WCCI opening speaker 2019

It has been a while, but WCCI will return to having an — at least partial — in-person conference in 2022.

BOONE — 2021 saw the Watauga Compassionate Community Initiative’s annual conference hosted over Zoom, but this year the plan is to bring people together again.

The 2022 WCCI Conference is slated to have a hybrid schedule on May 13 and 14, with the first day held virtually and then day two being in-person.

According to WCCI Chair Denise Presnell, the idea for a hybrid event came after reflection on the 2021 event. While it was considered an overall success, that does not mean it was perfect.

“We always do some type of evaluation, and the evaluation (of the 2021 conference) pretty much said ‘love that the sessions are recorded, wish we had some in-person experience too,’” Presnell said.

She added that limited budgets means that not all in-person sessions could be available after the conference, so they had to plan around it.

“It really was us trying to meet the needs of the majority. I think that’s what the conference has been all these years, a time of connection and rejuvenation and momentum. So we definitely want to do that if we can.”

The in-person half of the conference will be held at Watauga High School, where the last in-person conference hosted 600 guests. This year, WCCI is having to monitor the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, so having the space of the high school will be beneficial to host everyone.

The virtual day will feature two sessions, while day two will begin with a connection breakfast before two more sessions and the closing speaker. Each session slot will give guests a multitude of options, and Presnell said that presentation selection was a key focus for WCCI this year.

“We one thing that we feel very strongly about is that we want to seek presentations from a more diverse set of presenters than we have in the past,” Presnell said. “So we’re really trying to expand our reach as far as the types of the backgrounds of the people that we’re asking to present.”

The closing speaker will be Helen Joy George, author of “Yellow Tulips,” a memoir about her life and a year-long journey in the mental health care system.

“She comes from her background of childhood trauma and so her book is about her childhood, how trauma impacts her and her relationships and her mental health as an adult,” Presnell said.

The 2022 WCCI Conference is scheduled for 1 to 3:15 p.m. on Friday, May 13, and then 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, May 14. For more information about WCCI, visit www.wataugacci.org.

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