Arlington Unites 2024

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Moving Beyond Conversations on Wellness for
Children, Youth, and Families

Join this event to showcase our shared commitment to building a stronger, more resilient community. Arlington Unites is a way for all members of our community to learn about resilience initiatives, and explore ways to make Arlington more ready and able to face challenges. Childcare and lunch will be provided to registrants.

Date: Saturday, May 18, 2024
Time: 9:30 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.
Location: Washington-Liberty High School | 1301 N Stafford St. Arlington, VA 22201
Please register to guarantee your meal, t-shirt, and childcare for this event. Spanish, Amharic & Arabic interpretation services will be provided. Because of limited capacity, if you register after 5/15/24, we cannot ensure interpretation services in other languages.

Register for Arlington Unites 

Event Highlights

Sessions will be offered that address adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and one or more of the following:

  • Understanding traumas, how they impact families, and how to respond to prevent harm and promote healing.
  • Understanding trauma, its impacts, and how to respond in an informed manner to mitigate harmful effects and promote healing.
  • Improving connections and communication between youth and their caregivers and other trusted adults.
  • Building awareness about youth substance use issues, and community resources and services to address them.

We kindly request submitting Reasonable Accommodations and translation requests by May 10 (5 business days in advance of May 18 event).

Agenda (subject to change)

The Department of Human Services Vision is: a just and equitable community that is healthy, safe, and economically secure, and free of systemic racism. Each session will specifically address aspects of racial equity.

9:30 – 10:30 a.m. Check-in, continental breakfast, and info tables
(Information fair - featuring Arlington resources and community organizations)

10:30 – 10:45 a.m. Welcome (remarks, acknowledgements, unveil ACEs campaign)

10:45 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. ACEs/ACE Interface training Breakout

12:00 – 12:30 p.m. Lunch (Pickup boxed lunch in Cafeteria)

12:30 – 1:00 p.m. Discussions and poster session

1:15 – 2:30 p.m. Breakout sessions for adults and youth:


  • Parents Supporting Youth Wellbeing: This session offers a brief overview of mental health and mental illness, input from youth regarding parent-child communication, and strategies to strengthen parent-child communication.

  • Youth Being Seen and Heard (en Español): Let’s talk about building trust and communication between adults and children/youth.

  • Youth Substance Use Trends, Resources, and Responses: The presentation will be focused on providing a variety of information regarding substances currently affecting our youth (highlighting signs/symptoms of use), as well as current statistics and resources to provide families. It will also include current initiatives to demonstrate the support of positive youth engagement.

  • Meet me at the... - Why Third Places Matter: A 'third place' is a place outside of work or school where people go to connect with peers and their community. In this session you will learn about third spaces for teens and why they are integral to positive youth development in Arlington. Presented by Arlington Public Library and Arlington County Parks and Recreation Departments.

  • Social-Emotional Competencies: Learn how families can reinforce Social-Emotional concepts at home.


  • BrainStories: Finding Resilience Through Trauma-Informed Storytelling: From the moment we’re born, our minds craft narratives about the world we experience. This Lift Up Virginia Campaign workshop will provide an introduction to adversity, trauma science, and the story-driven brain. By understanding the impacts of our experiences, combined with our instinctual gift for storytelling, we can start healing by fostering connections within ourselves and with others. Following the presentation, the audience will be led through story-based, science-rooted activities and walk away with the tools, resources, and skillsets to replicate these practices in their own communities.

2:15 – 2:30 p.m. Certificates and feedback


Keynote Speaker: Robert “Keith” Cartwright
Keith Cartwright is the Adverse Childhood Experiences Coordinator for the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services. In this role, Keith has led a movement that now has over 550 ACE Interface presenters across the state of Virginia. Since 2017, this group has educated over 180,000 Virginians on the impacts of positive and adverse childhood experiences on long term health and wellness. Keith also serves as the Alcohol and Drug Education Coordinator at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Virginia.

Plenary Speaker: Leonardo Espiña Borrero, MSW - Arlington County
Leonardo was born in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico. He holds a Baccalaureate degree in Psychology from the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras Campus. He also attained a Master’s degree in Social Work from George Mason University. Leonardo worked in Substance Misuse Treatment before finding his passion in community prevention. More recently, Leonardo joined Arlington County as the Child and Family Services Division’s Parent Education Coordinator. Leonardo is trained in ACE Interface and is driven to assist the community in coming together to build on its resiliency and foster growth and connection.

Dwan Rowe, LPC, LSATP - Assistant Behavioral Health Manager
Dwan is one of the Assistant Behavioral Health Managers within the Behavioral Health Bureau (BHB) through the Child and Family Services Division. She is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Licensed Substance Abuse Treatment Practitioner. She oversees multiple aspects of the work being done at BHB including intake, court/detention services, and substance use services. Dwan is developing a new program of High-Fidelity Wraparound. Her passion lies with working with substance users and helping clients find joy and success in sobriety.

Mark Perez - Prevention Specialist
Mark is a Prevention Specialist with the Department of Human Services, Child & Family Services division. He is part of the Mental Health and Substance Use treatment services team. He is responsible for providing substance use prevention, early intervention outreach and behavioral wellness promotion services to youth and their families, particularly in the LatinX community. He has previously worked with at-risk youth, the adult immigrant population and court involved adults. Throughout his career, he has demonstrated a strong dedication toward uplifting youth and empowering families.

Robert ‘Tito’ Vilchez, CPM - Coordinator, Arlington County Gang Prevention Task Force & Supervisor, Detention Diversion Program/Electronic Monitoring
Vilchez chairs the Arlington County Gang Prevention Task Force and is a member of the Northern Virginia Regional Gang Task Force. He also serves on the Leadership Team for the 17th District Court Services Unit. Vilchez has over 20 years of experience working with gang-involved and at-risk youth. He works with federal, state, and local agencies assisting with prevention and intervention efforts to reduce gang activity. Vilchez is fluent in English and Spanish and is a regular conference speaker and analyst at various trainings in the U.S. and Central America. His expertise has been featured on National Public Radio, Univision, Telemundo, and FOX Morning News.

Emily Braxton, MS - Youth, Teen, and Family Programs Manager
Emily is the Manager of the Department of Parks and Recreation’s Office of Youth, Teen, and Family Programs. Her work focuses on providing safe, fun, challenging, and enriching recreational programming for youth ages 5-18 across the county. Emily grew up in DPR programs and is passionate about community building through recreation, particularly amongst teens. Emily holds a BA and MS in Conflict Analysis and Resolution from George Mason University.

Katherine Chiriboga, MLIS - Programs & Partnerships Librarian
Katherine is a Programs & Partnerships Librarian for Arlington Public Library, which she joined in 2022. Her work focuses on planning the system-wide Youth Services programming across the county’s 8 branches; to include teen volunteer efforts. Her previous work experience was with Yuma County Library District as Government Documents Librarian and with the Youth Services team. She loves reaching out to local and national organizations to help frame community-led programming. She has her MLIS from the University of Arizona and her BA from the University of San Diego.

Megan Statza, MLIS - Central Youth Services Librarian Manager
Megan came to Arlington in 2021 as the Manager of the Aurora Hills Library and was delighted to become the head of Youth Services at Central in 2023, which allowed her to focus on her passion for serving children and teens. As Head of Youth Services, Megan manages a team of library workers who provide programming and services to youth ages 0-18 and their families. Megan previously worked in Massachusetts as a Teen Librarian, Head of Children’s Services, and Assistant Director. She holds Master’s Degrees in Library Science and Children’s Literature from Simmons University and a BS in Psychology from Valparaiso University.

Jennifer Gross - Coordinator of Social-Emotional Learning, Arlington Public Schools
Jennifer Gross is the Coordinator of Social-Emotional Learning in Arlington Public Schools. Jen has been an educator in APS for 16 years and has experience as a Special Education Teacher, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Specialist, and Arlington Tiered Systems of Support Specialist. Jen is committed to supporting and developing the social-emotional needs of all students.

Jenny Sexton, CSAC, FAC, QMHP - Substance Abuse Counselor, Arlington Public Schools
Jenny Sexton holds a BS in Psychology and Sociology, with a minor in Administration of Justice, from the University of Virginia’s College at Wise; an MA in Forensic Psychology from Marymount University; and a career diploma in Substance Abuse Counseling from Penn Foster college. Ms. Sexton has over 20 years of experience in addiction counseling. Ms. Sexton has been a member of the APS Substance Abuse Counseling team for 8 years, where she serves the elementary and middle school population. She is also the Narcan trainer for the school system and a participant on the Arlington Addiction Recovery Initiative task force.

Marrin Scalone - Trauma-Informed Care Specialist, Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services
At the heart of Marrin Scalone’s work in mental health and trauma science lies her passion for the human story. As the Trauma-Informed Care Specialist for the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services, she carries this core belief throughout her role. Based on her experiences in both Clinical-Community Psychology research at the College of William and Mary, and Behavioral Health research with Virginia Commonwealth University, she advocates for the critical relationship between social science research, lived experience, and evidence-based practices.

Roya Candia, MCP - Program Coordinator, Arlington County
Roya Candia is the Program Coordinator for the Arlington Partnership for Children Youth and Families (APCYF) and the Teen Network Board (TNB). She holds a Masters in Counseling Psychology with a Somatic Specialization. Her professional experience includes collaborating with diverse communities offering trauma-informed counseling, case management, support services, program coordination, and training to youth, adults, families, and communities. Recognizing the influence of social factors on individuals' daily lives and access to resources, she prioritizes availability, accessibility, and culturally responsive services to build and strengthen community wellness.

Ben Gonzalez - Buckingham Youth Brigade
Benjamin Gonzalez is a junior at Washington Liberty. He is of Mexican and Salvadoran descent and takes great pride in being bilingual and connecting with the Latino community. He is the eldest of four children and strives to be a positive role model for them. During his free time he likes playing basketball with friends, being involved in his community, and napping. He hopes to be a big resource for his family in the future and continue proving to himself that he can achieve his goals and all his areas of life.

Volunteer with Us!

Interested in Volunteering? We would love help in making this event a community endeavor.

 Sign up to help here


  • Saturday, May 18, 2024 | 09:30 AM - 02:30 PM


Washington-Liberty High School, 1301 N Stafford St, Arlington, VA, 22201, View Map

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