The 2021 Lora M. Robins Speaker Series

Mental Health: The Next Epidemic

As parents, educators, service providers, and leaders we are tasked with helping our young people make sense of all that has transpired over this past year while also overcoming a myriad of obstacles along the way. We all experienced some level of stress as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and it is important that we address it to prevent our mental health from becoming the next community crisis which prevents us from moving forward. The 2021 Lora M. Robins Speaker Series discussed how to best address the mental health impacts of COVID-19 to ensure we are providing quality care for our children and for ourselves. 

Moving Forward Together

Wednesday, May 12, 2021
9:00 - 10:30am
Virtual Event in Zoom


Dr. Robin Gurwitch

Duke University Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Science

The past year brought changes to the way we all worked, attended school, played, and spent time with friends and family. Everyone has been affected by the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic. For many, this last year has also brought much grief and loss. The pandemic has impacted students’ learning and overall development, family relationships, and relationships between students and teachers as well as other school personnel. The overlap of social injustice, racism, political climate, and equity issues has further exacerbated challenges. For students who were already coping with significant trauma, the challenges and losses experienced over the past year has increased their risk for mental health concerns. While the vaccine adds hope, it is not without further discussions of disparities and overall trust. This presentation provided an overview of how all these events affected all of us and how we can best support children and each other as we move forward into the normal for now times. Self-care is essential for coping and resilience; a new model for this “easier said than done” activity will be shared. This presentation was a mix of lecture, discussion, and activities as together, we plan for the future 

Who Are We Supposed to be Now?

Thursday, June 3, 2021
9:00 - 10:30am
Virtual Event in Zoom


Local Panel facilitated by Dr. David Naff

Metropolitan Education Research Consortium (MERC) at VCU 

In the summer of 2020, the VCU School of Education’s Metropolitan Education Research Consortium released a research report titled “Supporting Student Mental Health During and After COVID-19.”  Schools are not just a place of learning, but also serve as a place of respite for many young people in our communities.  The absence of that haven to retreat to each day has undoubtedly affected the mental wellbeing of our children.  As schools reopen this fall, we want to be ready to welcome our young people not just with open arms but equipped with the resources to provide the care they require.  This event convened local educators and community leaders tasked with supporting student wellbeing to learn from the challenges we’ve faced together during COVID-19.  We explored the potential mental health outcomes awaiting us on the other side of this pandemic and brought clarity to the roles we all can play to manage the residual effects and long-term implications. 


  • Caleb Kenney, Senior at Douglas Freeman High School, Center for Leadership, Government and Global Economics 
  • Betsy Peters, Sr. Vice President of Youth Development
    YMCA of Greater Richmond
  • Victoria Pierson, Lead ESL Teacher
    Richmond Public Schools 
  • Jennifer Rucker, Director of Equity & Student Support Services
    Chesterfield County Public Schools 
  • Matthew Shenker, Elementary School Counselor
    Hanover County Public Schools 

Thank you to our title sponsor


Corporate Partners

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