the Poverty and Homelessness Conference (PHC). She is also the current president of the AAUP Stetson Faculty United and the Past-President of the North Carolina Professors of Middle Level Education organization. Through her research, scholarship and service, Shankar-Brown is committed to transforming education and positively impacting the lives of marginalized students, particularly children experiencing poverty and homelessness in the United States. As a distinguished teacher-scholar and educational leader, her work is focused on transformative education, equity and social justice, culturally relevant pedagogy, diversity and inclusion, arts integration, and multi-literacies. In addition to being a teacher-scholar, Shankar-Brown is a devoted mother, accomplished multi-media artist and a dedicated social activist.

Mr. John Gailer
National Dropout Prevention Center

John Gailer is the Assistant Director of the National Dropout Prevention Center. He earned his Master’s Degree in Education from the University of Georgia and has more than 25 years of experience in the field of youth development in the contexts of youth at risk and third-culture kids. John has conducted leadership and team building workshops throughout the country at the local, regional, and national levels. He has served as a consultant in areas of program, intervention, and collaboration design. He has 15 years of experience in higher education leadership, classroom instruction, and nonprofit administration. In his current role with NDPC, John designs professional learning experiences that impact educators and youth practitioners nationwide. John and his wife, Susanna, have two married sons and a daughter in college. They manage and live in a home in Toccoa, Georgia, that provides housing for 15 third-culture kids whose parents reside all over the world.

Mr. Roy Juarez, Jr.
Motivational Speaker “Homeless By Choice” Tour

Roy Juarez Jr. founded America’s Business Leaders – a human development company in 2005 when he was just a freshman at Hardin-Simmons University. With a dream to inspire youth and reunite families Juarez began sharing his turbulent history to touch the lives of youth, educators, and parents.

As a young entrepreneur, Juarez has been able to develop a successful career lecturing to thousands, both nationally and internationally. Once a homeless teenager, Juarez fought the battle to leave the streets only to return to them after becoming a graduate of Hardin-Simmons University.

Juarez’s story and work has gained national attention on outlets such as CNN and Chicken Soup for the Soul. In addition, it has been captured by many local and online publications.

Juarez just launched his 2nd National Tour (IMPACT TOUR). His first tour, The Homeless by Choice Tour was a huge success. In May 2012 he completed his first tour after reaching over 100,000 individuals with his personal message of hope, perseverance, and the power of a higher education.

Born and raised on the south side of San Antonio, TX, Juarez faced situations and obstacles that could have turned him into a negative statistic but he found a way to overcome those challenges. At the age of fourteen, Juarez was a high school drop-out and one of the hundreds of homeless youth on the streets of San Antonio. He carried with him only a duffle bag of personal items that he called a home. He moved from house to house to survive. Despite all that was working against him, he knew there was more to life which is why he never lost sight of his dreams!

Juarez serves as a role model for thousands of individuals through his work as an advocate for youth and higher education. His life experience inspires them to forgive, chase their dreams, and be the change they wish to see!

Conference Strands

School Safety
School Resource Officers, School Administrators, Counselors, and other professionals are invited to share effective strategies and programs that promote a physically and emotionally safe learning environment. Anti-Bullying initiatives are welcome.

Emotional Literacy
Effective programs and adopted vision/mission statements geared towards cultivating empathetic and compassionate connections (teacher-student, student-student, school-community, etc.) and its impact on the learning process.

Counseling/Therapeutic Insights
Counselors and practitioners are invited to submit proposals geared towards understanding child development and the effects of trauma on that development and learning.

Creating Community
Effective strategies for developing an inviting, respectful, and inclusive culture be it in the classroom, building, or extracurricular group setting where everyone feels they are contributing members.

Learning/Academic Achievement
Creative teaching strategies that engage and motivate students, inspiring confidence and recognition of one another’s unique strengths and abilities.

Practitioner Health and Well-Being
School/System Administrators, Counselors, and other professionals are encouraged to share programs, practices, and approaches that are effective in maintaining the emotional and physical well-being of those who work with students affected by trauma and may experience secondary trauma as a result of that interaction.


Conference Details

June 24 - 27, 2018

Embassy Suites Orlando-Lake Buena Vista South
(407) 597-4000
4955 Kyngs Heath Rd
Kissimmee, FL 34746

The Embassy Suites Orlando Lake Buena Vista South has offered us a special group rate of $139 (plus tax) per night for our event. Reservations must be made on or before the cutoff date of Wednesday, June 6, 2018 in order to be eligible for the group rate.


Hotel Reservations

Exhibitor Registration
Conference Agenda
Keynote Speakers
Pre-Conference Workshops
Conference Strands

2017 Reaching the Wounded Student Conference


Contact Staff

John Gailer - (864) 712-3704


Denise Gianforcaro - (864) 712-3703


John Peters - (864) 642-6372, Ext. 107.


Debra Andrews - (864) 642-6372, Ext. 102.